I have been sitting inside at my friend’s home in Madrid on my second to last day of vacation. I am feeling the anxiety that comes with vacation’s end (it’s very real) and trying to get my thoughts and projects in order as I prepare for what is promising to be a whirlwind of a rientro. I recently spent a week in Valencia doing “research” and have been struggling to put all the information I received into useful blog posts for people wanting to visit the city. So instead I’ll just write.
I just got off of an interview with Lisa May, owner and producer of ExPat Real TV, a channel that she started to share stories of Americans living “alternatively” around the world. We chatted about our experiences — she moved to Bali and is now living in a small town in Portugal — and she gave me some challenging questions that I really had to think about.
What would I tell my 23 year old self before moving to Florence? What is the hardest thing about living abroad?
Super tough questions. To start with, Florence wasn’t my first nor would it ever be my final destination. Maybe my continuous returns to Spain and the land of sol y playa have always been an effort on my part to maintain some sense of stability and order in an otherwise chaotic, unstable situation.
So what is the hardest thing? For me it has been fighting my internal desire for change and adventure coupled with the need for family and stability. More adventurous than many, I feel proud of the life I’ve been able to make for myself (together with the help of many, many people!) not just far from home, but in a completely different country, where many odds were stacked against me. I’ve managed to navigate international bureaucracies, mother hundreds of not-my-children (I love all my students!) and learn to create spaces where I genuinely do feel at home with friends who have become like family. And just when it seemed like everything was clicking into place, I’m the one who wants a change.
What would you do? Do you want security or adventure? What is the right balance? How much freedom would you give up for constant stability?
As I ran this morning through the Sierra de Guadarrama (12km,1200 altitude!), surrounded by cows and horses and old campesinos on their morning hikes, I reflected. Am I doing the right thing? Am I crazy to give up the stability of a 9-5, in another country, no less? I’ll keep you posted as my adventure unfolds, but comment below and let me know your thoughts!!