Our First Six Months Abroad

Updated: Apr 26, 2019



Seis meses en España

6 months ago and some change, we landed in Lisbon, Portugal. It was a crazy morning. We moseyed out of the airport around 7 AM and then opened Pandora's Box to get our Ollie bear back from customs.

Since then, a lot has changed. I have changed. Brett has changed. Ollie, inevitably has made small changes and has found a deep appreciation for mom's patatas bravas. In these 6 months, I've learned a lot about seasons and how it's okay to develop yourself a little more... even if it scares you, but more on that another time.

In these 6 short months that have gone by way too fast, we've had 3 different homes and visited 8 different countries. We have made friends and tried new foods, taken risks, started to pursue dreams and learned to love each other differently and stronger than we had before.

Ultimately, this giant leap of faith to pack up and go has brought the three of us close in a very unique way. Obviously, we loved each other before leaving The States but moving abroad really shook things up (in a good way). I think by most standards, all of our friends back home would have considered Brett and I very close (I mean, we are married after all). But now, it's a different closeness. It's a tender understanding of the other person and their needs that just wasn't as obvious before.

When I say we are a unit, I mean it.

So let's get to unpacking some highlights of the past 6 months!

CHAOS IN LISBON

Our plane touched down in Lisbon around 6 AM. We had to arrange for a specific van to pick us up that would fit Ollies kennel and our bags, we hopped in and headed to the animal customs area about 10 minutes from Lisbon Airport.

There are three buildings that need our attention, each is about a 3-5 minute walk from the other. It's about 35 degrees out and I reek of sweat and no-sleep from the plane. We arrive at the first building, they tell us we need the third building which tells us to go to the second. The game of "musical buildings" continue until eventually we find out we need to be in the back of the third building. We go, do what we need to, then find out the vet isn't in until around 9. There was lots of back and forth, but eventually we loaded up Oliver and started making our way to the Airbnb. We would stay there for a few days until we set off on our drive to Barcelona.

We make it to our Airbnb and leave our bags with the keyman (check-in wasn't until 1). We decided to explore the city, both our phones are dead, and we are exhausted. I wasn't able to sleep on the plane and I really just want a shower.

(side note, we had been driving for 28 hours before boarding the plane...what is a bed??? This was to avoid an extra connection for Oliver and still swing our our $250 flight to Portugal. What won't we do to save a buck??)

We grab a bite and get to walking, poor Oliver is just confused as can be. We take a seat on a bench and Ollie is playing in the grass. He does this little barrel roll and suddenly he is all wet.

Is it water?

Is it pee?

Is it some other unidentified liquid?

I thought to myself...no....God, please no...

He runs back over to plop down beside my leg and now I'm covered in this smells brown paste that smells like shit. Wait, that's because it is!

Ahhhhhh, Hell.

Brett runs to a pet store we'd seen earlier to grab some wipes for a quick "bath."

While he's gone, for some reason I still don't understand, everyone and their mom wanted to come over and pet Ollie. Of course, I didn't know how to say "don't pet, dog covered in poop" in Portuguese. So I just tried to pull him away, but when Ollie want's to be pet, he will be pet. So this meant lots of Ollie trying to "lean" on people to get pet only for them to realize that yep, that smell? It's him. And me.

Brett eventually came around the corner with the wipes and I thought I'd seen an angel. We weren't clean but it would do for now. A couple of hours later, we were able to check in to our Airbnb and get Oliver cleaned up. The boys were passed out almost immediately. I looked around at our bags in this teeny studio apartment and felt this little twinge in my heart that said, "damn, this is real now."

Little did I know that, these moments and these thoughts, would start to come quite often.

We spent the next two days in Portugal, getting to know Lisbon a little bit more. I would definitely like to go back though, we didn't see nearly enough!


LIFE IN BARCELONA

Ahhhh, damn did I love this city.

We've said that if we decide to stick around in Spain long term, we'd more than likely head back to Barcelona. What's not to love? The Catalan culture (not really Spanish ;) ) , the history, the food, the people and their spirit and the weather. Geeze Luise I swear Barcelona is a paradise when it comes to perfect weather. Aside from that, there's ALWAYS something to do (and cheap, too). Plus, it's a great hub for the rest of Europe which means more travel for us. My favorite part of Barcelona, though, was the festivals! We celebrated MidSummer/Summer Solstice/St. Joan on the beach surrounded by fire and partied at various others like Gracia and St. Roc.

I must admit that I do miss our little routine we got into there from time to time. As I mentioned in my previous Barcelona post, our space was around 200 sq. feet with no sunlight. I have to say, sometimes, I miss the coziness of that little place. It was the first place we called home outside The States and it had its little charms.

Aside from that, Ollie and I ran every single morning like clockwork (I've never worked out consistently....ever haha) we jogged mostly at Parc Ciutadella but sometimes through Ciutat Vella (Catalan for old city) on streets dating back hundreds and sometimes even thousands of years.

It was a nice way to start the day! We were also only a 3 minute walk from Parc Ciutadella. On Sundays (and other days with spare time) the three of us would walk to the park and have a picnic under a tree. These are some of the best memories, the ones where we just slowed down.

There was also a little cafe called Bornet, that I'd go to on most days and just sit and write or do some reading... it was one of those places that you can just zone out at. We also became locals at a bar around the corner from us called Paspartu. We could bring Ollie, get loads of cheap drinks, and home was only a stones throw away. We met some of our greatest friends thus far over cava at this bar.

If I shared every good memory, there would be 1,000 pictures on this page. So here are a few good ones from our time in Barcelona.

BARCELONA (CASA MILA)

So much life and history in Barcelona! Plus, who doesn't love Gaudi? I always say, I never knew I was a fan of architecture until I moved to Barcelona. With Casa Mila, Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell and living in El Born near Gotico, we always had something historic or art-filled to see.


Ciutadella cascada


SUNNY MORNING RUN

Ollie and I post 5 mile run ready to start the day!


PARC CIUTADELLA

Typical Sunday picnic at the park. Europe had record heat this year, even being Texan, we were melting! These were some of the sweetest moments. Eating under a tree, listening to some oldies and reading with a nice breeze. I can look at this picture and feel it.


BORNET.

I am telling you, I was IN LOVE with this cafe.


Festa Mejor de Gracia

My favorite festival thus far. The entire community of Gracia, in Barcelona comes together to create some amazing streets! Each street chooses its theme and tries to create the most spectacular experience to walk through. The walkways of Gracias are flooded with paper mache and life. The festival dates back to 1817 and is considered one of Barcelona's best.


Improv photo shoot @ a vegan fair

Something really cool happened one Saturday! We walked over to a local Vegan Fair that was in town (I'm vegetarian and mostly vegan). This man stopped us and asked if his wife could take some pictures of us for free. FREE.99??? OK, COUNT ME IN!! So, of course we did and they turned out great! (we tipped, duh. We aren't jerks)



SUMMER SOLSTICE

About 30 minutes before the magic started! Surrounded by bonfires and children shooting firecrackers across the shore (what are fire regulations??) we brought a tempranillo and cava for 5 bucks and had ourselves a good Summer Solstice on the beach.


ANDORRA

We took a massive hiking trip to Andorra la Vella and then to Picos de Europa in July. This turned out to be one of our best experiences yet. Check out the Andorra and the Picos post for more :)



Then we moved! (moncofa)

If you read my Barcelona or Moncofa post, you'll know that we found ourselves in a teeny tiny town called Moncofa and that it will always have a special place in my heart. Check out the Moncofa post to read all about the sweet little town and the lifelong friends we made while there.

It was such a great pueblo to get to know and is an experience I will never forget!

While we were in Moncofa, we met some friends of ours in Amsterdam for an EPIC double date vacay and also ventured out to Alkmaar to experience the Cheese Market! A week or so later, we set out on an AMAZING roadtrip from Bologna, Italy through Austria and eventually to Munich, Germany to cross a big one off my Brew Bucket List!! Yep, we did Oktoberfest, baby! During this time, I also started teaching English online to Chinese kiddos through a company called DaDa ABC. This has been a wonderful experience and one that I have looked forward to for a very long time! If you'd like more information on how you can do this and if it's right for you, please feel free to drop me a line!

Here is my referral link if you'd like to give it a shot!

DaDa ABC

A PERFECT SATURDAY AT THE BEACH in moncofa WITH MY BOYS


amsterdam

Check out my Amsterdam post for our time there; such an experience! Amsterdam checked all my boxes and I can't wait to go back!


Alkmaar

Brett at the cheese market in Alkmaar with two of our greatest friends all the way from Texas!

(Paige, the cute preggers to the left, has an awesome blog btw! for all your mental health needs or just for some feel good articles, check out the recoveringperfectionistblog.com)


OKTOBERFEST! PROST! TALK ABOUT AN EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME!


Nordkette in Innsbruck, Austria

Just look at this view! I really wish we would've had time to hike in Austria. Another trip back is in the works! I'd love to hit some trails in the Nordkette area where this photo was taken, we just didn't have enough time!


well, Time to move again! (valencia)


Shortly after we returned from Oktoberfest, we headed to our new home in Valencia where we are now!

Currently, we are living in a neighborhood called L'Olivereta just West of Old Town Valencia. We are about a 30 minute bus from the city center, but we live along Cabacera Park which is gorgeous! It's also now where we have picked up Sunday picnics again! I also have been making a point to take Ollie out and run in the morning; Brett has been tagging along too! Our neighborhood isn't as central as our last two places have been and is definitely on the outskirts, but I love it. I am learning more and more Spanish every day!

feral cats sent from Hell

Valencia, so far, has been great to us! There have been two hiccups though that are fair to mention.

The first is that, there is an interior patio area outside our window. I'm not sure how to describe it, but it's an area of roof tops about 10 feet below all of our windows on the east side of the apartment.

This wouldn't be a problem save the fact that there are TEN, YES, T-E-N FERAL CATS on this rooftop area. They conspire together daily on how they can make Oliver's life a living Hell :)

Our windows are open all the time, we don't have (or need) AC. The cats will jump up on the window and it starts a war with Oliver!

I am sad for these little babies, and I wish someone would help them, I would love to take them to a shelter, but there is no way for us to get down to the roof level. The landlord says this is a longtime problem... and I wish it was one we would've known about before moving in! haha But hey, you win some, you lose some. It's also fair to note that Oliver has never seen a cat before now. So, he is in a constant state of anxiety. It starts every morning with the cats meowing that loud, screeching sound that nearly seems fake and Oliver jolts out of bed to protect us from these feline demons haha.

another not so small stroke of bad luck, our kitchen caught fire.


I was getting a few things for dinner ready, I had everything on the stove and prepped (I do this alot, it's just easier for me!). All I needed to do was turn the stove on (so, I thought). I was chatting with my mom in our bedroom when I headed to the kitchen to go ahead and start dinner.

There was a small fire on the stove, I panicked a little and told my mom I'd call her back. Within about 3 seconds, the fire took over the entire stove. I yelled to Brett that there was a fire and he came running. By this time, the fire had shot past the overhead vent and to the ceiling.

For a second I just stared like an idiot. Brett runs toward the stove and now I'm screaming that we need to leave.

The fire is licking at the walls and making it's way through the rest of the kitchen. I can see something bad is about to happen. Everything is orange now. The power has gone out, I can hear things cracking and breaking, and now both of us are having a hard time breathing. I'm holding Ollie like we are on a sinking ship and yelling at Brett to forget the kitchen and come on. He is behind us when he tells Ollie and I to go downstairs...until he isn't. I look up. Our building is very old with a twisting staircase through the middle, I see him banging on doors and yelling at people to get. The power is still flickering on and off and he yells at me and Oliver to keep going downstairs.

I make it outside and grab the first person I see. I'm frantic and can't stop saying "fumar" like and I was so scattered that I was saying fumar instead of fuego...one means smoke, like cigarettes and one means fire, like flames. These two guys probably thought I was having the worst nicotine fit of my life. I realized I was saying the wrong word, corrected myself to "fuego" and they called the fire dept for me (it's not 911 here, so I needed help) Thank goodness for these men.

I wait with these men and people are pouring out of the building. Parents are rushing out in their pajamas holding their toddlers and crying. The elderly are shuffling in their slippers looking around in disbelief. Everyone is rushing out except Brett....I rush back in the lobby and try to call him and yell his name. Nothing. A woman stops and pleads with me to get out and that there's a fire. I waited and waited and nobody came. Everyone was outside looking at me like I was insane. I called and called with no response. I dropped to the floor, I remember this feeling exactly. I thought I was going to be sick. I'm crying so hard I think I might choke. Around the dramatic choking sob session, Ollies tail starts to wag. I look up and see a barefoot, soot faced Brett holding two passports and a fistful of euros running down the stairs.

Whew, okay, he's not a goner. He had knocked on as many doors as possible and went BACK IN the apartment to close all the doors and grab our passports. I was so pissed and so happy at the same time. This was an intense feeling, I thought.

The rest of that night was a blur. But to make an already long story, short, I'll sum it up with some good news.

The good news, our bedroom and living room were livable. Our place was covered head to toe in soot and sure, lots of things were damaged, but our bedroom was safe which is literally where our entire lives are at. Our clothes, money, laptops for work, everything we own. Thank God he closed the doors.... Our landlord tells us that night, that it will take a month at least, to rebuild everything in the apartment. He tells us the walls will need to be knocked down and that essentially, everything will be redone from scratch and that none of his other units are available. This worried us, obviously, because we'd need a new place to stay. What would it cost? Would we pay double rent? How would we find something on such short notice within our budget? To say we were scared, would be an understatement. But I knew...somehow, I just knew everything would be okay. I mean, Hell, just a few hours earlier, I truly tasted the fear of my husband being gone. I can handle whatever this is.

Here's some more good news,

Our landlord popped by a few days later to discuss money, when we'd need to leave the bedroom we were squatting in (lol) and where we would go from here.

At the moment, the fire is thought to be caused by a glitch in the touchscreen on the stove. However, his insurance wouldn't cover any type of kitchen fire and apparently, insurance is not a huge deal here. Damaged property in Spain goes something like this: landlord and tenant meet and discuss incident, they go back and forth about who could've done what while fake smiling to keep from escalating until both parties agree to disagree and split the cost.

This is exactly what happened. Except, our landlord had a huge change of heart and said he would put together a team to do the work that needed to be done in about a 10 days or less. We would pay for parts, but labor would be free. This was so appreciated by us. Sure, we had to cough up some money, but he was meeting us more than halfway and getting it done in a third of the time.

Fortunately, we had already had a trip to Scotland planned to celebrate Samhain a few days after all this happened...this meant that we wouldn't need to find a place to stay!! Most everything could be done while we were gone! Ahhhh, we were so thankful. The days figuring out where to go and what to do were very stressful. It wouldn't be glamorous, of course, but we could have a functioning apartment without having to load up and move. This was all we wanted and that's exactly what happened. Everything else is details. As of today, I have my kitchen back and we couldn't be happier.

SCOTLAND


Now that all the scary fire business in Spain is out of the bag, let's get to the scary fire business in Scotland! Celebrating Samhain in Edinburgh has been on my witchy-to-do list for quite some time! I have been looking forward to the Samhain Fire Festival for ages. It is a pagan fire festival that has been taking place for thousands of years and celebrates the natural cycle of life and death, with emphasis on the death part, since it is the original "Halloween" ;)

We headed north to Scotland to check one off my Pagan bucket list, explore Edinburgh and also do some hiking in the highlands! This was such a memorable trip and I can't wait to write more about it! I plan on doing an individual post on Edinburgh, Samhain and the highlands (particularly Glencoe) so keep an eye out! :)

Moving forward

We just made it back from Scotland a few days ago and we've got a busy few weeks ahead. Brett is headed to Turkey and Ukraine in a few weeks on a solo trip and I am meeting a girlfriend in Barcelona for a Spain/Portugal trip once he gets back. Then, after that, we are meeting my cousins in Rome for NYE!! Once we get back from Italy, we are loading up another van and moving yet again. Granada is next on the list! There, we plan on doing even more hiking trips and spending time out in the natural world. Hoping to see more of Ollie like this:



TO SUM IT ALL UP,

We have fallen in love with the fear and excitement that comes with a new place and the twinge we get in our hearts when we take a risk. We plan on keeping this gig going for as long as possible. It's not easy, and I think that if you are in a relationship it will definitely test it... but it is always worth it! We have gotten to know each other and ourselves in a very special way that I just don't think would've happened otherwise. It has been an incredible roller coaster of 6 months. I pinch myself all the time. Is this real? Did I really dream of this for years and years and now it's actually here? The answer is yes. Honestly, I believe life is as magical as you allow it to be and that if you allow and invite good things in to your life, they will come. Also, if you work your ass off, you will see benefits from that, too ;)

I hope you enjoyed this long, 3,500+ word recap of our life abroad these past 6 months...

¡CIAO!

(Glen Coe, Scotland November 2, 2018)


#Spain