I want to move abroad – but how?

The Dream

You want to change your life and move abroad but you just don’t know where to start. You have a home and a job and basically you’re quite happy but….. you have always dreamed of living in a different country and learning a new language. You wonder how you would manage in a totally different setting. Other people have done it but somehow for you the dream always stays the same – only a dream.

How can you make it happen?

People often say this to me. There are many reasons for moving to a new country but one that comes up again and again is that you just want to give it a try.  It feels like it would be an exciting adventure and you really want to give it a go.

The thing is knowing where to start.

How do you move from just dreaming to making it real?  How do you get from one place to another? It can feel impossible to even imagine.

Here is what happened to me. Perhaps it will inspire you.

I was living in Cornwall, in my own beautiful cottage in the countryside. I had two beautiful dogs and two equally wonderful cats. I ran my own acupuncture practice and over 15 years had built up a great network of friends and clients. My life felt safe and secure and fulfilling.

But niggling in the background was my dream. I had always dreamt of moving abroad and trying to make a new life in a totally different place. I also wanted to learn a new language.

You know how you make New Year resolutions?    Well ever since I was about 10 I had one that said “I want to speak another language”

So, here in 5 steps is how I made the move.  I didn’t know there were 5 steps at the time – I just followed my nose and kept the dream alive.

  1. Follow your passion

I know this is a cliché but it was exactly what got me out of my old life and into the new. My passion was, and is, tango. I was willing to open myself up and to visit new places in order to dance. I was part of a small group that organised tango in our town and I also taught beginners’ classes. I wasn’t a very confident person but tango was like a shot of something strong and potent and it gave me courage. When the chance arose to go to Barcelona I put my hand up and said ‘Yes’.  In this first trip I fell in love with the city. I already felt like a changed person.

Festa Major in Barceloneta
moving to Barcelona
Tango in the Park in Ciutadella
  1. Follow up

For several years I returned again and again to Barcelona.  As often as I could get away.  I made it a priority and each time I was there I made new friends and felt more comfortable with both the language and the culture. I started to learn Spanish again and I kept in touch with my new friends.

spanish lessons
I was always the oldest in the class!
moving abroad
my first Orxata aka nectar from heaven


  1. Share with other people

Other people were very important in this process. I visited and spent time with my Catalan friends and they also came to see me in Cornwall.  Every time I went away, friends in the UK stayed in my cottage to take care of my animals. The idea of actually living in Barcelona started to take form. Two of my Catalan friends wanted to come and practise English in Cornwall and I helped them find somewhere to stay.  It was a magical time because help was flowing between lots of different people. One of my Cornwall friends needed someone to take care of her elderly mother just at the same time as my two Barcelona friends, both nurses, wanted to come and stay. They became known as the Barcelona Angels!  By the time they went back home to Catalunya I had invitations to stay with them when I was ready.

Barcelona summer
I met Marta at a tango class in Barcelona


  1. When it is time to make decisions, have courage!

As a cautious sort of person I took little steps but it was still scary as I felt the energy of Barcelona pulling me forward while my fears held me back. I couldn’t imagine leaving my animals but neither could I take them with me to a city. Eventually I decided to take three months off work and go to Barcelona to see what happened next. Some friends offered to stay in my home and look after the animals and it felt like a sign that I couldn’t ignore.

moving abroad
Cheers from Tibidabo!


  1. Say Yes!

Once in Barcelona I said ‘Yes’ to almost anything that came my way and this included a camping weekend dancing in the Pyrenees.  I was pretty ill with bronchitis in my first two weeks here and hardly left the flat because in July the temperatures were horrendous.   I was also scared of camping in a small tent with people I didn’t know well, and hesitant about doing a weekend course with a group of people who didn’t speak English. But I said ‘Yes’.  On that weekend I met my future partner and my life changed radically from that moment on.

camping in pyrenees
Our campsite in the Pyrenees


It took 5 years

I was 47 when I first went to Barcelona and when I eventually came to stay for those three months, which turned into 5 years,  I was 52. I was never a brave person but I believe that following my passion and listening to my heart helped change my life.  Friends old and new helped me along the way with their encouragement and generosity and also my faith that one day I would live abroad and learn a new language.

costa brava
My first birthday abroad – on the Costa Brava!


Even the longest journey must begin where you stand

Lao Tzu (604 BC – 531BC)


Have you ever dreamed of living abroad or have you done it already?

What helped you overcome your fears?

Leave a comment to tell us about your experiences and help someone else who is dreaming of moving.


What exactly is a Balneari?

One of the most exciting things I discovered after moving to Catalunya was that there are lots of places where  hot mineral water springs directly from the earth.  A spa built around this spring source  is called a Balneari.

This natural mineral healing water is sometimes as hot as 74 degrees centigrade and the mineral composition varies from place to place.

alt="Balneari Titus"
The waters are warm and inviting

The Romans made good use of the local mineral waters and I am sure the Arabs did too but I believe that so long as there have been humans living in the area, they would have been enjoying the healing and relaxing properties of the water.

I imagine it goes back to the beginning of civilisation.

Early on I decided to visit as many mineral spas as possible and to write about the experience here on The Catalan Way.  I  have a dream of writing a guide to the Hot Springs of Catalunya which would mean I have to do a tour every year to review each and every one.  Bliss!

I haven’t managed to visit them all yet even once, but slowly and surely I am working my way through a list of about 21.  Some of them are not yet developed and can be found in wild and wonderful places.

Last weekend I went with my friend Cristina to try out Balneari Titus which is halfway between Arenys de Mar and Caldetes on the Mediterranean coast

alt="balneari Titus"

Practicalities first

You can get there by train from Barcelona on the coastal route to Sant Pol. Get off at Caldes d’Estrac and walk to the Balneari. It takes about 20 minutes.

If you drive you can see the entrance easily from the NII. Coming from Barcelona go through Caldes D’Estrac and when you see a little mountain on your left there is a roundabout and the lane to the balneari is sign-posted. There is plenty of free parking.

We booked for a basic circuit of the waters plus a session in the steam room(hammam)

The basic circuit costs 20 euros and we paid 10 euros extra for the hammam.

Things to take with you

Bathing hat, bathing costume, towel, wrap, flip-flops and toiletries, bottle of water.

Some places provide towels and wraps, Some require hats. Some offer free water. These are the sort of things I notice and will include in every balneari review.

What happens in a balneari?


They are all different which is one of the pleasures of trying out new ones.

In general you will be going around a series of pools and special showers with water jets and letting the healing properties of the water do its magic on your body and spirit.

It is important to know, and I wasn’t sure of this at first,  is that although many people visit balnearis because they have been sent by their doctor for treatments, they are also just places to relax and to restore your vital energy through the healing qualities of the water. You bathe your body, the waters cleanse and nourish your soul.

Balneari Titus


Titus is a small balneari close to the sea only about 30 km from Barcelona. There don’t have a large  choice  in terms of pools and showers but it was a pleasant surprise.

In the main room there is a smallish pool, a jacuzzi and a corridor of little water sprays that blast you with cold mineral water as you walk along a path of pebbles.

The steam room was separate and as we walked there we passed several interesting rooms for doing steam inhalations  and massages and individual bathes.  Look at the web site and you will see there are many extras you can try, but we didn’t.

I like to be free when I am in a spa and they do vary in this respect. Sometimes you are at the mercy of a system which guides you from one thing to another.  I like to be shown around at the beginning and then left to my own devices. Titus came out somewhere in the middle here – we were left alone to enjoy the pool and jacuzzi but we were also told when to visit the hammam and how long to stay there.

We were incredibly lucky as there was no-one else using the balneari at all. We had the pool totally to ourselves.   When we were taken to the hammam I was disappointed that we were only given 10 minutes to relax there.   The steam room itself was clean and pleasant with a shower inside.

We were also told when to use the jacuzzi and the staff member put it on for us. I have no idea how long we were in there, it felt like half an hour but must have been less. This was almost the best part of the whole visit. The water didn’t smell of chlorine as some jacuzzis do. It was comfortable and the sprays were neither too strong nor too weak. We both entered a dream world and started singing mantras and dancing under the water. I am not a jacuzzi fan normally but this one was lovely.

Then we were able to return to the main pool and spend time there doing water massage and floating and relaxing.   Someone popped their head in to tell us our time was up but it didn’t feel pushy or intrusive.  We had been there just over one and a half hours in total.

The water at Titus is high in sodium chlorides and bicarbonates. I only judge water by how it makes me feel and what effect it has on my skin.  On both counts I would say this water is excellent. I felt relaxed but not drained, my skin and hair were soft and still are three days later.  The previous week I had been in bed with a bad cold and the spa helped me make a full recovery.


To sum up


-Compared to other balnearis Titus is expensive. 30 euros was a lot for a small installation which doesn’t provide towels or wraps or anything free to drink. The time in the Hamman was far too short and 10 euros was too much to pay for this extra.

-There is only one shower for women to use at the end.  As we were alone this wasn’t a big problem but if there had been even just two more people it would have been annoying.

-There was no free water available although there was a vending machine. It is important to drink when in a balneari so I thought this was a bit mean.


-The staff were quiet, helpful and friendly. I hadn’t taken a wrap as I assumed they would provide one but when I asked they gave me a dressing gown for no extra charge.

-They are open all year round apart from the first two weeks of January

-The water has a soft gentle cleansing quality and the temperature is perfect. It emerges from the nearby hill at 39 degrees centigrade.

-The pool room is small but well designed and there is a window with a sea view.  When the outdoor pool is open you can walk there from this room through the garden.

-The jacuzzi was fabulous.

Would I go again?

Yes I probably would if I wanted somewhere close to home and if I thought it would be quiet again. The price is a bit high for what is offered so I won’t rush back  but I would be happy to visit again one day.

If you want to read about a past visit to one of my favourite balnearis go here

I am hoping to visit at least two more balnearis in the next month and will let you know what they are like and how they compare to Titus. If you don’t want to miss my reviews of the hot spring spas then do join my email list on the top right of this page to get the posts as soon as I write them!  







Light at the end of the Tunnel

Last week I had a bad cold and stayed in bed for a few days.

Then on Saturday night I couldn’t resist going to Barcelona as planned, to see my friend Cristina and to watch the show Fira at the Ateneu de Nou Barris.

I wrapped up warm and we went in the car. It was my first trip out since getting sick.

The show  was good. Not brilliant but fine. I have seen more circus performances and clowns and acrobats since I have lived here than ever before in my whole life put together.  One of the women acrobats was quite amazing – her balance was perfect and her centre so strong she seemed to fly through the air, defying gravity.  I allowed myself a very brief fantasy that I could have done this if I had kept up with gymnastics and ballet when I was young.  The theatre was hot and I was sweaty and thirsty so  when the performance  finished so we stayed on for drinks in the large bar IMG_3999 There were lots of people. It was great to be back in Barcelona surrounded by a bit of night life.  The Ateneu of Nou Barris is quite a trendy place and we even saw David Fernandez,  the member for Parliament for CUP (Candidatura d’Unitat Popular)  a left wing independent party.

There were two DJs playing music and when they started putting on tracks from the 1960’s I suddenly had a huge burst of energy and started not only dancing but singing the songs.  It is amazing how one day you can be too ill to go downstairs to make a cup of tea and then 24 hours later a blast of energy from ‘who knows where’ courses through your body, almost lifting you off the ground with its power.

That in itself is amazing but for me what was wonderful was that I seemed to have sweated out or expelled along with the virus, my usual shyness and self consciousness.

I felt fine and I danced and sang without feeling silly at all. Something has shifted.  A good feeling.

So with this new healthier energy what am I doing?

The house has been decorated for Christmas. This is the first time I have done this here and it has made a big difference to how I feel at home. I love the lights of the Christmas tree and race downstairs every morning to switch them on. We needed light and here it is!

I have booked a Spanish lesson on the website Italki for Thursday afternoon. I want to improve my Spanish as well as Catalan so this is my first step in doing this.

I am going to do a blogging course in January.  After five years of doing it alone I want to get help.IMG_4090

And lastly a little story of supermarkets in Catalunya.

I went to Lidls today in search of mince pies (there were none) and faced my usual frustration at the cash desk.  It is not the custom here to help you pack your bags or even to wait until you have done it.  All my shopping was piling up quickly, waiting to be packed but the cashier wanted me to pay straight away. I know what would happen next – she would serve the other people in the queue and I would end up flustered and stressed trying to grab my things while they were trying to do the same.

So I said “No. I need to pack first then pay”

She said ” No. First you pay and then you can pack”

We were both smiling and it was friendly but we both spoke firmly.

I said “No. First we can pack my bags –  it will be quicker if you help me – and then I will pay”

And then she just started to pack my bags. There was no problem. No stress of an argument.   She wasn’t in a bad mood with me or even irritated.  I wondered at my own determination but also noticed that I had spoken firmly but without judgement or annoyance.  She could have said no and I would have left it there.

She thanked me at the end and I thanked her.

That is just one tiny fragment of my day but it seems that recently this sort of thing is happening more and more.  I think perhaps I am speaking out more freely, and saying more honestly what I think and feel.  I always wanted to do that but until now it took an enormous effort to get past the old blocks. That’s why I say, something has shifted and I think it might just be that some of those blocks have been moved out of the way.   When I don’t have to push past blocks I can say things so much more kindly and gently.

And if I have finally learned how to do that – then maybe there is hope for us all!



La Monyos – flowers in her hair.

Have you heard of La Monyos?

I hadn’t until quite recently when my partner told me about the mysterious eccentric lady who used to live in Barcelona and was often seen walking on the Ramblas

La Monyos

Her name was Dolores Bonella i Alcazar and although not much is known about her life, there are many stories about who she was and what happened to turn her into a seemingly crazy street lady.

Ets més popular que La Monyos‘ is a famous Catalan expression meaning that you are more popular than the much beloved Dolores or Lolita as she was known.

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Hidden gems in Clot

When I go to Barcelona to meet my friend Cristina we meet in Clot. The train from Granollers stops there before it reaches Passeig de Gracia and it is easier for her to get to from home. We have been able to explore a different part of Barcelona.  It is a bustling place – full of cafes and little independent shops but there is a peaceful atmosphere that makes it less tiring than meeting up always in the centre of the city.

I needed to buy some paint brushes for my art class so it was good to find this small corner shop selling lots of things like plaster figures, decorating materials and paint brushes and easels

 Rent rises and high city taxes have been making many of these small businesses close down

 Every week there are fewer of these emblematic Barcelona shops. Such a horrible thought that one day it could be a city just like any other with only chains and multi-nationals.

I got my brushes – we need big ones to make the base for these pictures – drawn with a stick on top of very thick white paint. Then when it is dry we painted on top.