Living abroad and the things you can’t prepare for – Barcelona

I’ve been living in Barcelona for around 13 months now. That’s enough time to get to know the coastal sun-city that’s big enough to get lost in yet easily available to being explored fully. Below are some of my experiences of living abroad you may find useful if you’re planning on making the leap overseas. Here’s what I’ve learned so far from my time in Barcelona (you probably didn't expect a few)!

 

A home away from home:

 

After a busy 13 months I’ve gotten to know this city well. Barcelona has this intoxicating and laid-back atmosphere which is relished by those who wonder its streets and are amazed by unique architecture. The infamous Antoni Gaudi has touched parts of the city with his truly special master-pieces.

 

"Barcelona has this intoxicating and laid-back atmosphere which is relished by those who wonder its streets and are amazed by unique architecture"

 

My 13 months out here so far has been a journey I had never expected to be so good. My move from the grey life in London out to the sun-infested and vibrant culture of Barcelona was something I cannot understate. While in winter it barely drops below 10 degrees Celsius and for six months of the year it’s over 20, the warm climate is perfect for all. Espresso or “cortado” is appropriate at any time of the day out here, as is "cerveza" (no translation needed). There are no “normal shops” in this city, only endless streets lined with tapas bars that are inter-twined with Catalan spirit and life. Barcelona is in no rush to do anything. And I love it.

 

 

Be ready to change:

 

When or if you choose to move abroad, there’s so many things you have to figure out, especially when you live somewhere with a different language. Looking at the latest stats on MoveHub, it’s clear that living overseas is good for your health, wealth and happiness. And according to their study of 1,000 expats, “life is a lot sunnier, more relaxed and far less pressured and more enjoyable”. But things run differently and you have to adapt. You can never anticipate it being perfect or prepare you for what to expect. You learn to just go with the flow. Slowly but surely you can look at yourself and realise you’re changing around the new environment. And when you realise this it’s a special feeling knowing that a city has the power to change you.

 

 

"There are no “normal shops” in this city, only endless streets lined with tapas bars that are inter-twined with Catalan spirit and life. Barcelona is in no rush to do anything. And I love it"

 

Those Spanish or French classes you might have taken once? Nah, they don’t mean anything when you have a local Spaniard going full force at you in some lyrical madness. Or was that Catalan? If you think that today’s world of Skype and Whatsapp can somehow make up for not being back home, then you’re wrong. Can anything bring you closer to home? Nope, it’s just not the same. You have to fork out for the flights and get used to knowing the airport better than your own home. You also end up with two of everything. It’s a nightmare having to buy a new clothes, a new desk and new lights when you have all of this back in your old life. Not all of it can realistically be shipped to your new flat. Especially when you take just one bag like I did. You have to pack light and collect the rest trip-by-trip as you eventually visit home again and again.

 

The power of a new city:

 

When most people move abroad, they often speak highly of their new homes, but there’s always that niggling aspect to any new move. And Barcelona is no different, it has those long-waits for any kind of restaurant and café service, that crowded feel in areas by the beach and the ceiling above you in your career. But despite this, Barcelona has that power to swallow you whole.

 

 

It’s easy to be lost among the mess of colour and uninterrupted life, with the freedom to explore the coast line at your fingertips. Unimaginable beauty surrounds Barcelona and the Southern Spanish coastline, with the mountainous Pyrenees and Basque country to the North offering a unique blend of environment in which you needn't escape the Spanish borders ever in a lifetime. It’s hard to find a reason to leave the Catalonia region even – you can never get bored.

 

"Most of my new friends at work won’t ever make the trip back home again. The trip to Barcelona really has the ability to be a one-way ticket"

 

This bustling international metropolis kindly mixes foreigners and locals in a cosmopolitan clash. They’re ambitious but they’re relaxed about it. They’ll know they will get where they want to be, someday. And they’re in no rush to skip the pleasures of life to pursue that career as quickly as possible. So why am I confused about Barcelona? Well, life is honestly harder. Yes you get that love and mystery of foreign land, but it’s kind of like starting life again, elsewhere. With the unfamiliarity comes insecurity. And in a new life where I've left my things behind, including a busy lifestyle, things just seem … incomplete and somehow short-term.

 

 

Prepare to become that guy:

 

If you get the chance you have to leave your home and work abroad. The mix of new cultures on offer changes you personally in ways you can’t imagine. From my own experiences, I would never have experienced that young and ambitious culture anywhere else. The possibilities to travel and do endless enjoyable things keeps you on your toes. But you will be endlessly asked if you speak the language or love the beach. No I don’t speak Spanish, merely Spanglish at a push. Yes, I love the beach, but I’ve probably only been once every three weeks at best. Yes, I do enjoy my tapas and sangria, but no I don’t drink it daily like everyone expects. Aside from the questions, you’re also seen to be a hero. People find out about your life when they visit, the little insights and pay-check at the end of the month – you become that expat who’s living the dream. It’s cool to have that status. When I come back and visit the UK, the people are bored, the food sucks and the weather is … well, you already know.

 

You’ll learn to love the things you used to hate, like rain:

 

It’s true, however, that I miss my home island of the UK. After a year away you realise it’s the little things back home that you don’t realise how grateful you were for. And from my experiences in Spain, I miss the green, I miss the rain and the grey (hard to believe, right?!), I miss not having to cool down every 5 minutes from the burning sun. And let’s not forget the every-day supermarket food. You don’t realise the beauty of Cadbury’s chocolate until you leave!

 

Stuck in limbo:

 

Living in a multi-cultural and tourist hotspot is kind of depressing. Barcelona is on any top-10 for amount of tourists visiting. And in any top 3 spot for tourist-per-indigenous head. With so many new faces every day in a not-so-big city, people come-and-go and it’s everywhere. If you work in this kind of environment, surrounded by people on holiday, you crave traveling too and begin to miss home and your friends. It’s a strange feeling I’ve never experienced before. I worked out that it’s almost too true that expats are less likely to plant roots in a city like Barcelona. The reality is, the economy is struggling and the desire for expats to fully integrate into Catalan culture is lacking, if not, non-existent.

 

There’s a point where you can kind of be stuck in limbo, neither here nor there. It’s difficult to comprehend at times. Friends back home get on with their lives and you start to miss out on all the excitement, the birthdays, the weddings and the births.

 

 

Concluding thoughts:

 

But the aforementioned are so unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Nothing can compare with the decision you make to move. Treat this as a call-out to all those wanting to move abroad and thinking twice before they commit.

 

Don’t think, just do it. The sacrifice in home-comforts, salary or whatever it may be, are too worth it. It’s an experience you’ll never get again.

 

Barcelona is now my home away from home. And I’ll always come back here with a smile on my face, from wherever I may go next in my journey.

 


 

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The world of ladders and why we don’t need them.

A world of ladders:


It’s funny isn’t it? We are always looking to grow – and whether that’s in gaining more freedom, more responsibility at work or even bettering ourselves socially and physically – it’s unfortunately only served with a nice side of age. From finishing university and finally landing a sustainable job, to buying your first mortgage and settling down – the list goes on and everything takes time. Before you know it you’ve really grown up. Not only have you started to mature at work but the grey hairs and slowing metabolism are also beginning to show.

We are often only offered two choices in life as depicted by the Matrix. However, there is a third option. Source: reddit

Welcome to the world of two choices –  a bit like The Matrix. On one hand you can try and “climb the ladder” for the rest of your life, or alternatively you can sit somewhere lower down the ladder, happy with “getting-by” – never out-excelling or testing your comfort zone in anything. Many authors, academics, economists and politicians defend the “ladder” concept as a rigorous blueprint to working-life and encourage us to work hard at it and rise to the top.

We are in a world of ladder-climbing. Source: xrcoaching

The idea of getting off the ladder altogether – a life away from the working world and responsibility, would almost seem mythical to those aforementioned. This “third” option of leaving the ladder and leaving work is almost an impossibility for so many – it’s simply too costly and risky. It’s true – work hard while you’re young, settle down then think about this nonsense. It’s hard to argue to against the norm and what the experts tell us.

The third pill:


However, there is a third choice we can make – I have read about the people who make this decision, I know people who have led the inexpensive nomadic lifestyle and I have spent time researching their lives. What I’ve learnt is we need to pay attention to them. The reality for most of us is the two pills before us are not nearly as satisfying as the third pill – the one Morpheus didn’t tell us about. The lives we could lead are there for the taking, we simply need to become the Peter Pan of this world and grab the opportunity for ourselves.

Many argue that in taking this nomadic lifestyle of freedom and inconsistent change we are being selfish, irresponsible and contributing little to the world in the way of taxes, economic spending or even charity. On the contrary – it is you who dictates your own decisions and it is you, the ladder climber, who is just “getting by” via that route to the top or “success” as it’s commonly known. This isn’t success? Especially when you read about the lives you could lead below – away from the prison of nine-to-fives, pointless meetings and meaningless information we don’t need.

Choosing the third pill is a decision we must seriously consider. Source: xplore

You don’t need to be rich to be enriched by the world and its hidden qualities. This article has taken inspiration from a few unnamed people who have shared their stories with me where a particular decision has had a huge impact on their life. Some people really put off growing-old and really strive off making gut decisions and I think it’s too good not to share with us normal-people, just getting by.

4 reasons why you should get off the ladder:


  • There’s a world out there larger than you:

Travel and enrol yourself in things you wouldn’t normally do. One guy called Mark caught my attention – he attended some Mandarin classes for a year, then quit his job when he was at a conversational level and moved to China. As a result, he learnt invaluable qualities you can’t simply pick up in your everyday life. A new culture and new friends who subsequently influenced him personally. Mark learnt first-hand to realise what true poverty is and the affluence we are born with compared to most. If you’re reading this, then this probably applies to you. There’s a world out there far larger than you – and don’t forget it. Mark’s message to me was simple: don’t get sucked into this life of hedonism that can slowly over-shadow you. The sooner you learn about this the quicker you are able to truly appreciate your life and the environment around you. Mark left his ladder four years ago and hasn’t returned since.

A taste into the life you could lead. Source: ozgecelikev
  • Live life as an adventure:

The world is chaotic – go see it. Study or work abroad when you can if leaving the ladder isn’t completely realistic for you at the moment. I am speaking from my personal experience in this respect – learn about new cultures – ones far older and more established than yourself. You’ll soon realise the true meaning of hospitality and become self-reliant. Don’t get tied down to responsibility too early if it can be avoided. I read up on blog online which highlighted Sarah’s story. She went traveling for six months to escape work for a while and “find herself”. It’s now been nine years and she has no intention of coming home. Sarah taught me that sometimes it’s good to fall deep and that we should let these people fall. Those who have the courage to leave their comfort with nothing are the heroes of this world. They are re-born with a plethora of new skills and characteristics you ascertain only through once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Another girl, Charlotte, posted a long story online. It was so satisfying to see how she actively made a change to her disappointing and unfulfilling relationship. One day on a business trip she found herself making a phone call to the hotel room where her work colleague was. She was fond of him but unsure whether she really liked him. Anyway, he answered and they ended up going for a long walk in a park next to the hotel in Chicago. After this they spent the following nights of the business trip getting to know each other better. Fast-forward seven years she is now happily together with her ex-colleague living her dream abroad – finding work from one place to another – enough to survive while traveling in Asia but being the far more enlightened because of it. It’s fair to say you can see the importance of making a single adventurous decision.  Charlotte is in a better position then she would have ever been on any ladder.

  • Discover your real passion and don’t worry about making others happy:

One story really summed up a problem so many of us, including myself, can relate to. That fear of sticking to what we know and always making the rational, safer options. This is all about the importance of self-actualisation or finding meaning and purpose in your life. One of my closest friends struggled during university – she was working hard but wasn’t properly engaged in the work she was doing. So instead she enrolled herself in a part-time job writing for an independent news firm. Her parents were worried she’d be spread too thin alongside all the work she had at college. They tried numerous times to stop her from writing – but in the end she pulled through and ended up changing her college degree towards something more suited to her passion because she was so good at it.

Think about your passions that actively pursue them. Source: huffpost

Now within two years she is pursuing her dream and actively traveling around the world while writing – funded by the money it provides her. It makes her happy and continues to shape her life every-day. If she hadn’t made the decision to go against her parent’s firm stance, then she may never have discovered her passion and the success that came with it.

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page” is heavily quoted world-wide. Yet Saint Augustine of Hippo’s words are true now more than ever. Once you have truly observed the world – then you can create something unique and mark your legacy. And if you don’t leave your legacy – then what was the point?

  • Learning to appreciate discomfort and the beauty of perpetual discontent:

As Thomas Edison once famously said, “I haven’t failed – I’ve just found 10,000 ways of not doing it right”. This quote really stands out in the sense that we can’t give up – keep looking for the life you want until you are satisfied – maybe it’ll take a lifetime to find, but if you find it then you’ve achieved more than most – making you unique. To many entrepreneurs their hallmark trait is their perpetual discontent. They constantly look to re-invest themselves or their business until you meet your own standards which are probably higher than anything anyone else could expect of you. The world is your oyster and only you have the power and knowledge to know what you’re capable of doing so make the most of it. I think this is something we can all strive for in jumping off our ladders.

Always look to better yourself. Source: cdn

The book – “when things fall apart” by Pema Chödrön is of particular relevance to this article. Her words highlight how we, humanity, are so used to this idea of running from discomfort. And if we don’t like it we strike out at someone or beat ourselves up. “We want to have security and certainty of some kind when actually we have no ground to stand on at all.

The next time there’s no ground to stand on, don’t consider it an obstacle. Consider it a remarkable stroke of luck.”

It’s only when we have no ground to stand on that we can inspire ourselves to do great things and really exceed our boundaries. Or … “We start by working with the monsters in our mind. Then we develop the wisdom and compassion to communicate sanely with the threats and fears of our daily life.”

Session Conclusion:


The above rules should act as a guideline to anyone looking for that third choice. By taking the aforementioned points into account – we are closer to leaving that ladder we don’t want to be on and closer to finding that third option we have to grab before it’s too late.

Places you’ve never heard of but must see before it’s too late.

 

Welcome to today’s world: unprecedented globalisation, exponential wealth-creation and capitalism, the rise of developing economies among previously undeveloped continents, free and unlimited access to the world and all that happens via the internet and social media.

Sounds great, right?

Here’s the thing – the world is becoming smaller and we’ve known about it for centuries. Ever since we began regularly trading goods internationally in the 1500s, we have had more and more access to other countries’ produce more easily. Today, your local food store probably houses imported goods from more countries than you could name. And it’s nice – we like the freedom to choose what we want.

Source: professionalcommunities.wordpress

But this freedom gained in access to other nation’s produce is limited to what we can smell, taste and use. Freedom of the internet and social media, however, is a more poisonous freedom. It spoils the way we see the world – dictated by those who publish online content, far too often created to appeal to the masses and not necessarily accurate.

If I were to turn on my phone now I would have instant access to what’s happening in the world. Our generation is obsessed with it too – we love to know what’s going on – gossip, news and friend’s updates among other things literally take up hours of our precious time. And why not? We are only human and therefore naturally inquisitive and curious right?

But some of us brought up in this generation are frustrated – not all of us yearn to be “connected” online.

By all means this is no revolutionary issue – credible films and novels such as The Beach, Fight Club and Into The Wild portray this anger well. But we are on a trajectory today whereby more and more of us have access to the internet. We have become so engrossed in this world accessible only through our fingertips and eyes that we have forgotten what it’s like to use our real senses and form our own opinions on the world. Sometimes our world’s mysteries and natural wonders around us like new culture, new places and new people are best kept secret until we experience them first-hand in real life, not through a small screen. The excitement is gone – everything we do and feel and experience is through a screen and some code.

Source: shaneoleary.me

The real experiences that make life worth living are the things we do, the adventures we have and the legacy we leave behind. As we work our lives away from university and up the ranks of business, we gain more responsibility and suddenly find there is less time for the adventures. Yet our generation today now has more disposable income and the opportunity even our parents didn’t have. With accessible transportation to far-off and unimaginable places just a few clicks away – let’s re-ignite the excitement back into our lives before it’s too late.

This article is your map to new places you have to see and experience first-hand. Below are some carefully selected locations you’ve probably never heard of that you need to visit before the flocks of tourists inevitably arrive looking for that perfect social media picture or before you need to be home by 6pm to look after the kids. Let’s see the world’s wonders before they are spoiled by the internet and our future.

Here are the top places to travel to you have never heard of and some inspiration to go on that adventure before it’s too late.

 

Hallerbos Forest, Belgium:

Source: boredpanda.com

This enchanting forest is over 1300 acres with a bluebell carpet that only covers the floor for a few weeks each Spring. It has been kept in perfect condition since the Germans removed many of the trees for production during WW1. Although one of the more popular suggestions in this guide, it’s mystical nature is something that cannot be avoided. It’s only really accessible by car from Brussels and known to be one of Belgium’s best kept secrets.

 

Maly Semiachik, Russia:

Source: ourplnt.com

Looking for something a little fiery? This stratovolcano is one of Russia’s natural wonders – located in Eastern Kamchatka. A hot, acidic crater lake fills the active Troitsky Crater – it’s 700m deep and was formed around 400 years ago after a large volcanic explosion. The sulphur causes the lake to be that beautiful colour and its heated at around 30-40 degrees c. Shame you can’t go for a quick dip but it would make the perfect photo.

 

The Canola Flower Fields, China:

Source: wherecoolthingshappen.com

This quiet area of Yunnan County transforms into this exquisite sea of yellow every year. This natural spectacle occurs in early Spring where the golden-yellow rapeseed flowers bloom to as far as the eye can see. This phenomenal happening could not be missed off the list. This place is popular with photographs and can be accessed quite easily by bus from Luoping. Note the 100-year old Lingyi temple for spectacular views.

 

The Stone Forest, Madagascar:

Source: dailymail.co.uk

Yep. I couldn’t quite believe this place existed on Earth either. What. A. View. Also known as the Grand Tsingy, this stone forest is isolated, inhospitable and home to 300ft razor-sharp rocks caused by tropical rain erosion. This place is home to 11 species of lemur and is popular among experienced explorers.

 

Lençois Marangenses, Brazil:

Source: cvc.com

This national park is located in North-Eastern Brazil. There’s nowhere else on Earth where you can see such a collection of large white sweeping dunes that houses collections of fresh water in the valleys between the dunes. The resulting lagoons are caused by the rains known to this region – not far from the Amazon Basin. The park has no direct access roads and is difficult to reach. You are looking at a bus route of 160 miles from Sao Luis.

 

The Elephant Rock, Iceland:

Source. io.wp.com

It’s hard to imagine this is a natural rock formation. Situated off the coast of Iceland on Heimaey Island– home to just 4,500 inhabitants — the enormous rock was caused by the highly active “Mountain of Fire” volcano– Eldfell. The cooling of the sea meets the erupting lava causing unusual rock formations like nothing else.

 

Lake Baikal, Russia:

Source: lifefoc.com

Perhaps one of the more recognised on this list. Lake Baikal, known in Mongolian as the “Nature Lake” is the largest and deepest freshwater lake in the world – containing 20% of the world’s unfrozen surface fresh water. At over a mile deep too – this super-clear, 25 million year-old lake deserves a trip visit out of sheer respect alone.

 

Lord Howe Island, Australia:

Source: dx-world.net

This crescent-shaped island stretches just 7 miles from top to bottom. It’s a 2 hour flight north-east of Sydney housing just 18 small hotels on the island. This place is pretty exclusive – but it’s worth the trip as the white-sand and blue lagoons mix so well with the emerald green mountains at either end. You won’t find anything quite like this elsewhere in the world.

 

Lake Abraham, Canada:

Source: designrulz.com

Unlike the other natural phenomenons noted, lake Abraham was artificially made in 1972 at the foothill of the Canadian Rockies. However, the naturally frozen bubbles that rise under the ice are caused by the methane gas realised which freezes as it gets to the cold lake surface. Is there anything else that needs to be said?

 

Crystal Mill, Colorado, USA:

Source: wp.com

This 1892 wooden powerhouse mill is accessible from Marble Colorado only via 4×4. The Mill is home to a water turbine that drives an air compressor used to power tools and machinery. The Mill has not been used since 1917, but a visit here is like stepping back into untouched history. And with an autumn back-drop that like below, this certainly makes our list. Wow.

 

Raa Atoll, Maldives:

Source: independent.co.uk

Vaadhoo is one of the inhabited islands of Raa Atoll with a population of just 500. However, this island is famous for the “Sea of Stars”. A marine bioluminescence is generated by phytoplankton which creates a marvellous spectacle. This place is like Heaven on Earth housing the most Romanic natural lighting in the world. It’s like a scene from Avatar.

 

Skaftafell, Iceland:

Source: Icelandphototours

Iceland really does have its fair share of must-see natural wonders. The jaw-dropping glacial wonders within the Crystal Cave are a must-see. It has emerged as a result of a glacier meeting the Icelandic coastline and makes one of the most beautiful natural wonders you could ever see. A must.

 

As always, I hope you enjoyed this little insight into some of the amazing places you have probably never heard about. Use this as inspiration to start your own adventure before it’s too late.

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