Moving to Barcelona
(Part 3)

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This is my story of moving back to Spain. A dream 8 years in the making. The purpose of this series is to honestly share what it took to move back, how I did it, and what the transition was like (sharing both the good and the bad). If you’re just joining my story, click the following links to read Part 1 and Part 2 of my journey to move back to Barcelona.


Welcome to Part 3 of my experience of moving back to Spain. Leaving off from Part 2 - I’ve become fully legal in the city by obtaining my NIE document, registering with the municipality of Barcelona (my Empadronamiento), opened a bank account, signed up for health and apartment insurance, and secured my apartment in the neighborhood I wanted. It was a productive first month.

Let’s fast-forward about 3 - 4 months into my move. It’s officially summertime in Spain, the weather is amazing, I’m traveling a lot on weekends, or going to the beach to relax in the sun, meeting new friends, going out on dates with an incredible guy, taking time for myself, and exploring Barcelona more…. I’m actually living.

It sounds silly, but it took me moving across an ocean to actually start living. Once you’re outside of North America, the somewhat toxic culture that exists there and how easy it is to get sucked up in it, becomes very apparent. In my personal experience, I always felt pressured to be on top of everything, doing a million things at once, always working towards a goal, planning your days and weeks down to the minutes, trying to see friends but having to organize plans weeks in advance, to dating and trying to find “the one” - we rarely stop, and just live or appreciate the life we have.

This is why I decided that when I landed in Spain, and after I got all of my administrative tasks in order, I would give myself permission to take a break from my hectic past North American lifestyle and just live. I think we all need to give ourselves permission (and know that it’s ok to do so) to take a pause on life and really evaluate what kind of life we are living. Be appreciative of what you have in this moment, stop thinking about how making $X more a year will make your life better, or having X object will make you happy.

So when it came to my own pause, I decided that I wouldn’t allow myself to be obsessive about how many times a week I went to the gym or worry about what I ate. I wouldn’t take on new hobbies, or worry about starting my side hustle (this is why LOKATE took so long to launch). I would sleep-in on weekends and not feel guilty about it. I would travel to new places, and soak up as much culture as possible. For the first time in a long time, I put my well-being and happiness first. I reduced my stress by not stretching myself too thin. My goal over the summer was to work, go to the gym when I felt like it, eat whatever I wanted, meet up with friends and just live.


In the world of social media, and the pressure to be perfect, or successful - sometimes you just need to step away and actually enjoy your life. So spend your money on experiences, not things. Take time to meet new people, take on new experiences and learn as much as you can about the world around you. My new mantra became: the future isn’t guaranteed, so stop existing and start living.

With this new mentality over the summer, I felt even more grateful and lucky to be where I was. This would hit me daily while riding my bike in the mornings and afternoons going to and from my co-working space. I would be riding along Passeig de Colom, surrounded by the beautiful lines of palm trees, the warm sun, and incredible architecture. I couldn’t stop smiling. This was my life. I did it. I made my dream happen, and I was able to move back. For the first time in a long time (probably since the last time I was living in Spain) I felt pure joy, and immense gratitude. Every single day during summer 2018, I soaked it all in, cherishing each and every moment. Being very mindful of what I had accomplished and feeling very proud of myself.


What’s changed in the first 3 months of being abroad?

Giving myself permission to just live was the best thing I could have done after moving. It allowed me to focus on myself, and remove any guilt or pressure that I had carried with me over an ocean.

As I mentioned above, I stopped being so obsessive about my body and trying to go to the gym 4 or 5 times a week. I was a bit of a gym rat in the 4 months leading up to my move, trying (again) to crush goals and get to my “ideal body” before leaving Canada. Enter in my phase of “I’m going to eat whatever I want and not feel bad about it”. I wanted to enjoy Spain and Europe’s gastronomy to the fullest, and not limit myself. Eating fresh bread, cheeses, cured meats, pasta, while sipping on delicious wine? No problem. Zero guilt.

Speaking of eating habits, I noticed that my vegetable intake has dropped significantly. While I still make a big effort to get in vegetables at every meal, I find that when I eat out, or with friends, it’s not as easy as it was in Canada. As the vegetable mind set here is very different than in North America. But now I see it as a challenge to get my Spanish friends and boyfriend to eat more vegetables by trying to sneak in as many vegetables into a dish as possible.

3 months into living in Spain, I think I've adjusted quite easily to the eating schedule here, which obviously involves eating much later. Lunch at 2pm or dinner at 10pm is totally normal for me now, but it also means a later bedtime. More about that in what my typical day looks like below.

Finally, although it has frustrated me as a person who always feels the need to plan everything out in advance, I feel like I’m becoming slightly more relaxed or easy going when it comes to making plans with friends or my boyfriend. Back in Canada, I would plan out each day of my week ahead in an attempt to maximize my time and efficiency. Here in Spain however, things are very different. Plans are made usually last minute or on the fly. Things happen more spontaneously, and you kind of just have to go with the flow. This has been one of the hardest things to adjust to, but I’m definitely getting better, day by day!


Getting into a Routine

For better or worse, having a routine (in my opinion) is a very good thing. It helps you create a stable life, gets you in a groove, and helps you to be your most productive self.

It definitely took at least 3 months to feel like I actually had a routine, or at least built one that I thought was sustainable and the type that worked for my new life.

Here’s what a typical day could look like:

wake up + breakfast
leave apartment
arrive at co-working space
shower + get dressed
start work
leave co-working space
start second half of work day
finish work


I usually wake up around 7:15am and eat breakfast before leaving my apartment around 8am to head to the gym. I’m super lucky that my gym and co-working space are located in the same building. I take a Bicing bike (Barcelona’s shared biking program) over to my co-working space which usually takes about 15-20 minutes. I workout for about an hour, then am able to shower and get ready at my gym before heading upstairs to start my working day. I am the type of person where working out needs to be one of the first things I do in my day, or realistically speaking, it won’t happen later on. Plus, it gives me lots of energy for the rest of the day, and means that once work is over, I can just relax and unwind from the day and not worry about still having to go the gym.


I spend the mornings at my co-working space because it allows me to get into the zone as I am 6 hours ahead of most of my colleagues who are in North America. Thus, my mornings have now become my most productive part of my day. Then just before 2pm, I’ll leave my co-working space to head back to my apartment and take about an hour for lunch. At 3pm I start the second half of my work day where I’ll start to receive a bunch of Slack messages and emails as North America is just starting their day. I like to work in my apartment during the afternoons because this is when I usually have most of my calls and meetings. So my apartment is a great quiet space to get this done. I usually finish work between 6:30pm - 7:00pm, but sometimes I work later depending on the time of the year and if I have any later meetings. After work, I either meet up with friends, go out for drinks and tapas, or meet with my boyfriend. Then around 10pm I will make and eat my dinner. Given the late eating schedule of Spain, it also means I’m not going to bed until midnight, or sometimes as late as 1am. Although I go to sleep later, I’m not getting up as early as I was in Canada, so I’m still getting more than enough sleep each night.


Truths about being Remote

Remote life has some amazing benefits, and depending on your personality, it can be the perfect working solution to help you get sh*t done. Being a remote employee allows you the freedom to design your working hours as it works for you and your company. It allows you to choose where you want to work. Maybe that’s a café, or home office, or co-working space, or maybe a mixture of all 3 in one day, it’s up to you. It also gives you the flexibility to live in different places around the world without needing a job in that physical location.

But it also carries with it some hard truths and realities that can sometimes be difficult or challenging. For one, you have to be very responsible with your time. If you’re working from home it could be very tempting to stay in your pajamas and work from your couch. You also need to be a self-starter, and self- motivating. Your boss or coworkers won’t be physically around you to help motivate or inspire you - you need to keep yourself accountable. Finally, your value comes from what you produce in terms of your work and the impact you create. This is why remote workers often work even longer hours than their office counterparts, and rely on proving themselves through their work because they don’t have the luxury of banking face time in an office setting.

I see working remotely as a privilege and I treat it as such. I take my remote work very seriously. And this is why I built a routine that works for me. I get dressed everyday, I treat my co-working space almost like an office, and I make myself accountable each day. But most of all, I care deeply about the work I do, and love the company I work for - so it’s not hard to want to be the best at what I do every day.

Next, remote life can feel very isolating, and loneliness can quickly creep up on you. I’d be doing a disservice if I pretended that working everyday as a remote was awesome and perfect... it’s not. I like to describe myself as an extroverted introvert, meaning I love my independence and being on my own, but I am a social butterfly and will often crave social interaction. So while working as a remote employee has done wonders for my productivity, it has also been lonesome at times. When I’m feeling like I need to be around people, I might instead spend the whole day at my co-working space, or see if other friends who have similar working situations want to sit together and work side by side. I don’t need to be constantly talking to someone throughout the day, just having someone I know next to me while I type away and get work done is more than enough.



Managing your Mental Health while Living Abroad

I had one of my best friends Basia, come visit me 3 weeks after I moved. This was perfect timing because I thought I would either have everything totally under control, or I might be having a nervous breakdown. Luckily, when she arrived I was doing more than ok. I was happy, in fact I was beaming, and loving my new life. Friend after friend came to visit, and it was the same. I was totally fine, and super happy.


Months started to pass by and then in the middle of the summer around the end of July I woke up one morning and my first reaction was that I wanted to cry. What was wrong? I had this amazing life: I was traveling to new places on weekends, I had met an incredible guy who was now my boyfriend, had a great group of friends, everything was going really well with work and yet I was sad, and wanted to cry... a lot.

As I’ve become older, luckily, I’ve started to become way more self aware and thus was able to try and self-diagnose myself or at least know where I should go to get help or talk to someone. Enter my amazing network of friends. I started out slow and would message my friends, hinting at my sadness but not fully committing to any FaceTime chats as I knew I would just breakdown and I didn’t want my friends or especially my Mom to worry.

In a few weeks another one of my best friends, Elaisha was coming to visit for my impending birthday, I was turning the big 3-0, where I would be entering a new decade and to be honest, I think I was having a minor quarter life crisis moment. I think the reality of my move abroad finally caught up with me, and it hit me that that this wasn't an extended vacation (as my life had felt so surreal for the first 3 - 4 months), this is my new life. This is where I now live, and I am 100% solely responsible for myself, both financially and professionally, and I no longer had the same safety nets that I did in Canada. Then the doubts started to creep in, was this the right decision? What will I do if X, Y or Z happens? How will I support myself in the future? Is this living situation sustainable? My mind was going a million times a minute, and I was stressing myself out. The anxiety was intense and the emotions were real.

As Elaisha’s trip was approaching we had scheduled a Google Hangouts chat to go over our 2 week vacation plans. I was excited to talk to her, but knew deep down that I would more than likely breakdown in the call. And sure enough, 5 minutes in, all it took was one simple question from Elaisha, “how are you doing?” … and I lost it. I admitted everything to her: how I was feeling, how much stress I felt, that I would wake up and cry in the mornings. Being the amazing friend she is, she talked me through everything and said it was completely normal to be feeling this way. In fact, she was surprised it didn’t happen sooner into my move. I was lucky that she was there a couple of weeks later, and again we spoke more in person about how I was feeling. The lesson here? Reach out and talk to those you’re close with. Whether that is your mom, your friends, a sibling, a coworker, it doesn’t matter. Don’t let yourself bottle up your emotions. It’s important to seek guidance, advice and help. It’s ok to not be ok.


Elaisha and I actually recorded an episode for the LOKATE Travel Podcast about this, how I was trying to deal with everything. You can check it out below:

turning_30_part3_moving_to_barcelonaOnce my big birthday (which was amazing by the way) passed, and I accepted my new decade, the fear subsided and I was really proud of everything I had accomplished before I turned 30. I turned my fear into pride. And from there it gave me energy to push forward and keep doing things that scared me. Because in the end, that’s how this crazy journey started - leaning into my fear, and doing something anyways. Like going after my dream of moving back to Spain.

I think one of the reasons I wanted to start LOKATE was to truly share what’s it’s like to make a major life decision like this to move abroad and live outside of your comfort zone. Trust me when I say it will be the best decision you ever make, but it also comes with some major challenges. It will test you, mentally and physically. If you look through my Instagram, my move abroad seems perfect, and effortless. I try my best to share in my captions that it was not in fact easy, or quick. It took time, effort, discipline and a bit of luck. But there’s more work to be done here.

So going forward, I am making a public declaration and commitment to be completely honest and open about what it’s like to live abroad. The good, bad and the ugly. It’s so easy to get sucked into the world of social media where everything seems perfect, and I feel for those living and working abroad who are sharing adventures, are really only sharing the tip of the iceberg, the sexy stuff. But just like life in your home country, nothing is perfect. So it’s important to talk about these things, and especially how it can affect your mental health. I want to share my own personal stories as well as those of others of how they coped and managed their mental health and the stresses of life. If anything, to show and share that you’re not alone. There are so many more people than you think who are going through the same things as you and it’s ok to talk about it. In the end, I want my readers to be well informed of what it’s actually like and what it takes to live, work, or study abroad - and I hope that LOKATE can be that resource for them.



Feel free to follow along on my adventures via Instagram:


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