Reflections on a Year living in Spain

A few years ago Jesse and I decided we wanted to live abroad for a year, and Covid made us hasten those plans. We did a lot of research, first choosing Spain as the country we wanted to live in. Then we did more research, finally choosing Asturias and the city of Gijón as our destination. We did not know how it would go, and what we would encounter; what we would miss, what we would love (and what we would dislike), who we would meet and what we would explore, and learn about ourselves.


This blog has always been for Jesse and I first and foremost (as well as for our friends and family to keep up with our travels) and as part of that I wanted to document our travels to be able to look back upon them fondly. Also I want to remember that we did this, we visited and enjoyed, and took in all these new and exciting places. When we first starting planning our year in Spain, we planned on staying for as long as we could, extending our Visas, finding jobs, and never leaving. That is hope. The best part of something new.

Our excitement level was so high when we arrived, but once we settled in to our apartment in Gijón (on the famous Calle Corrida) and developed our routines, we found our home. We tried our best to become Asturianos; we visited as many cities and towns and cultural landmarks in the area as possible; ate all the local cuisines, fabada, pote, cachopo, and drank as much sidra as we could handle. We took Spanish language classes, and while not becoming fluent (or even close) we are much better at speaking than we were, and that is important. I also wrote an accounting book that I will publish when we return to the States, I am proud of that.

Jesse pouring Sidra

What I am most proud of, and what I will remember the most, is the people we met in our time here. We stepped outside our shells, joining multiple meetup groups. In California, where we lived for almost five years, we worked, and worked, exploring the coast and taking weekend trips when work allowed. But we didn’t have time, nor make the effort, to make friends. We had work friends, but those are (usually) temporary, though I still keep in touch with some of my old co-workers, and consider them friends; they have their own lives, and our opportunities to spend time together were often at after work happy hours or getting lunch together during the work week.

Early on in Gijón we signed up for yoga and quigong classes (which I did not ever expect to do) with our teacher Adalaida, who had such a positive energy about her it was truly infectious. She told us about a Friday night meetup group where we met our closest friend, Diana. The first meetup after the lockdowns were lifted, we joined about ten others at a cafe called Coral; we sat outside, not sure about mask wearing, or sitting too close, but proceeded to have as best a time as we could, with no one knowing each other previously. Diana lived close to us, and as it was after one o’clock in the morning, we walked her home. The next day, she sent us a message about getting a drink (vamos a tomar algo), and the rest is history.

We shared so many memories and fun times together. She allowed us into her life; we met and went on Thursday night walks with her and her daughter, Diana, who was kind enough to speak English with us (as long as there was some kind of food or candy provided in trade). Jesse cooked a Thanksgiving meal and an American brunch for them and we spent Christmas with Diana and her mother and sister (who showed us around Granada). Diana is family to us.

Through our first meetup we were lucky enough to meet people like David, Gabriel, Patricia, Marian, and many others, often having only one night of conversations before they were again unknown to us (and we to them). There was no weight involved, just people sharing drinks and tapas and space and time.

In the fall we found another meetup group, this time a language exchange meetup group in the nearby city of Oviedo, started by our good friend Utkarsh. I remember our first time, and there were only a few of us, but we had a great time, and it allowed us to get to know Utkarsh better. We shared meals, he came and visited us in Gijón and we even went to Madrid to celebrate his birthday! We met up in Ourense with him and his (now also our) friend Dimple, and even met his mother when we were in Sevilla!

At our Oviedo meetup, over the weeks and months, we met more people, Nico, Natalie, Nicolas, Edu (from Soria), Agathe, Luis, Edu of Gijón, Cris, Cristina, Audrey, Hannah, and so many others; Utkarsh organized potlucks and even a comedy night, where Jesse and I went up on stage and each told a funny story, while Utkarsh and his natural humor shined. We shared an American-eqsue Thanksgiving in Aviles, which was really great, as we were missing our families on that day. We talked, ate and drank wine until the wee hours of the morning, and I won’t soon forget it.

Later that fall we saw another meetup group pop up, this one for English speakers aged 40 and over. I turned 40 earlier in the year, so just made the cutoff, and our first meetup was sharing Indian food at a new Indian restaurant in Gijón (only the second Indian food place in Gijón!). The group was started by our future friend Sarah, and we met Matt, Steve, Lucia and her twin sister Elisa, and shared tasty Indian food (which is one of our favorite foods) and lovely conversation, and from then on it was easy to make it to our regular Thursday night out.

We met other wonderful people through the group, and it will be impossible to forget David, Belén, Vanessa, Arthur, Julian, Yoss, Daniella, Amador, Emma, Richard, and so many others, and even got to meet up with our early acquaintances Patricia and Marian again! Our get-togethers took us to many bars and restaurants we would not have normally visited and we always had a blast. We even were lucky enough to be invited to Elisa and Lucia’s birthday party!

A favorite song of mine is “Tallulah” by the Australian band Allo Darlin’, and they sing “And I’m wondering if I’ve already met all the people that’ll mean something” and sometimes, in the past, I would listen to that song, and that lyric, and think, “are they right?” and not be sure. But now, there is another lyric in the song that I like even more “But I really love my new friends, I feel I’ve known them a long while.”

Once we hit our stride with our different groups, it felt like, between trips and going out with friends, how was there any time for a job? Traveling and being social butterflies (ha!) have led us to realize that there is a lot of time that we spend working, and while making money and advancing our careers, are worthwhile and valuable tools needed to live, it is nice to focus on other things in life, if only for this year.

I went back and read my first post, which I wrote all the back in June 2021, which seems like a very long time ago, and then again, as our time is Spain came to an end, not so long. What I was looking for, was to really take in all life has to offer, and that comes in many forms. It is new places to visit, museums to take in art, trying different foods, practicing new languages, but the most important part, has been the people we met. Everyone, every conversation, gives me hope that, when I feel down about life and the future, that we will remember these times. That we will remember who we are and what we can do. We will remember that there’s a great big world out there full of friends we’ve already met, and those we have yet to meet.

There is a song called “Hayling” by FC Kahuna that has a lyric, repeated, by the woman singer, and she says “Don’t think about all the things you fear, just be glad to be here.” Jesse and I say that to each other often; when we get nervous about returning home to the States, finding a place to live, finding new jobs, and all the things that come with starting over. But then I think, how lucky am I? Lucky enough to experience this life, with a person I love so much. While we worked hard to get to take this time away from work, in a new country with a new language, we made friends, we visited more than thirty cities and towns and islands, became temporary Spaniards, and really, now I know, what it means, to be glad to be here. Adios Spain, para ahora, Hasta pronto! (Good-bye Spain, for now, and see you soon!)


Published by Phil Barrington

Currently living in Spain, Accountant by Day, Writer by Night. Lover of baseball, travel ,and spreadsheets. Check out my blog:

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