With the three-month mark now moving into the rear view window, it’s time for a little reflection on this odyssey to Barcelona.
I knew from the beginning that relocating to Spain would be an adventure in every sense of the word. It incorporates all the typical pain of moving but dials it up a few extra notches when you add in the distance and a new language and culture. We invested plenty of hours upfront to plan for the myriad details and to minimize problems. And the net of these plans? Well, much like any big undertaking, things happen. Some anticipated, others not.
Really, very little has gone exactly as planned. Not that I’m unpacking the tiny violin and strumming a tale of woe. It really hasn’t been negative, but any big move is a package deal that comes with a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs. None of the surprises so far have been things that can’t be solved or were totally unexpected. Dealing with the movers turned out to be horrible, but that’s less than shocking considering movers have a reputation even worse than used car salesmen. Tossing in a few extra dollars made the issues go away (along a good release of swearing for personal benefit). And when living arrangements didn’t fall into place as quickly as hoped, it was aggravating but still light years better than actually being homeless. It’s all relative when you think about it.
Not surprisingly, at this stage in the process, the “if” question has been asked: If you could do it all over again… That’s never an easy one to answer.
I like to frame that answer in the words of others. In the weeks before we moved, it was fascinating to listen to people’s reaction to news of our impending departure. The phrase heard time and again was, “I could never do that.” That really stuck with me, probably because I had uttered the same words at one time. The reasons behind these words were valid and hard to argue with, but the real bottom line in most cases was more about willingness to take a leap than anything else. A body in inertia will stay in inertia, so to speak.
An international move certainly isn’t for everyone. Is it hard? Absolutely. Will it be unsettling? No question. Will there be days when a tiny, minimally important thing like finding a bottle of cold milk becomes the last straw that makes you want to beat your head against the wall? Oh yeah. (My kingdom for a cow!)
It really comes down to risk. I’m as nervous about taking risks as the next person and I can’t think of a single risk I’ve taken in the past that wasn’t tough. Changing careers was hard. Starting my own company was hard. Leaving friends and family behind to move to the US was hard. But not one of these risks turned out to be a bad decision. As much as we all hate the change that is inherent in taking a risk, it’s actually the engine that drives us forward.
I’m not trying to make myself out as hero here. Far, far from it. I’m not one of the pioneers or brave souls who are truly changing the world and impacting lives. I can name a dozen people around me who are far more willing to take risks than I, and they enjoyed some remarkable successes because of it. Some have also come crashing back to Earth painfully, which is the real reason why risk is so terrifying.
That potentially life-changing failure makes a compelling case to skip the potential for a life-changing success that comes with risk. For every reason to take the leap, there’s an equally valid reason to not. I tallied up with those reasons at every step in this process. The little voice in the back of my head kept asking why I wanted to volunteer for such a change and leave a comfortable existence behind. It’s awfully easy to listen to the voice, especially when you know taking that leap is not just about you, but also a little guy who puts all his faith and trust in you. I feel the weight of his world.
Kids are maybe the easiest reason not to take the risk, based on how it might affect them. But I’d argue they are also the biggest reason to take the leap because of what they might gain and the message it sends to them. If they really are destined to be a mini me of us, then living a life less ordinary is a pretty big gift to give. That’s the reflection I want to see coming back at me from those big, brown eyes.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: In the it’s funny what pop culture references stick with you category, the bellhop from the old British comedy Fawlty Towers keeps popping into my head. One of the famous lines from the show is, “Don’t mind him. He’s from Barcelona.” I may adopt that as a motto. It gives me free reign to wander around saying “que” and understanding very little. Actually, I think I’ve mastered that already… One experience this week I didn’t anticipate having: buying an entire tuna and then carting it home on the bus. This is not a moment you tend to envision for the coming years while climbing the corporate ladder. At least he was pretty tasty…