Agridulce. /aɣ.ɹi.ˈðul.se/ adj. Language: Spanish. Meaning: Bittersweet. Like 55% dark chocolate, or returning to Spain for another year.
It doesn’t get much easier the third time around.
In a practical sense, I know the routine. Secure the window seat far in advance; eat ten burritos in the hopes I’ll get sick of them; weigh my bag before I get to the airport.
But my third time moving to Spain is proving the most difficult. The goodbyes don’t get easier with time; instead they grow heavier. Should I really be doing this again?
It doesn’t help that this summer in the U.S. was one of the best on the books. It started off with ten fantastic days in Chicago, first for Bloghouse and then extra quality time with my mom, exploring the diversity of the Midwestern city. Then back home, where I spent every weekday rediscovering my sleepy hometown and writing till my wrists ached, and every weekend in San Francisco visiting old friends and new. It was a summer of picnics in the park and wine on the roof; writing in coffee shops as we sipped bougie $5 pour-overs; eating my way through Oakland; climbing the peaks of Yosemite; conquering Marin hiking trails; and wondering how I could leave it all again.
But after two months of deliberation, I decided to move ahead with my original plan of returning to Spain to live and teach in Barcelona for the upcoming school year. Although I was mulling over the very tempting idea of finding a job in San Francisco and moving into the city I love most, I knew I would regret forgoing the chance to live abroad once again while I’m young and unattached. Plus, as many of you fine readers pointed out, returning to Spain isn’t the be-all-end-all of decisions—I could always come home again if I’m unhappy. (It seems unlikely that one can be miserable in Barcelona, right? Though I hope those aren’t my famous last words.)
And this isn’t to say I’m not excited to move to Barcelona. I am! I’m looking forward to living on the Mediterranean coast; to exploring the artistic city and getting to know its quirks; to discovering my new favorite cafés and writing spaces; to tapas and Catalan cuisine.
To diving back into Spanish, and possibly taking Catalan classes; to cheap and delicious Spanish wine (naturally); to being based next to a huge airport with budget flights to every European destination; to tortilla española; to swapping the car for a bike with Barcelona’s bike rental program, Bicing.
To the best sandwich shop in the entire world, Bo de B; to being more than a fair-weather fan when I cheer on FC Barcelona; to hopping a train to Southern France; and to meeting more fellow expats and travelers and locals. It’s the people that always make the experiences, both at home and abroad. I think that point was made clear this summer.
So once again, I’ve packed my bags with the feeling that I’ve touched down at home for only 24 hours. For the third time, I’ll be driving to San Francisco International tomorrow to make the move to Spain. I’ll return to Bilbao, where I’ve left half of my belongings (hence why I’ve worn the same three shirts all summer ;) and my visa renewal torments.
Then, sometime before my teaching orientation on September 9th, I’ll catch a bus to Barcelona and desperately search for a flat before the good ones are snatched up, trying to heed my own tips for the Spanish housing hunt without pulling out my hair in the process. And on September 15, I’ll start my position at a daycare/preschool in the heart of Barcelona, where I’ll ponder the best way to instill English phonemes in the minds of teething one-year-olds.
Hasta pronto, California. Thank you for making it so difficult to leave—I wouldn’t have you any other way.