Wow, seriously can it have already been three years? This year truly flew by. There were doubts amongst the masses as to whether I would be able to endure year one. And yet, here we are, done with three full years, two and a half left to go. We’ve been here longer than what we have left (again).
And speaking of being here longer, Liam is now the age Aidan was when we moved here, 5 1/2. This was the year that Liam had officially lived in Spain longer than he lived in the United States. A strange achievement in my mind, but cool nonetheless. By the time we leave in 2 1/2 years, Liam will have been here twice as long than his time in the US and Aidan for half of his life. The boys are now 5 1/2 and 8 1/2 – how much they’ve grown in 3 years!!
What does all this mean for us? My hope is the longer we are here, the more impact it will have on all of us – that we will continue to learn and embrace new cultures and new adventures. That over time, the language will no longer be a barrier to fully immersing ourselves into our lives here, something I try not to let get in the way, but inevitably does. That the kids will learn that there is more to the world than our home in the US and that home is where we are as a family and location is less important as long as we are together. To embrace people of different ethnicities and learn from their life experiences and to also recognize how important our own experiences are in shaping who we become.
Some of the the highlights from year number three?
- Well, the big one… We made the decision to stay here in Barcelona for 2 more years in addition to our already 3 1/2 year contract (we had extended our original 2 years last year). So as of now we are heading back to the US in the summer of 2015. This decision was a relief for all of us, and especially myself, who constantly felt in limbo about what our plan for the future was. Knowing that we had 3 1/2 years from our decision date gave me a feeling of security that I could feel like this truly is home for now.
- Life is better with a car. Yes, I got my drivers license. It was a challenge but I’m really glad that I took it on because it just feels so good to have the freedom of getting into my little car and just… GO!
- Josh went to a real calcotada with some people for work down in Tarragona, an experience I have yet to have but hoping for year 4!
- A bigger apartment can make all the difference in the world, even more so than the car. We moved in June to an apartment double the size of our old one, still in the same neighborhood but a better location and with bigger space plus a garage, we couldn’t be happier!
- Aidan and I lost a lot of our friends to moves this past year. But we aren’t letting it keep us down and while it was a tough transition for us, we are looking at the positive aspects of now having friends in different parts of the world!! We’re learning that this is a part of ex-pat life and while it’s not our favorite part, it’s a part of life we need to adjust to. And in the meantime, we also made some great new friends this year who have become a big part of our lives.
- I hired a Spanish tutor in order to expedite my fluency – this will never truly feel like home until the language piece becomes easier. The kids are both doing advanced Spanish in their classes. Josh, well, Josh relies on the rest of us for this one…
- Travel makes time fly. Having trips to look forward to has really made our time here go by quickly, perhaps a little too quickly! It will be interesting to see how time moves when we go back home and don’t have as much on our itinerary.
- The boys turned 5 and 8 this year. They are no longer the “babies” they were when we moved here 3 years ago. They are street-smart, travel-saavy, worldly kids that make me proud everyday. They both have had challenges in the last year and continue to persevere to come out on top!
- Josh has finally joined me in my fitness craziness – he’s running 3 to 4 times a week and I’m so proud of what he’s accomplished! He was running 5k regularly by the end of the year and as of this writing within days of the new year, he hit 6k. He’s down more than 20 lbs and working really hard! Go Josh!!
- This year was our best visit home yet – we are learning from previous years’ mistakes and not overscheduling. We had quality time with those we wanted to spend our time with rather than spreading ourselves too thin as we had done in years past. We also did some “quality” shopping while we were home, to the tune of THREE extra suitcases of goodies to bring back (this in addition to the 2 extra I had brought back with me from the US when I was there in May for my brother’s wedding).
- Josh finally joined the iphone craze and kicked the crackberry habit…
- On the flip side of a good time at home in the US was August in Barcelona. This is a BAD idea and one we won’t repeat again in future years. As a matter of fact, I’ve already booked our flight home for this coming summer for August. August here is dead, hot and just plain miserable. Lesson learned.
- The holidays can be tough for an ex-pat, but when you can create your own “family” not only do we feel less far away, but it’s amazing how wonderful the holidays can really be. We celebrated Thanksgiving with 14 friends and their significant others. And Josh’s parents were here for Christmas which made the holidays feel a little more like home.
As with the last two years, this year was also jam packed with travel. Not all of it was together as a family though most of it was, however, Josh and I also took trips together and individually. Breaking down the year we went to:
- January – We went skiing as a family in the French Pyrenees; Josh went home to the US for work.
- February – Josh did some travel for work including Amsterdam
- March – My cousin Meghan came to visit; I went to Andalusia (Cordoba, Sevilla and Cadiz) with some friends, and Josh did some more travel for work.
- April – We hit the Amalfi Coast in Italy as a family which also included a trip to Pompeii and the island of Capri and I went to Scotland with some friends for a few days.
- May – I made a trip to the US to see my little brother get married!
- June – The kids and I went home for a few weeks at the end of June / early July. Josh actually overlapped us on this trip and it was the first time since we moved that we were all on US soil at the same time.
- July – The kids and I were home til mid way through the month. Then they were in camp for a few weeks here in Barcelona.
- August – We did a family trip to Menorca, an island off the coast of Spain. This was an amazing family trip and I’d say top trip of the year.
- September – Josh’s long term dream of Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany finally came true. Friends, Kyle and Kelly, came to Germany to meet up with us for a fun filled long weekend!
- October – This was a crazy month!! We went to England to go Legoland and the Cotswolds as a family, then Josh left the following day for the US only to come back for off site meetings and then he went to London to go to the Patriots game!
- November – The crazy travel continues. Josh returned from London only to have us head off as a family to Belgium a few days later. A day and a half after our return I did a girls trip to London. A week of rest and then Josh and I were off to Budapest where we met up with a college friend of ours. And yes, one more trip, I went to Madrid with a friend at the very end of the month. Whew!!!
- December – Madrid actually overlapped Nov/Dec so it kind of counts as Dec travel ;). We did a quick day trip to France with Josh’s parents to attempt some Christmas markets and Josh and I did a 3 night escape to Andorra. Travel for the year, done!!! Now on to planning for 2013!!!
What do we have planned as we head into our FOURTH year here in Barcelona? Well, of course we’ll do more travel. We haven’t booked anything as of yet, but tentatively we are thinking Morocco, Prague, Istanbul, Vienna, London and hopefully the Nordics (Sweden, Copenhagen and Norway). I’m also planning to hike the Cotswolds Way this spring, a 120 mile trail hike. And we’ll head home for a few weeks in August (Josh is actually heading back in February for work and I’m sure will be back at least one or two more times before the kids and I go this summer).
Though being a bit spoiled through travel, we also still try to keep things as normal as possible for the boys. The kids will continue to play tennis weekly as they have the last few years. It would be nice if this spring Aidan could add another sport but it all depends on what the school has to offer. In addition to sports, with the freedom of the car, we are making a more concerted effort to do playdates with them outside the city as well as class parties that are often held on the outskirts of Barcelona, something we were a bit more reluctant to do before without the car.
With the additional playdates and parties, our hope is that we will take the time to get to know more of our children’s friends’ families. We know a few of the close ones but really haven’t spent much time with the adults so it would be nice this year to put forth the effort on our end to change that.
Josh and I will keep focused on our fitness goals. I’m debating some running races for this year, though racing isn’t usually up my alley, but it would give me some goals to work towards. Josh, having just started running again for the first time in 15 years back in August, has some goals of his own that he’s working towards and I’m so proud of him – and I have no doubt he will keep up the good work.
Perhaps in addition to this, and I say perhaps, I shall learn to cook better so that we can help meet these fitness goals. I’m not the best of cooks but I’m willing to make a go of it for us to be healthier.
In addition to fitness goals, I’m trying to also add some new goals for work. I will be the first to admit that the last 2 years I have slacked a little bit when it’s come to my work and this year it’s time to put my nose to the grindstone and get to it. I’m hoping to make it a really good year but also to make sure that my work does not take over my time with Josh and the kids or my ability to enjoy our time abroad while we have it.
No matter where life takes us this year, we will continue to embrace the adventures and the lifestyle and to remember that we are incredibly lucky to have embarked on this opportunity three years ago that have changed who we are and who we have become, forever.