“The wind that blew my sail to Cataluña” by Kax

Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.

I’ve been asked how I ended up here in Barcelona in many different ways and words by both strangers and friends. Halfway across the world, Barcelona isn’t exactly the most popular destination for young professionals wanting to get out of Manila. Singapore, US, HongKong, London — any place where they speak English is usually the destination of choice.

Do I speak Spanish? Nope. Catalan? Forget about it.

So why Barcelona then?

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Short version: An opportunity presented itself and it was too good to refuse.

Long version: Let me start with my longstanding obsession with living abroad and my many attempts to actually make it happen.

University. Foreign language classes. Sophomore year and 2 semesters of French and of my Professor regaling us with stories of croissants for breakfast and baguettes by the Left Bank. My “Amelie”-obsessed heart was smitten. Then came Senior year, and I decided to take a Portuguese class. I must have been doing pretty well in that class (or there was just a shortage of students) for my professor to tell me about a summer program in Macau for an intensive course in Portuguese. And scholarships are up for grabs. I just need to fill up an application form, write an essay and then the professor would send it to the Fundação along with his recommendation. One week after I sent in my application, the scholarship was scrapped. Oh well.

Pretty much after that, I just sought out every opportunity that can maybe bring me to different places. All of my previous employments had “travel opportunities” – i.e. they all had offices or clients abroad. Sadly, I never got to take advantage of those travel opportunities until my last job.

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Even while employed, I still looked for that chance to be somewhere else. Sometimes serious, mostly on a whim. I won a scholarship for an MA program in San Francisco. But that was shortly after my dad died so circumstances weren’t too friendly. I would get calls from employers in Singapore or Hong Kong, but nothing really happened with any of them. Then I found “Employer-Prior-To-Current-One” (EPTCO). I think that job set everything in motion for me. EPTCO gave my passport all the stamping love it needed. The number of times they’ve shoved me in a plane in the 2 years I was with them was the most I’ve traveled outside the Philippines in my entire life! Then the company shut down (and not because they were spending so much money on traveling!).

Nevertheless, my passport’s call for stamps prevailed.

After EPTCO closed, I figured that if I really wanted to be somewhere else, then I would have to treat this search as a full time job. So I did. I refined my LinkedIn and Google+ profiles. I opened a “professional” twitter account. I became active in forums. I networked like hell. I sat in front of my computer 8 hours a day just writing cover letters, exploratory emails, sending out resumes, and researching every city that was in my radar. And the floodgates opened. My efforts paid off with positive feedback that eventually led to a job offer!

And now here I am in Barcelona.

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I remember an old boss telling me “Kax, I think you’re made for Barcelona” a couple of years back. Prophecy came true.

Right. I still haven’t answered the “WHY”.

Honestly, I’m not sure. There are a lot of reasons really. My parents having their “living abroad” stint is a good one. My sister’s move to Canada is another good reason too. I’ve been haunted by the siren song of living abroad for as long as I can remember. I don’t know why but I do know its effect:

An alarmingly strong feeling that something’s just not right. Like something is missing. A gaping hole at the pit of my stomach that I can’t seem to fill. I’ve attributed it to many things – a lack of fulfillment in a job, relationship woes, things I’ve started that never got past planning, etc. I was feeling the walls of Manila closing in on me.

Maybe I was made for somewhere else. Maybe. Maybe I just need to be away for awhile to appreciate how good Manila really is. Maybe.

There were a lot of maybes. But I was sure of one thing: I needed to be somewhere else. I needed to know what else is out there, outside of friends, family, and comfort zone.

So now, Barcelona. A place both strange and familiar at the same time.

Food tastes nearly the same, but cooked with Olive oil instead of Minola.

Nobody says “’Teh” but people kiss you on each cheek when they say “Hi” — an invasion of personal space I have surprisingly gotten used to and even expect now from everybody.

Churches are empty on Sundays, but plazas are crowded with people having beer. “Una caña” because there is no Red Horse here and their San Miguel tastes like shit compared to the one I grew up with.

I had a dream

Well, that’s just me being overly-dramatic. But it’s pretty much the truth too. I’ve always wanted to be somewhere else. And I acted upon it. I found an opportunity and I took it. While it didn’t just fall into my lap; my decisions and actions pretty much paved the way for this to happen. I think it was Aristotle who said that all of the decisions we make, we make them because we think that it will lead us to happiness. I couldn’t agree more.

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So here I am in Barcelona. A little more than a year in. Life’s not all peachy, that’s for sure. I rack up the electricity bills when it’s cold because I have not learned how to use the heater moderately. I still haven’t learned to budget efficiently to save my life (or my wallet). My savings also need some love. And speaking of love, I’ve tried to raise 3 plants but all of them died.

But I’m in the middle of an adventure. I’m learning a new language. I’m loving my job. I’m making new friends. And I’m learning what it means to be independent.

Life is not perfect. But life is good. And I’m making the most out of it.

I guess that’s answer to the question that I have been looking for — “How and why did I end up in Barcelona?”

Because I wanted to make the most out of my life. So I did.

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Kax currently lives in Barcelona. When not taking long romantic walks to her fridge, she passes the time working as a Product Manager for an IT company. This piece, “Moving to Barcelona: The wind that blew my sail to Cataluña”, was originally published on her blog. For more of her adventures as she navigates life as a thirty-something adult and first-time expat in Spain, visit her blog at kalatkid.com.

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All photos by author

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Content editing by CJU

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