Our Expat Story

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img_4837I am a Californian expat living in Spain, but this is not where my multi-cultural lifestyle began!  When I was eight years old, my parents became missionaries and moved with their seven kids to the Philippines. I grew up on the island of Mindanao, speaking the local dialect (Cebuano) fluently, eating dried fish with gusto, and snorkeling several times a week until I went to boarding school in the capital city of Manila. When I graduated from high school, I moved back to my home state for college, but continued to leave the country a couple times a year, both to visit my parents and to discover new places– and to help with humanitarian projects.

While it was nice to blend in amongst other Americans, it took a long time for me to feel somewhat at home in my native country.  I had lived such a different life for ten years, I couldn’t forget that the rest of the world was out there, and so different from life in America. It was hard for me to imagine staying there forever.

Until about 10 years ago, all of my travels had been in developing countries: the Philippines, Thailand, India, and Honduras. While I loved these visits, and enjoyed studying the languages and cultures, I started developing a hunger to see Europe— all of those classical and romantic places I kept hearing about– and to learn more about where my own ancestors had come from. Over the years, I had learned to speak Spanish fluently, and my first trip to Europe was a dream I had always had– to visit Spain. My husband and I went there for our honeymoon, and from that point I had it in my mind that I would like to move to Europe.

Since I had married a special education preschool teacher and planned to be a stay-at-home mom, however, I just didn’t know how that might happen. I thought,Maybe when we we’re old and retired, we could go… Maybe we could teach English somewhere over the summer… Maybe… It just didn’t seem all that possible. I definitely wasn’t thinking outside the box yet!

After we had our daughter, we moved to Portland, Oregon, bought a house, and hunkered down trying to live on our one income. The job that my husband had taken there was actually different from being a preschool teacher– he became an autism specialist, working with families on how to help their children with disabilities. He loved his job, and really enjoyed the new focus– working with families, versus directing a classroom. During his second year there, the district endured major funding cuts, and a large number of people in his program were told that they would lose their jobs.

It was time to start looking everywhere, and this is where we had to get creative and think outside the box.  In the midst of a scramble for everyone to find new positions, someone mentioned working for the US military. I remember that I was with my daughter (then 2 years old) at the Portland airport for some fun watching airplanes take off, when my husband called me with this idea. I immediately replied, “Let’s go! How soon can we get out of here?!”  He started the process of applying for a position that was open in Sicily. While we were working on this option, Jeff got the good news that he would not be losing his job after all. We were extremely relieved, but the seed of possibility had been planted. I kept thinking about what it would mean to be able to raise my daughter in another country, to give her a new perspective on the world, maybe even a second (or third) language.

Jeff kept working at the school district, and he continued the application process. We didn’t get the job in Sicily, but at least we weren’t desperate anymore. We applied for another position, in Naples. He was actually offered that job, but we had just invested a little deeper in our local Portland community, and in our gut this one didn’t feel right. We turned it down. But we kept applying to different positions throughout the year, and he was offered a job doing early intervention (birth to 3 years) on an army base in Bavaria. By this time, I was sure that I wanted a change of scenery, and I was excited to offer my daughter the perspective that I had gained as a “third culture kid.” We accepted!

It took about four months from being offered the job to arriving in our new city Amberg. We loved it right away, and were surprised by how much life in Germany seemed to agree with us. However, things took a really difficult turn. You can read here about the realities of the unconventional choices we made. We had to leave Germany after only seven months, but we were still convinced that we wanted to live in Europe.  2011 was a seriously wild, crazy year. The recap is here, where you will read how we went back to the States, and bounced back across the Atlantic again to arrive in England in the summer of 2011. We lived in England for three and a half years, and then finally fulfilled our dream of moving to Spain!
I wrote Pruned: Blossoming Through Life’s Difficult Seasons about all that we learned during this time, and how it was actually a really helpful (although scary) experience for us, and how certain choices in the way we approached the challenges helped bring us into a much more intentional and joyful life. You can get the ebook here.
img_4108And, now, Here We Are…  We are enjoying absolutely loving life in Southern Spain. We still miss aspects of living in both Germany and England, and are so thankful for our experiences in both places– which have made life in Spain even sweeter for us. Is this the end of our journey? Even though we are super content here, we have not ruled out the possibility of trying life in yet another place on this beautiful planet!

Thanks for traveling with us!Our Expat Story– from California to Spain!If you would like to read more of our expat story, here are all of those posts so far, in chronological order.

Moving to Germany

First Impressions

Expats– A Day in the Life…

Loving Life in My New Country

Thanksgiving Nostalgia

The Realities of Choosing an Unconventional Lifestyle

10 Ways to Deal With Uncertain-Future Anxiety


On Asking for Help

Here We Go Again!

Back in the USA

Bumpy Landing

Oh, the Places Life Can Take You in Just One Month!


Being In-Between: Nesting, Perching & Shopping

The Importance of Being a Stranger

The Nomads are Getting Restless!

A Decade’s-Worth of Living in Just One Year!

Still Alive

The Final Countdown

Moving to England

Country Life


Getting Closer to Home

We Found Our Home

Nomadic PTSD: A Tale of Four Kitchens in One Year

When It’s Hardest to Be Away

Surgery in a Foreign Country

She Was Right

Giving Thanks

7 Years of Adventure Together

Winter Days

2011: The Year We Faced Our Fears

Expat Life and Alienation

Expat Life and Culture Shock (Part 1)

Expat Life and Culture Shock (Part 2)

Serendipity and the Belgian Coast

Expat Life: When Small Things Just Feel So Daunting

Sharing Our Life in Bury St. Edmunds

Baby Steps

One Year in England

Bringing a Bit of American Childhood to Bury St. Edmunds

A Scare and the National Health Service

Our Expat Life, Summarized

Seasonal Changes

Meeting the Queen

2012: The Year Our Hearts Overflowed

Writing a New Chapter in 2013

The Long Walk

My Mother: An Unconventional Woman

Traveling to Connect: Couchsurfing with Strangers

On Crossing Finish Lines

The Sweetness of Ordinary Life

Celebrating Thanksgiving as an Expat

2013: A Rather Stable Year

Ready for a New Adventure in 2014

Expat life: Let’s Talk About Loneliness

Becoming an Expat Kid

When We Don’t Know What’s Next

What It’s Like Living in England

Why We’re Expats

When Doors Close…

When Dreams Come True

Finding a Job Overseas

Expat Life… Let’s Talk About Going Home

Rediscovering “Home”

House Hunting in Spain

Saying Goodbye Well

Moving to Spain

Moving Day

Life in Spain

Update: Six Months in Spain

And where to next….?




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