Hello, I’m alive. I’m not sure how else to begin my first blog post after several months of total silence. I hope my absence in the latter part of 2019 wasn’t cause for concern for any of my readers. It has been at least 5 or 6 months now since I’ve written anything on here and that has not been without cause. In previous blog posts, I’ve written about some of the challenges that went along with relocating to Spain. More on that soon.
Honestly, 2019 was one of the greatest years of my life and simultaneously, one of the worst… It’s funny how you can experience such polarized feelings in a year’s time. Even while looking at specific things that have taken place in 2019, I have mixed emotions.
First off, because there is no simple way to eloquently put this, I think I’d prefer to just jump right into the first major update: Right now, I’m back to living in the USA.
The events that led up to this were also partially to blame for my avoidance in writing on here. In fact, a lot of the stuff I’ve lived through this year has been so difficult and overwhelming that I could barely think about it at the time, let alone sit down and write about it. So now, as I sit here, I’m going to try. Overall, 2019 has been a messy year for me and I’m not afraid or even ashamed to admit that because it is the truth and I know I did all that I’ve done this year because I needed to.
To help bring you up to date, especially since the timeline might be confusing for some of you, I’m going to try to summarize all the big events that have happened this year as best as possible without going into too much detail. Anything you want to know more about you can always drop into the comments and if the topic is big enough, I might even dedicate a whole additional post to it in the future.
January: Applying for a Visa
The start of the new year was a busy time for me. I had just recently returned from my big backpacking trip around Europe. During that adventure, I reconnected with my ex-boyfriend who visited me in some of the countries I traveled to like Greece, Spain, and Poland. It was during my final month of backpacking abroad [in 2018] that we came to the decision together that if we lived closer in proximity, we might be able to make things work and get back together.
In order to make that happen, with the help of my significant other, I was willing to basically relocate my whole life to Spain. I sold my car, worked a ton of hours, and right after the holidays, in the month of January, I began the process of applying for a visa that would allow me to visit Spain for longer than 3 months.
Applying for a visa was probably one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Nothing official had clear directions on how to get the required items- only that they were required. Dealing with all the bureaucracy, paperwork, annoying fees, and long phone calls… it was really unbearable. The stress wore on me. Somehow I did it and submitted everything but the thought of doing it again… it is almost unfathomable. (Okay, maybe it wouldn’t be quite as horrible the second time around since I’m no longer as ignorant to all the lingo and expectations having done it once before, but you get the point.)
February: Moving to Spain
$1,760.00 later, I had a visa in my passport.
That was just the beginning. I still needed a flight to Spain, somewhere to live, whatever items I’d need for my new home, and the list goes on and on. My boyfriend and I eventually decided to apply for pareja de hecho – which is essentially this spectacular thing Spain offers that essentially serves as a committed relationship visa. Naturally, that meant filling out more papers, more visits to government buildings, and more fees. But all the trouble was worth it because it meant being able to stay longer in Spain with my boyfriend.
Now let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Before any of that could ever happen, I first had to pick up my passport with my Spanish visa from the General Consulate of Spain in NYC and schedule a one-way flight to Madrid, Spain! I happened to get the phone call just in time to pick up my visa right ON Chinese New Year! I was so excited (and worried something might have gone wrong since I already had my flight to Spain booked) that my mom and dad traveled into the city with me to support me during my visa pickup! <3
Off to Spain I went!
March: Finding a New Home
In March, I began to settle into living in Spain. Temporarily, I lived together with Jorge, my Spanish boyfriend at the time, until I could find a place of my own to live in. His housing accommodations at that point were not conducive to us living together since he was in a shared house so I needed to quickly find a place of my own.
It took an entire month before anything panned out, but after a lot of browsing on the Spanish housing app Idealista, Jorge spotted this place. With his help, I finally found an available 1-person studio to call home. As an American who couldn’t speak any Spanish at all, WHAT IT TOOK to find landlords/agents who were willing to work with me…. VERY difficult. My Spanish boyfriend tried to help as much as he could but there was only so much he could do since he had a lot of his own responsibilities to keep up with.
This studio was a TOTAL lifesaver. Its location was incredible. The landlord was so friendly and patient. I lived on one of the most desirable, tourist-friendly streets in all of Madrid. I was living right off of Gran Via, another incredibly famous street in Madrid, with all the shopping stores! It was a quick two-minute walk from Chueca – Madrid’s gay neighborhood. Really, it was my dream living location.
April: Coping with Homesickness
One of the hardest parts of moving to another country is developing new social circles. Leaving my family and friends in the USA was easily the most difficult part in choosing to live abroad long-term. Thank goodness for technology because social media definitely helped the transition feel less severe. Life in Madrid meant I’d need to befriend a new group of local people to spend time with if I didn’t want to totally isolate myself.
The academy where I was taking introductory Spanish classes really helped with that. Mostly everyone there spoke English which was a HUGE help with meeting a lot of great people in similar situations. My Spanish was still basic at best so making friends with local Spaniards was only possible if we had a translator around or if they had some English proficiency.
A relative of mine from the USA traveled to Spain right around that time and that REALLY helped me cope with some of the homesickness I was feeling. Together with him and Jorge, the three of us set off on a little trip to visit the cute city of Toledo. It was there that we tried one shop’s famous marzipan – one of my favorite desserts!
May: I’m Señor Pajarero (Mr. Birdkeeper)
In May, something really special happened. Unlikely friendships were born. As has been the case in the past, I’ve naturally found comfort in observation and close encounters with the wild bird populations. There’s a whole background story to this which I’ll save for another post. All that I will write for now is that I became known as “Señor Pajarero” (Mr. Birdkeeper) to the locals for my ability to befriend and look after the birds living in the city.
I saw my first quaker parrot in real life. These are birds I’ve admired since I first discovered them on Tumblr about ten years ago when I followed a blogger who had two of them as pets. Not only did I see a quaker parrot but I got fairly close with one too! For me, that was fantastic. They’re banned in New Jersey so this was such a rare opportunity. The birds I bonded with made my time in Spain special in a way I did not anticipate.
June: Pareja De Hecho in Full Swing
Up until this point, the first half of the year had been fantastic. I was making positive progress in learning Spanish. I had befriended many of my classmates from the language academy. I even made one close friend from Japan who came to Spain to be with her Spanish boyfriend! Coincidentally, we even started our Spanish classes on the same day! My boyfriend and I were doing a lot of things together in Madrid with our growing friend groups. It seemed like there was always something new to look forward to.
Around this time, I needed to do a bit of paperwork so I could stick around. The first step was “completing” my visa because while I was granted 180 days in Spain, the visa sticker placed into my passport only allowed me the initial 90 days of entry. Once in Spain, I needed to get a “tarjeta” (TIE card) with a national identity number (NIE) so getting that was… another process. Immediately after that, Jorge and I quickly began doing everything necessary for pareja de hecho, the next step, so that I could stay beyond the 6 month mark.
Even though pareja de hecho is far less serious in design than marriage, it almost felt like I was about to get married. I had to travel to the U.S. Embassy in Spain to get a legal document proving I was single/unmarried so I could qualify for pareja de hecho. I had to get registered (padroned) as living in the city. My NIE was needed. There were a lot of steps involved to make this all happen.
With all of the requirements finally collected, all we needed to do was set the appointment to submit our application to make it official. With Pareja de Hecho, I could stay in Spain for up to 5 years living with my partner.
July: The Breakup, Revisited.
Madrid’s Pride was held on Saturday, July 6th. That morning, Jorge and I broke up.
Without getting into great detail since this is somewhat of a sore topic for me, I guess things just weren’t working out as we had hoped. Old habits die hard, cultural differences are sometimes difficult to ignore, and we didn’t always see eye-to-eye on how to react to different situations. Things escalated more and more over time until that one Saturday morning when we reached a tipping point where we had a disagreement that also happened to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. From that point onward, there was no going back. Given the disagreements leading up to then, Jorge broke up with me. Despite what you might say were “warning signs” leading up to that, I was definitely a little bit blindsided.
Naturally, I was crushed. In a way, I was even embarrassed. I felt like a fool for the mistakes I’d made. I had gone to all ends of the Earth, quite literally, to pursue a relationship that, subconsciously, I knew I was constantly fighting for. It was only then that I realized we had given ourselves so many chances and when he finally called things off again, I realized breaking up might actually be the right decision for my own sake in the long term. There’s rarely ever a good time to get broken up with, obviously. Still, doesn’t everything happen for a reason? Operating in damage-control mode isn’t healthy. I learned I needed to show myself some respect and finally walk away from everything we had fought so hard for up until then. I finally granted myself the closure I had been seeking for so long and acknowledged that we had done everything we could, within reason, to make the relationship last up until then.
So that was that. I was single, all alone in Spain, and it was hours before the Pride Parade (Yay!). I wanted to salvage what little chance I had at enjoying the rest of the Orgullo festivities. Pride, called Orgullo in Spain, draws in nearly 2 million people making it Europe’s largest Pride Parade. Despite this massive influx of people, I found myself at the center of a sea of strangers in a country where I really didn’t know many people and could barely speak the language. I contacted the small circle of friends I had in Madrid with no luck. I didn’t want my Pride to be totally ruined so I went out and met some new people to spend the day with.
August: My Family Visited Spain!
Shortly after my breakup, I got wind of news that my sister and her boyfriend would be vacationing in Mykonos, Greece. I reached out and they said they wouldn’t mind if I visited so I got planning! I had already been to Mykonos last year while backpacking and it is probably one of my favorite islands in the whole world.
At a time when I felt totally alone in Europe, the two of them helped me heal in a major way. My sister and I have quite an interesting relationship because even though we’re both extremely different personality types, the one thing that is for certain is that we have each other’s backs no matter what.
Spending time together with her and her boyfriend in Mykonos was surreal. I booked my trip to Mykonos the night before the two of them flew there so the fact that this all panned out so nicely was seriously a miracle. Wait until you hear about how I managed it… that’ll be in another blog post.
As difficult as it was saying goodbye to the two of them, the goodbye was made slightly easier in knowing I had something else to look forward to next. My sister would be flying back to Europe, along with my mom and dad this time, to visit me in Spain in just two weeks!
Sure enough, they all visited me! We spent time in Madrid and even took a high-speed train to Barcelona. That was my first time visiting Barcelona despite this being my third time in Spain. This trip was a whole experience on its own so I’ll save the details for another post.
September: Moving Back to America
Eventually, the time came for me to pack my bags to leave my whole life in Spain behind. It was emotional, as you can imagine. Not all that long ago, I was trying to convince myself of the possibility that I might spend the rest of my life in this foreign place. Just when I finally started to feel like I was familiar with my small place in all of it, the time came to bid everything farewell.
I didn’t want to get into trouble extending my visa (although I probably could have stretched it a few days for tourism purposes) but I chose to play it safe and took a flight out on the exact day my visa expired.
I knew the transition would be bumpy at first but with the help of my family and friends, I knew I would eventually get reacclimated with my old life in America. I’d need time to rest, heal, and recover. Nothing would change the fact that I’d been hurt.
October: Buying a New Car
Did you know I hate car shopping? Well, I do. It’s pretty well known among my readership that I’ve had… hmm… not the greatest luck… with cars. Really at no fault of my own, I’ve had garbage trucks reverse and back into my *parked* car, mechanical parts explode and start smoking while driving in the middle lane of a major highway, various rodents claim my engine as their new home, and so on.
I can only hope car #4 – this Honda Civic Sport Touring – will treat me better.
For some good karma (hopefully??), I’ll attempt to treat this car like royalty.
I’ve already installed all-weather liners for the front and back seats to keep it clean. I’m going to stay on top of its scheduled maintenance and bring it for frequent washes before and after bad weather – especially in the winter when the streets are all covered in corrosive salt – to keep it running as smoothly as possible.
I need to get at least 2 years out of this car. That would set a NEW record!
WILL I MAKE IT? Let’s wait and find out!!!
I did get another Honda Civic because I loved my previous car – minus the rodent issues which supposedly vanished after they stopped using soy-based wires in the new cars. So I went newer with this Civic hatchback and paid extra for the upgrades that come with a higher trim level. The Sport Touring is actually a lot more comfortable to drive than the base LX sedan model which is what I owned previously. It’s actually fun and enjoyable to drive!?!? A feeling new to me… What a concept! Haha.
November: Focusing on My Career
In November, I celebrated my 2 Year mark with VIPKID. I really owe it all to VIPKID for allowing me to travel and have all the unique experiences that I’ve collected over the past two years while working with them. Thanks to their work opportunity, I was able to fully pay for all of my trips myself without ever having to ask my parents for a penny. In fact, I was able to live quite comfortably in Spain with my income.
However, now that I’m back in America, I’m looking to diversify and expand into other things. VIPKID is an amazing company and their online work-from-home opportunity is a fantastic one but I think I need something a little less isolating that doesn’t require staring at a screen nonstop for hours at a clip. I’m not looking to immediately quit and leave but I do want to find something that is more catered to my long-term career goals. As for what is going to come next for me in the short-term, well, we shall see.
If you think VIPKID might be right for you, they are always hiring! Apply here.
December: Somehow Life Goes On.
As of now, I’m in a weird place. You’ve probably heard of post-travel depression. It’s a pretty well-known phenomenon in the world of backpacking, especially. Throw in uprooting your life, an unfortunate cross-national breakup situation, and uncertainty about the future and it’s not exactly the best combination to cope with all at once. In a way, I think that’s partially what I’ve been experiencing ever since the summer. I went from living this spontaneous life with birds and novel, new things each day in Europe to being back home and facing a lot of the big decisions that I never had to think about while living abroad.
The INFJ in me is constantly trying to seek out the silver lining in everything that took place this year. I know that it is okay to have mixed feelings and that if I keep doing the right things to keep myself busy and moving forward, little by little I’ll fix my life and get back to a point where I’m content once again. It’s a little hard not to feel disappointed with how certain things turned out but I guess it’s part of my story now. I don’t have regrets and what’s done is done. The in-between stages are always the hardest and that is where I’m at now.
Still, I’m determined and I know things will turn out better in the months and years to come. Realistically, things are already turning up for the better. I’m ready to fight off the tears, willing to put in the hours of work it’s going to take, and open to putting myself back out into the world. I’m a firm believer that things happen organically as they’re meant to so I’m setting personal priorities and focusing on the things I can control in the meantime. I have to approach my goals in an order that I’m comfortable with now, whether they be personal, professional, or romantic in nature. I believe we all have a destiny that plays out in unusual ways. You can guide your decisions by aiming in different directions along the way to alter how quickly or slowly you get to where you’re headed, but eventually, life always takes you where you’re destined to go.
As always, thanks for reading. How was your year? What are your goals for 2020 and beyond? Let me know by email, Instagram, or in the comment section below! I hope to hear from you.