My mantra. My refrain. My go-to phrase whenever I am not home. It’s so rote now it’s almost a lie. I can speak Spanish well enough to tell people I am an American (Soy Americana), and I cannot speak Spanish.
Life goes on. Our household goods might leave the US this week on their months-long journey to us. Might. Hopefully, by summer, we will have our stuff. We have internet again now, after being down 11 days and with nearly no help, despite a person being paid expressly TO help us. She kept telling us to call the internet company. Phone calls, not texts that I can manually type into Google Translate, not emails that automatically translate, not even an online form that Chrome can translate. Nope, just phone calls. No other way to do it. “Just call them.”
Lo siento, no hablo Espanol!
Thankfully, finally, we have reached a calmer point in our “settling in” that everyone keeps asking about.
“How are you settling in?”
“Well we’ve been down with no internet for a week and a half, Kelly is working off her mobile hot spot every day from home and racking up a fortune in data fees but we can’t view our bill because the 2factorAuth code to register online for the account goes to a German consultant who won’t write us back, we can’t get anyone to help us with it who speaks English, our water intermittently gets shut off with no warning every week, usually while in the shower or doing dishes, our 60 amp main breaker trips if we run the dishwasher and the dryer at the same time, and we’re about to run out of hot water and heating because the oil that runs the water heater is very low and it’s going to cost about 700.00 USD to fill it just halfway and it’s in the 30s at night here still. HOW ARE YOU DOING.”
Settling in, though, yes. The power has been upgraded. Internet is back. We get more fuel for the water heater in two days. We have given up entirely on the consultant and are doing everything ourselves now with Google Translate.
This morning, I woke up to a golden sky, golden air, golden dust all over everything. A sandstorm from the Sahara called Storm Celia blew over the country last night and brought us a thick, widespread coating of orange sand. Worst sandstorm in decades, the news says. I didn’t even know that happened here. Our little VW Golf is so dirty it’s undriveable. The magical golden hour, but all day. I thought it was pollen from the almond trees. No, a massive Saharan dust storm.
Without our stuff. That’s a whole different story. Stuff should be on the way soon. We’ve been here three weeks. It’s starting to feel more familiar, like it could feel like home. The first week we were in the house, we slept on a blow-up bed in the living room and our 9 suitcases lay exploded all over the living and dining rooms. We felt like squatters. Now we have a couch and a real mattress, not our actual bed but a mattress on the bedframe that came with the house. It’s an improvement.
Getting settled and back on some sort of schedule is priority right now.
But I am happy to report, yes, we are living in Spain now 🙂 The sunsets are spectacular. The sky was on fire last night as we drove into Madrid for a business dinner. Lenticular clouds are common out here by the mountains. They get hung up on the range just beyond the ridge in front of our house. We watch them from the upstairs terrace sometimes. Strange land. Bright, stark, arid, colorful, warm people, a relaxed way of living. I think we will thrive here.
We will be living in Madrid by the end of the month.
I am writing a book or novella or something – I’m writing something, I have to – on our journey from meeting each other on Beltane to getting married to Hurricane Ida evacuation this summer to becoming homeless and waiting and roaming from place to place living out of suitcases for 3.5 months to, most recently, our plane tickets being issued this past Friday while we wait out this last stretch in a clean, bright, private hotel room that is more like a studio apartment than a room. This journey has been a doozy. I feel like sleeping for three days, but I can’t. Too much to do before we leave. We leave in two weeks!
We are still waiting on the Spanish embassy to issue visas. This process started in January and the visas are the last step. First I was told I would be in Spain by June, then it was Fall (per the last post) and now it’s looking like we’ll be there in mid January at the earliest.
I had no idea what all a transatlantic relocation entails until this started. It is an enormous, complex undertaking with at least 5 different agencies/companies involved on each side of the ocean, and the timing of the documentation VS when it is needed has been off by months. There has been so much red tape and bureaucratic hoop-jumping it makes the Dept. of Defense clearance process look like a cakewalk. It took me an entire day to assemble the (finally completed) documentation for our visa applications, and half of it was in Spanish and the files weren’t named correctly. One single residency permit held up the move for 6 weeks. It has taken so long to get through this, our lease ran out at our house, and the landlord went back on her promise to let us rent month to month – when she was fully aware of our situation – because she wanted to move in instead and play house with her boyfriend. So, we’re essentially homeless now thanks in part to her. We’ve been living out of suitcases at AirBnBs, hotels and now with friends in their guest room while we, you guessed it, WAIT.
We went to Madrid for a week in October and found a house. It’s up against the mountains north of the city and it is not so much a house as it is a real European villa. We have a villa! 🙂 And we’re paying rent for it right now while we wait on our visas, so we have a villa in Spain we can’t live in yet that’s been ours since November, sitting empty, waiting for us. It’s frustrating. It will all be worth it once we board that plane (business class this time) with one-way tickets. My hope is that we will get our visas by Christmas, but there is no telling. And people keep asking us when we are leaving. They have been asking us for months. I want to cry with frustration every time someone asks, because I REALLY WISH I KNEW! I wish I had a date to tell them! But we don’t.
It’s too bad – we’ve been looking forward to spending our first Christmas together as a married couple at our new house in Spain, but instead we will be spending it housesitting for friends who are going to NY for the holidays. It’s OK though, at least we are together and we have a place to stay.
As soon as we get our visas in hand, then we will book our flights 14 days out from the day they arrive. Per company policy, it must be at least 14 days. Of course we have more things to do as soon as the visas arrive, things that depend on the visas, such as arrange our air shipment, contact 5-6 people with the visa numbers for customs, taxes, etc. and get our cat situated for the flight. Sell the car.
I forgot things at our house when the movers left in October. I had to throw away 200+ coat hangers because they didn’t fit in the luggage and everything else was already packed. Coat hangers are replaceable and that’s not a big deal, but I also forgot to pack my practically brand-new Canon DSLR in our suitcases so now I have a $600 camera bouncing around in a shipping container somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. Hopefully it still works if/when we get it back. Dealing with Spanish customs is a whole new layer of red tape nightmare. We have to sign over power of attorney so the agent in Spain can get our things out of customs whenever they arrive, which is likely to be months from now due to the shipping delays from the pandemic.
This isn’t a vacation for us. This is a long-term relocation. We will both be working full time and acclimating to a new country. My husband is starting his own business in Spain and I will be adjusting to the commute and to working from an actual office again – something I am honestly looking forward to. I’ve spent two years in jogging shorts and t shirts working from home. I miss getting dressed for work. I miss going somewhere outside of my home to do work. (I miss having a home.) So that will be a welcome change.
We stayed at a hotel the night the old house was finally all packed up. I got the room through Travelocity without looking at the reviews. Big mistake. My poor husband drove through a monsoon that evening for nearly 2 hours with an uncovered trailer full of furniture, some of which got ruined by the rain, to try to save some of my stuff that wouldn’t fit in the shipping container. Then he drove back through the flood to stay with me at a gross interstate-adjacent hooker hotel so I wouldn’t be alone there that night. Drug dealers were pacing the 2nd floor balcony and eyeballing me every time I went outside the room, so I double locked myself in and watched Poltergeist until he made it back, too scared to go out again. It was an intense, emotional day and he is my hero. This past Saturday was our 6th month anniversary and every day I am more glad that I married him. It’s been the best decision of my life.
I will try to remember to update this site once the visas arrive. Once we are in Spain, I plan to keep it updated more regularly, as it was intended to be a travel blog. I guess now it’s an expat+travel blog. Hooray! We are planning our small European wedding ceremony for June 2022 (since we had to postpone our November wedding indefinitely due to the relocation delays) and then we are spending 10 days in Italy for a proper honeymoon since we didn’t really get one of those, either. Once we return to the US, then we’ll do a wedding ceremony for friends and family stateside. But for now, for the month of December, stuck in visas limbo, we live out of suitcases and we wait.
Major life changes happened recently. I met someone, lightning struck, we got married, and now my husband and I are both moving overseas together this Fall. We’re looking at houses and planning our future. What a year!
It’s not official yet, but most likely happening this summer/fall. Waiting on many moving bureaucratic parts to align before I have concrete details and can make an official announcement & start planning and saying goodbyes.
What else has happened lately? I’m fully vaccinated now, achieved my immunity 😎 Life is good, though mentally and emotionally it’s been a hard past 12-13 months with the pandemic. I’ve been even more isolated and alone than usual. A friend of friends died last year and I didn’t even find out until this week.
HOWEVER. I have gotten better at guitar. I still suck, but I suck less now thanks to my very patient and talented teacher. I played G blues on the amp last night (because I can, because I live in a whole house with no shared walls now, god bless america) and today I’m picking the metronome back up to practice chord switching. The things I’m doing with my Jackson are starting to sound vaguely like music. It’s exciting. I can play with a bit of intent now. I’m learning to speak with the guitar, and my fingers are getting smarter. Got a horrible hand cramp the other night though. Getting old sucks.
One of the great things about moving is that I’ll be a short, cheap plane ride away from all of Western Europe. So I can fuck off to Paris for a weekend if I feel like it. I will feel like it at least once, I promise. And I promise to post the photos here.
So hang tight. I started a travel blog at a really terrible time. I will pick it back up in earnest when I actually start traveling again. Meanwhile, go get your vaccine, drink water, love your friends and delete Facebook.
Wow so what a year, amirite? Fucking hell. I can’t wait to get my Google trip report for 2020. You went zero new places this year! No shit, thanks Google. Thanks for the reminder.
Since I last wrote, I have landed in possibly the best work position of my life thus far. It’s been amazing and promises to only get more interesting and exciting. And it looks like I’ll be moving in 2021. I can’t say exactly where yet, but it’s not the US and it’s not for just a little while. I’m crash coursing a new language on Duolingo. I’ve been hearing a duration frame of 2-3 years. So, that’s happening. All of my stuff is coming with me and I’m giving up my apartment, selling my car. It’s a proper transatlantic move. I will make a real announcement once it is official. It’s a dream come true and I am beyond excited (and ready!). I feel like I’ve won the lottery.
In the meantime I’ve stopped and started smoking twice and started learning how to play guitar. I’m having much more success with the guitar than with cigarettes.
So that’s my travel and not-travel news for now. I have relaunched this blog to be public again. I had an issue with cyberstalking. I probably still do, but I’m done caring. The person in question is a sad, boring, bitter old lady. If she wants to creep on my life via this site, go for it.
Last week after some negotiation, I accepted an employment offer with a company on the east coast. I was entertaining a possible role at a startup on the west coast, but east coast ultimately won the battle. I start soon, pending all the background checks, etc.
With this new role, there is a good possibility I’ll be working overseas at least some of the time, on trips – not a permanent move, I don’t think, though I would not be opposed to moving to Europe especially if the orange turd somehow manages to hold onto office. In the meantime I’ll work remotely from my house with some domestic travel to east coast. It’s an exciting new trajectory with a great deal of promise. I needed this.
I may be making updates to this site from Spain or Poland or both in the future. And, depending on when I can take personal travel, other countries.
I looked up whether the US Customs and Border Patrol offices for trusted traveler programs are open, and they are not. Not til September. When they do finally open, I plan to interview for a Global Entry pass. You sail through customs with that pass. I saw people do it while I was stuck waiting with the hordes at the regular customs check in Prague. Takes 5 mins instead of an hour or more. Customs calls for anyone with Global Entry, and a handful of people peel off and are out the door and free to roam while the rest of us wait and wait and wait. It’s worth it if you travel out of the country more than once a year.
We narrowly avoided getting hit with a Category 4 hurricane here last week. Yesterday was the anniversary of Katrina. It’s been a stressful time. And two more systems are en route to the Gulf.
Here is a handy list of where Americans can currently travel. The page may take a while to load and also freeze up; give it a second. That page is current as of 17 hours ago. Notable on the list: Belize, French Polynesia, Barbados, Maldives, Dominica, Mexico — and a slew of others that aren’t Botswana. Nothing against Botswana, it’s just not high on my list of places to see in the next few years.
Now, the ethics of traveling right now, especially as an American, are another matter, as is the very real possibility of being stuck overseas or quarantined upon your return/at a foreign airport or city. As the article states, we’re under a Level 4 – avoid all nonessential travel travel warning from the State department, but no one is stopping you if you want to go to the Bahamas on a vacation. Airports have cleaning procedures in place, as well as airlines, so if you do decide to go, factor that in to your arrival and departure times.
I completely sympathize with the lure of getting away: away from your house, from this fucked up country right now, from life as we know it in Covid-19 America. Because this sucks. It has sucked for over 100 days now with no end in sight, sucking more every day, as the rest of the world is nearly or already back to normal and Europeans are traveling freely pretty much wherever they want to go while Americans, thanks to our moronic, narcissistic, game show host, fascist, sex-offending, disgusting lecherous woman-hating racist xenophobic lying garbage piece of shit sorry excuse for a president, are dying more by the day. THANKS A LOT MAN.
See this other link for airports that are allowing Americans to transit through, because that’s another concern. Can you even switch planes in Europe? Most of the airports are letting us through, but not all.
As far as personal updates, I’m waiting on some news. When/if it becomes official, then I’ll announce. IF the thing I am hoping for comes true, then I know where I am going next. Not sure when exactly because the place I have in mind is currently having their monsoon season (hint hint) and obviously because of Covid travel concerns, but I think by the end of this year, gods and election results willing, I’ll be there. At least for a week, most likely longer. My target is 9 nights, two days of travel on either end, so about 2 weeks total away.
It’s been high on my list since I learned of its existence, a dream really, this impossibly gorgeous tiny part of the world. Somewhere I never thought I’d be able to experience. But if this thing comes through, I am going. And it will be my first live update situation while on travel! Plenty of Wi-Fi there. So, stay tuned.
P.S.: Did some unrelated digging out of curiosity, thinking Hawaii may be a possibility, and it’s actually easier to go to Barbados right now than Hawaii. Hawaii is requiring a 14-day quarantine for US Citizens, or else a negative Covid-19 test result obtained no more than 72 hours before landing. Also, Barbados has opened applications up for their Welcome Stamp Visa. If accepted, you can work remotely from Barbados for up to 12 months from entry. !!! Something to think about.
Hey remember Hotel Duus in Keflavik? They finally refunded me my money 4 months later.
Monday was my original fly date for Oslo. To commemorate/mourn, I wore the red and white knit snow cap I bought for my trip for a few minutes at night, right around the time my plane was scheduled to take off.
We’ve been under excessive heat warnings the past three days, with heat indexes in the 110-120 range. 90s in the evening, and very high humidity. You can’t hardly breathe outside. Couple that with the covid mask mandate, and I almost passed out at the grocery store the other day. I was hyperventilating and my ears were ringing, I felt dizzy and lightheaded and was having a hard time putting thoughts together. Had to lie down and drink water when I got home. I was built for colder climes. Every summer I swear I’m going to move north.