I think a lot of people view what I’m doing abroad as a huge “vacation”, a giant long trip to Europe, or may even romanticize the idea of living abroad and being abroad. I know that before I moved over here, I definitely romanticized the idea that I’d be taking vacations to exotic areas, participating in super cultural festivals, and meeting a bunch of different people from all over the world. I had this idea of always having my cafe con leche, sitting on my terrace, with the Spanish sun warming my skin. Then, later in the afternoon, I’d go out with friends for tapas, dine on Spanish ham and delicious cheese while drinking wine by the glass for only 2€. While I have to admit, some of these things are true… my life is not a fairytale European getaway.
What I try to explain to my sisters, family, and friends, or really anyone who asks, is that I’m still carrying on with the normal “day to day” life. I wake up, go to work, come home, make myself some lunch, do house chores (laundry, dishes, etc), go to my private lessons, come home and prepare dinner, prepare for my next day, and try to work on my blog. I do a lot of normal things that everyone else does, but, the difference is that I’m in a different country; and besides asking in English, where I can find the eggs, I ask in Spanish. On the weekends, the boyfriend and I try to take day trips to see different pueblos, or visit our friends in different cities. Or, sometimes, we stay at home and do MORE house chores, grocery shop, invite friends over, or get bored with everything, that we have no idea what to do.
As a second year expat teaching English, I’ve been asked by a lot of people when I’m coming home to really get started on “my life”. What usually ensues in conversations like these are: “When are you coming back to get a real job?”, “What about being an adult?”, “You can’t travel forever and think you can make money like that.”, “You need to find a job with a high paying salary.”, “You can’t avoid adult life forever”, etc. While all of these are very
lovely and casual reminders that I’m not going about the “American Dream” the normal way, they also leave me feeling stressed and extremely confused with what I’m doing.
Did my “adult life” all of a sudden stop after I picked up my bags and moved abroad? Mm, no. Do y’all really think that all I do over here is gallivant through Europe, take pictures for Instagram and my blog, and eat food all day? I wish I could do that… but the bills need to be paid, those plane tickets don’t pay for themselves, and food doesn’t magically appear without money. Me being an “adult” didn’t just not happen, it’s happening, but it’s happening across the Atlantic Ocean in a different country, with a different language, and a different culture. My life is not a European vacation getaway, it’s my real life, made with real experiences, and real work!
So, to all the friends and family members who continue to ask me when I’m going to get started with “real life”/ join the “adult world” and let go of this traveling escapade abroad, I tell you: “My real life is happening! I am being a responsible adult!” I wake up every day with responsibilities and obligations to go to work, pay my bills, and try to create more of a life here in Spain. I find it personally insulting when people tell me that this is just a “stint” abroad to avoid working in corporate America; when I work really hard at what I’m doing over here. I don’t have my parents to fall back on, in Spain, if I were to ever need help, I don’t have my family here to help me figure out Spanish bureaucracy, I don’t have many friends here, and I certainly don’t have English to fall back on when I am trying to deal with legal documents, landlords, doctors, etc. I had to teach myself the language and the culture to get started!
When you start paying bills, paying for rent, and budgeting your own income to pay for vacations, purchases, or a night out, I think this counts as being an “adult“. You’re right, I make less money than I would back in the United States, I don’t have my own car and am not making car payments (
but, do I really want to make car payments?), and I have the luxury of choosing to hop on a plane to visit Portugal for 80€ if I wanted to. I have my own apartment, where my landlord comes the beginning of every month to collect rent, which I pay for with money that I’ve earned. I have water, electricity, and gas bills that I need to take into account. I have health insurance from my job. Where exactly am I NOT part of the “adult world”?