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Lessons From An Anxious Expat

The Top 7 Lessons I Learned From My Move To Barcelona

Today I am celebrating one year of living in Barcelona! It’s incredible how fast time flies. I remember counting each month and then all of a sudden the 12th one snuck up on me. Moving to a completely new country has been almost too much to wrap my head around at times. It’s funny how your mind will play tricks on you. One week my confidence is soaring and the next week I’m resorting to my card deck of positive affirmations to keep my doubts from taking over.

I can remember my first day here like it was yesterday. To be completely honest, I was a nervous wreck. I had my purse stolen when I was previously here on vacation and now being in a new city and barely knowing anyone, I was so scared of having my purse stolen again with my keys and phone and having no idea what to do. My purse never came off my body once I left the house and I guarded it like my life depended on it. I think my nervous system was on information overload because my body felt on edge for the first couple months I was here. Eventually, it settled down on its own.

Not only was I nervous about being locked out of my one month rental, as each day went by, I got more and more nervous that I wouldn’t be able to find an apartment of my own. I was warned before I came that it can be challenging to find a place to rent, but I failed to realize that August was going to be extra difficult since most of the city leaves for vacation. I sent out hundreds of emails to realtors in English and the best Spanish that I could come up with (who knows what my emails actually said), and I wasn’t getting any responses. I quickly jumped to thinking where I would live with a dog and a cat once my one month rental ended. Somehow it managed to come together a week before I had to move out and my new apartment, which I now call my “hotel room”, felt like the perfect fit for me.

That was my first major obstacle that I accomplished. I met a sweet group of girls my first week here and my social life somehow managed to hit the ground running. Things were amazing! There were nights that I would walk down Princesa street (seriously, it is called Princesa) and I could remember smiling and literally skipping home because I couldn’t believe that I was actually living inside of a dream that I had for so many years. I would go back and forth between the thought of not being able to believe that I was actually living in Spain and the thought that I felt like I was at home and exactly where I was meant to be.

After a couple of weeks of being here, my social life got a bit quieter and I freaked out for a second because the realization that I was alone in another country kind of hit me. I have gotten really comfortable being alone and I am really confident in my ability to meet new people, but I think that my expectations were out of alignment. I think that was one of my first lessons that I learned during this year, among many, many more.

Being in this amazing city has changed me and I would like to think for the better. Here are some of the lessons I have learned along the way:

  1. Give Yourself Time

    Whenever you’re in a new situation, it takes time to make new friends, to get settled, and to adjust. You are doing yourself a disservice if you expect everything to happen immediately and you will only set yourself up for disappointment. Things are a process. It takes time to learn something new, it takes time to master a new language, and big goals take time to achieve. Since my first day of living here, complete strangers have given me the constant reminder of “step by step”. That has been one of the biggest gifts of living here; the permission to not have to know everything instantaneously.

    When I’m frustrated trying to conjugate verbs, the teacher has reminded me “step by step”, when I have been sick and buying herbs, a sweet customer reminded me I will heal “step by step”, when I was frustrated trying to figure out government paperwork, once again “step by step”. Hearing that has helped me so much when my new life has gotten overwhelming and I now use it as a constant reminder to slow down. This year has developed my patience to a new level and made me realize that I need to have the same level of patience with myself as I do with other people. Trying to rush through things doesn’t ever get them done faster, it only makes you frustrated when they aren’t happening as fast as you think they should be happening. It is so important to give yourself the time you need to do anything new, which leads me to number 2…

  2. You Will Adjust

    Being in a new country means that the food is different, the people are different, the culture is different, the lifestyle is different, the language is different, and to be honest, those are all of the things I love about being here. I had to get used to not having as much storage space, but I figured it out. I had to get used to hanging my clothes to dry instead of using a clothes dryer, but I adjusted. I made the mistake of buying black bathroom towels and since I wasn’t drying them in a clothes dryer, they were loaded with lint. Every single time I got out of the shower, I looked like a hairy gorilla for about three months, but it’s one of those things that won’t affect your happiness and you end up laughing off. Whatever changes you’re going through, give yourself the time to adjust. The things that seem completely weird now, will eventually become your new normal. Until then, you just have to laugh every chance you get, which leads me to number 3…

  3. Have A Sense Of Humor

    During the week, I am enrolled in Spanish classes and I have been extremely lucky that I have a teacher that makes it a joy to go to class. She’s always dancing around and acting things out to help us learn new words. She’s full of funny stories and a lot of them revolve around language miscommunications or embarrassing herself in front of her students. She even has a way of telling stories about the idiosyncrasies of different cultures that makes me appreciate cultures and humans in a whole new way. She makes human flaws not only seem acceptable, but charming. I should also mention that she has the patience of a saint. I can’t tell you how many times she has had to correct my same mistakes along with all of the other students.

    A few months into living here, I met a wonderful guy that was patient enough to attempt to speak to me in my Level A2 (beginner level) Spanish. We spent our first date having dinner and even with my limited understanding of the Spanish language, I realized we had a lot of common values. I was really excited to get to know him and I think on our third date, I tried to let him know that I missed him, since it had been about three weeks since I had seen him last. I told him “te extrano” which is “I miss you” in Spanish. His eyes got big and he was completely confused as to why I would tell him that on a third date. Then he proceeded to tell me that “I don’t love you”, also in Spanish. Needless to say, I was completely confused. I guess “I miss you” in Spanish is a lot more serious than I had meant it to be in English. I would be lying if I told you I didn’t cry about it at the time. I was so frustrated that I wasn’t able to properly express myself, but now looking back, I think it is hilarious. Luckily, I am now friends with this guy and I know that this will be one of the first misunderstandings of many. I am now ready to face the rest of them with a sense of humor. I have definitely learned to take things a lot less seriously and embrace my humanness.

  4. Celebrate Your Progress

    When I first arrived here, I decided to focus on growing my business and took it upon myself to start learning online marketing. I was completely clueless! Between not knowing what I was doing, not being able to speak Spanish yet, and not having as strong of friendships as I had back at home, I felt like I was failing. One week I would be super excited about my new life and the next I was doubting myself for not being where I thought I should be at. I’m not quite sure when it clicked in me, but I realized the fact that my business was starting to get seen online was something to be celebrated. The fact that I could actually have full on conversations in Spanish, even if they are beginner level, is pretty awesome! I also met some really wonderful people that I enjoy spending time with and that’s pretty great too. I realized that the friendships I had back in Florida took me years to grow into and I had to allow myself that same time with my new ones. I think the biggest thing to celebrate was that fact that I had to overcome so many fears to even make it here, you can read about those more in this blog. Once I started celebrating my small successes and progress, it became a lot easier to be proud of myself.

  5. Be Proud Of Yourself

    Life can be challenging, but it is even more challenging when you’re focusing on what you’re not doing instead of what you are. Look at how far you have come and be proud of every single success no matter how big or small. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to stop myself because I was thinking I should be doing more. Then I reality checked myself and realized that moving to a new country is huge! It is something that I never thought I would get around to doing and I did it! That is something that I am proud of and once I gave myself the credit for it, it made me realize that I am stronger than I have been giving myself credit for. It’s given me the motivation to take on other challenges because I know that with persistence I can achieve them. Be proud of yourself, you’re doing a lot better than you think!

  6. You Don’t Have To Have All Of The Answers

    While I was in the process of trying to get here, I was so overwhelmed with EVERYTHING! I had no idea how I would manage to time out selling my house, selling my car, applying for a visa, getting the proper documentation to bring my cat and dog, finding a shipping company, find a place to stay for the first month of my move, finding an airline that would accommodate my furry family, and figuring out where I would stay once my house sold. It was a lot! I truly didn’t know how I was going to pull it off, but I did. I broke it down into one step at a time and if I needed help, I asked for it. You do not need to have all of the answers, you just need to be able to know that you can find them. Help also has a funny way of showing up when you need it. Take the first step and somehow the next one will appear. Don’t let not knowing all of the answers keep you from starting. You will figure it out as you go!

  7. Always Assume Success

    Before I moved here, I remember my Mom telling me, “I hope this is successful for you” and I remember thinking, “well duh, of course it is going to be”. It never occurred to me that my move wouldn’t be successful. I was determined to make it work. That has stuck with me since and I realized that there isn’t any other option than to go into any situation knowing with every cell in your body that you will find a way to make it work. Success doesn’t come with an expiration date, you get to keep trying as many times as you need to, and the only way you could fail is if you give up. Even if you don’t make it to your original destination, you’ll still be successful if you celebrate your lessons and your progress.

I am sure I have learned so many other lessons during this past year and I am truly thankful for them all, but these lessons have helped me the most. I don’t think that they are anything that most people wouldn’t already know, but the reminders have helped me to shift my perspective and increase my happiness. I am also incredibly grateful for all of my family, my new friends, and old friends that have supported me through this major life change. People are truly the most amazing gifts that life has to offer. I am looking forward to another wonderful year ahead, full of new friendships and wonderful adventures! If you’re ready for a change and have no idea where to start, book a complimentary call with me, I would love to talk!

What small successes do you have to celebrate?

What big goals have you been putting off because they are too overwhelming or seem impossible?

What pressure are you putting on yourself to make things happen faster than they need to?

Give yourself a break, you deserve it!

Happy Anniversary Barcelona!!

Originally published at fractalwellness.com

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