Living in New Jersey, the state where I grew up, with all of my family and friends around me, I could talk about moving to Spain and think nothing of it. “It’ll be easy, I can get through anything. I’ve been to other countries before. How hard can it be?” Famous last words.
Stay Away From Daily Routine
The best way to challenge yourself and keep yourself from getting bored of a daily routine is to do something that really scares you. What do you really want to do but are afraid to do? What don’t you want to do because it terrifies you? How much can you handle? For me, sitting at a desk in an office was a means to an end: I needed to save up money to do what I do best, travel. After 5 years, I was ready to embark on the scariest journey of a lifetime. I moved to Spain.
The Move to Spain
Luckily, I had a boyfriend to experience everything with, so the trip to the airport in New Jersey was more exciting than scary. The 5 hour layover in Frankfurt was exhausting, but I wasn’t alone (and we took turns napping so no one stole our bags). Arriving in Malaga where we didn’t speak the language and had to rent a car and find directions to a mountainous village an hour and a half away, was more thrilling and adventurous than terrifying. Don’t get me wrong, the whole thing was still scary, but the mystery of what the future would hold kept me from looking back.
Keeping Positive and Confident
I felt confident going into this because I knew I had a secure job already lined up. I had a student visa, promise of income, health insurance, and a place to stay for the first week. The rest would come easily…or so I thought.
Apparently, you really do need to be able to speak the language in a foreign country to get around. I wish I could time travel and tell my 10 year old self that when I didn’t take my Spanish lessons seriously. PLEASE – teach your children other languages when they are young! And learn them yourself! You will thank me later, when you feel confident traveling and showing off your skills.
Unfortunately, my Spanish wasn’t good enough to be able to call for apartments, but we were in luck. We met a British realtor who helped us rent a wonderful historic old house on top of the mountain in Olvera. After that, we attended an orientation (in Spanish, of which we understood 0.5%), received our health insurance cards (not that we had any clue what to do with them now), and started our jobs (thank goodness the only requirement was that we speak English all the time). All was going well!
Of course, there will be obstacles and trials along the way. This is true even if you stayed in your home town, though. Why not experience trials and tribulations in an exotic location?
So what if your old stone Spanish house on top of a mountain has no heat in winter and you can’t order wood from a local farmer in Spanish to burn for warmth? Who cares if you can’t read the ingredients on the soap/laundry detergent/bleach and you buy the wrong things that give you skin infections? Are you going to go home because your job, the supermarket, and all shops and restaurants are a mile away and you have to walk (uphill, both ways, in the rain) anywhere you want to go?
No, you’re going to find a solution that you wouldn’t normally think of. You might buy a cheap used bicycle from the trail riding rental company, or ask a new English-speaking teacher-friend for a ride or help translating, or finally figure out what those health insurance cards are for and go to a doctor and be surprised to learn your Spanish is actually pretty good after absorbing it for a month. Nothing is too hard to get through, no matter how bad you think it may be at the time. You will endure, and just remember that you are luckier than most to at least be having problems in a paradise. It could always be worse!
Moral of the Story
The best way to challenge yourself is do something you didn’t think you could do. You will always be alert, you will experience new things, and you will never be bored. You will look back on life and have no regrets, only fun-filled stories to repeat over and over to your grandchildren. You’re more likely to regret the things you didn’t do than the things you did do. And if your biggest problem is going to a restaurant in England, forgetting which language to order in, and forgetting which currency to pay in, you have good problems.
How have you challenged yourself? What is the best way to challenge yourself? Let me know your success stories in the comments below!
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P.S. You might also like Some of My More Interesting Travel Stories and There are 7 Days in a Week and Someday Isn’t One of Them