23 Jan From London to Spain: Fears, Life Changes and Goals for the New Year
For me, a new year always brings with it a lot of reflection. While 2016 is full of promise: an exciting new life in Spain, a chance to travel in mainland Europe and explore new work opportunities, lately I’ve also been battling with some serious fears and worries about the future. We’ve spent the last few weeks cat sitting in London and while being back in my favourite city and catching up with friends has been wonderful, our time here has also brought a lot of doubts and dark feelings to the surface.
The Light side of London
I always look forward to getting back to the Big Smoke. Just being in the centre of the city, walking across Waterloo Bridge and looking out over the Thames at all the famous landmarks – the Eye, Westminster, St Paul’s Cathedral, Big Ben – exhilarates me. I love being surrounded by crowds and streets full of red buses and black cabs. Travel has made me marvel at the convenience of the Tube, which will take you within walking distance of pretty much anywhere you need to go; just hop on, then pop up like a mole in your destination.
The best thing about London is being able to catch up with the people we’ve missed while we’ve been away. We were able to see a friend’s stand-up comedy routine for the first time and host home-cooked lunches followed by hours of tea, cake and conversation on the sofa. We successfully tackled an escape room game, and then took refuge from the rain for the evening in the pub. I enjoyed afternoon tea in a hotel with my mum and took an historical, ghost-themed walking tour around Southwark. I love the fact that there’s so much history in London and there’s always something new to learn. For instance, do you know that more people have died from jumping off the Great Fire of London monument than actually died in the fire itself?
We used Christmas vouchers to make trips to the cinema and braved the bitter cold to check out the free Lumiere London winter lights festival; the streets were transformed by colourful lanterns, flying fish, floating figures, light shows projected onto famous buildings and 3D elephants. One rainy afternoon we visited Greenwich, one of the most picturesque areas of the city in my opinion. When we weren’t out and about, Andrew and I spent most of our days in a quiet routine at home, completing blog tasks and planning for Spain, cooking meals and looking after the cat; most afternoons we’d take a walk down to nearby Chiswick House and Gardens.
The Dark Side
Despite the good times in London, I also found myself battling my way out of a depressed funk. I was plagued by a persistent cold and the dark rainy days blackened my mood; for over a week I suffered a bout of insomnia, sleeping for several hours then waking, unable to return to slumber for the rest of the night. At the heart of it all, I think the worry over our move to Spain was getting to me. We’ve lived this strange, nomadic life for almost three years now and sometimes I underestimate just how hard the uncertainty of it can be. Continually saying goodbyes, constantly building new temporary lives in unfamiliar places with no continuous income stream can take a psychological strain on you. We certainly haven’t chosen the easiest life for ourselves and I’m aware that this isn’t a path that would suit most people.
While I’m away travelling or working abroad, I generally don’t feel these worries and I cherish our life of freedom, flexibility and adventure. Something about being back in London, and the UK in general, always brings questions and doubts crashing to the forefront of my mind. In London, everything is so expensive, especially housing, and you have to work so hard to afford to live here. There’s a huge focus on work, countless hours are spent commuting to and from jobs and I feel that everything is centred on what you ‘do’. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this lifestyle, I used to happily live this way myself, but travelling has changed my perspective. Although I love London, the people in it and the lifestyle perks of living in what I consider to be the best city on the planet, right now I just cannot imagine how I can ever step permanently back into this life again. The thought of it exhausts me.
Lately, more and more I’ve been thinking of what my ideal life would be. Andrew and I have spent hours discussing what has come to be termed: The Simple Life. This roughly translates as a life that is time rather than money rich, where we work on projects and in jobs we enjoy but work isn’t the main focus of our lives. Perhaps one day we return to a traditional job for several days a week but also develop passive and other income streams, say renting a room out through Airbnb. It’s a life where we have a dog and a home base but also the flexibility to travel, a life where we see family and friends regularly but continue to have new experiences and meet new people.
Achieving this lifestyle balance is a long way off. We’ll probably spend the next few years as we have been, balancing bouts of work and stability in new places, like Spain, with periods of intense travel and visits home to the UK. But defining The Simple Life has helped me battle my way through the black moods I’ve been struggling with lately. I know what I’m aiming towards and while I don’t yet know how to get there, I at least know what I’m searching for.
Spain Plans and Goals for the New Year
So far, 2016 is a bit of an unknown beast, and I’m sure our lack of concrete plans for the year has been one of things dragging down my mood. So, I decided to get my shit together. I revamped my CV, contacted some teachers who have worked or are currently working in Madrid for advice and researched other types of job opportunities in the city. We planned the itinerary for our initial month-long road trip around the country and sorted out admin tasks such as ordering E111 cards and getting new police checks. We’ve also booked summer family holidays in Italy and Spain and a short visit back the UK during the Easter break.
I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions because I don’t like setting myself up for failure, but I’ve also found that writing a list of things I want to achieve this year has helped to focus my mind:
- Get some more freelance travel articles published
- Learn some basic Spanish
- Do some volunteering in Madrid
- Visit a new country (unbelievably, I haven’t been to a brand-new country since Taiwan in May 2014!)
I’ve already made headway on the list, as South East Asia Backpacker have just accepted one of my articles and I’ve ordered a Spanish study book and CDs so that I can begin learning the lingo. It’s all a work in progress but I’m now feeling positive about things. I know that, just as when we moved to Hanoi, there will be road-blocks ahead and that settling into life in Madrid won’t be an easy process. Crucially though, I’m beginning to feel excitement about the move and I’m looking forward to building a new life in sun.