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Building a New Life in a New Continent


Sometimes life doesn’t go as planned. Here’s what happens when you put it all on the line in the name of love, and move halfway across the world.

For two years, I had been feeling completely unsettled with my daily life. I kept experiencing this nagging feeling that I wasn’t where I needed to be, and I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing. I felt grumpy, confused, irritable and dissatisfied in many areas of my life – specifically, in my career and in my relationship. Finally, I decided to do something about it.

I decided to move to Spain.

The Scenario

In the summer of 2013, I was living in Toronto, working for a small business and feeling, as I mentioned, very blah about life. The fall was quickly approaching – a time often associated with transition and new growth. I was finally living the “single life,” but I was itching to make another change as well. I just wasn’t sure how to go about it.

I felt like I was doing the right thing by getting to know him all over again.

At the time, I had been speaking more frequently with my ex-boyfriend and slowly we began to rekindle our relationship. We hadn’t dated for over three years, but for the first time in a long time, I felt like I was doing the right thing by getting to know him all over again. I felt like this was the person I was meant to be with. The only challenge with actually being together was that he lived in Barcelona.

Richelle and her boyfriend in Barcelona.

Richelle and her boyfriend in Barcelona.

The Decision

I began to feel that familiar excitement of a budding relationship. This was a unique situation where we already felt comfortable with each other, but there was a new, more mature version of ourselves that we hadn’t yet discovered. I hadn’t actually seen him in over a year, but he would be coming to Toronto for work in just a few months. We each downloaded a countdown app on our phones to keep track of the days until we saw each other. He gave me something to look forward to.

I realized the fact I was so unsettled in my life actually put me in the perfect position to make a change.

It got to the point when we had to question the seriousness of our relationship: were we ready to do what feels right and try this again? Or should we ignore how we feel, accept that we live in separate continents, and leave it at that?

After three separate visits to and from Europe between October and January, I knew that I couldn’t ignore my feelings. Suddenly, I realized the fact I was so unsettled in my life actually put me in the perfect position to make a change. Luckily, I had unwavering support from my family and friends, which allowed me to make a decision that I believed would make me happy. I decided I would move to Barcelona in six month’s time to be with my partner.

The Preparation

Of course, picking up your life and moving to Spain is easier said than done. I knew I needed a game plan. What could I do for work? How would I meet friends? When and how would I learn Spanish?

I always wanted to be a teacher. I had worked with children for many years, and planned on going to teacher’s college in Ontario after I graduated from university. The only thing stopping me was the lack of available teaching jobs. My teacher-friends kept warning me not to spend the money on an education I couldn’t even use.

After doing some research, I learned Spain is always looking for English teachers (provided you’re competent and educated), so I signed up for a Trinity Certified TEFL course. I was able to apply for student visa with the help of the school I took my training at, and despite some logistical headaches, I was legally all set.

I kept saying, “I can’t believe I’m actually here.”

spain2The Move

I arrived in Barcelona at the end of June 2014, after six long months of not seeing my boyfriend. The first few days were a whirlwind. We went out for dinner the night I arrived and I remember feeling like I was in a dream. Perhaps it was the jetlag, but I think it was just the realization that we were finally together in person.

Our new apartment didn’t have electricity yet, so while he was working during the day, I unpacked, and at night we used candles and flashlights to manoeuvre our way around our new home. I kept saying, “I can’t believe I’m actually here.”

When I finally had Internet access I joined online groups to try and meet friends in the city. To my absolute joy, I met one of my best friends here at the very first event I went to. I joined a group of young girls in Barcelona – all of whom were fellow expats in their early twenties. The first time we got together, we ended up going to a nude beach for the day, which later became quite the joke because no one knew it was a nude beach at the time. Ah, Europe!    

My New Life

In the fall of 2014 I landed a teaching position at an incredible language school just 20 minutes away from where we are currently living. I teach children, teens and adults and I am learning so much each day. I teach six days a week, with sporadic hours, but I feel more professionally fulfilled than ever before. I have a great group of friends – some I met through my TEFL course, some I connected with through online groups, and others who I teach with. I am now signed up for a Spanish course, which starts in just a few days.

I’m finally building the life I want to live.

I still have days when I feel grumpy, confused, irritable and dissatisfied, but who doesn’t? The important thing is now they are fewer and farther between. Ultimately, the incredibly unsettled feeling I had just over a year ago is completely gone. Today, I’m busy planning lessons, spending time with my boyfriend and my friends, cooking, or walking through the streets of one of Europe’s greatest cities. I’m finally building the life I want to live. Two years ago, I made a choice; I chose love and uncertainty over a familiar sense of security. And I haven’t looked back.


Richelle Dafoe

Richelle is a contributor at The Reply. She teaches English as a second language in Barcelona. She's learning about Spanish culture and particularly enjoys the country's fantastic food and wine. Richelle is looking forward to visiting more cities in Spain and traveling with her boyfriend throughout other parts of Europe on her time off.