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.


5 ways I have changed since moving to Catalunya

Have you ever dreamed of moving to a new country and leaving behind, not only your job,  home and familiar life, but also your old personality?

I know I am shy and retiring but perhaps there’s a wild cat inside?

You want to escape the old you or at least the parts of you that are so tiresome and boring and repetitive and hard to change.

Old thought patterns and habits that hold you back in life.  Shyness, timidity, irritability, obsessiveness, laziness, the list goes on.   Perhaps the only thing that will jolt you awake is a total change of scenery.  The challenges of a new country and the need to start afresh might reveal parts of your personality hitherto unexplored!

I moved to Barcelona with some hopes like these.  I am naturally shy and too self conscious especially when I am with strangers.  I react badly to criticism and am over-sensitive when I feel rejected.  I want to be spontaneous but tend to over-plan everything I do.

I had noticed that Mediterranean people seem to be more confident, outgoing, social, expressive, straight talking, emotional, spontaneous…….. I wanted some of that.  I hoped to discover those parts hidden deep in my own psyche and to find a new me!

So what has changed in the 5 years since I moved here?

1. I now find it hard to eat without a napkin although I never needed one before.

People here always use napkins – breakfast, lunch and dinner. Now when eating in the UK I start to twitch and look around me anxiously when there is nothing to wipe my fingers and mouth on. Even when I don’t use a napkin, I want it to be there beside my plate.

2. I turn out lights.

My partner is very concerned about lights being left on and not a day passes without this conversation:-

Him: “Do you need this light on?”

Me: “Yes”

Him: “So why do you have one on in the hall/bathroom/sittingroom/bedroom as well?”

Me: “Because I am moving between rooms”

But I find that now when I go back to the UK I am hyper-aware of people lighting up their houses  like Christmas trees and I too go around turning off lights. Even in Granollers, I try not to have more than two rooms lit.  I can’t leave a light on without being conscious of it.

3. I eat fruit and vegetables only when they are in season

If they are imported – I don’t.  I now can’t buy grapes all year round. I rarely buy kiwis, I don’t expect to have peaches or nectarines except in June and July. Shopping in fresh produce markets has made this change in me.   The wonderful fresh fruit and vegetables that are available here make it seem ridiculous to buy imported stuff.

4. I now drink UHT milk in my tea without making a big deal of it

I too used to complain “you can’t get a proper cup of tea in France/Spain/Italy because the milk isn’t fresh.”  Now I don’t notice it and I even quite like the fact that our milk lasts so long and that we can store lots of packs of it in the cupboard.

5. I have changed when and how I eat.

I still have breakfast of toast and porridge, but then there is a long gap before lunch which we sometimes eat as late as 4pm. Supper may not happen until 9.30pm or even later. We eat a large lunch and something smaller later.  It works for me and feels good for my stomach.

And what about the deeper changes I hoped for?

Have I become a more confident, outgoing, social, expressive, straight talking, emotional, spontaneous person?

This is hard to say.  I certainly do have more confidence and am less self conscious. I don’t mind being the stranger in town.  I can talk with people who I don’t know and in two different languages. I always was affectionate and because people here kiss and hug and touch each other more often,  it is easier for me to do this too.  I have learned many  new things but am basically still the same person underneath, just a bit older and a lot wiser.

And I have taught myself to shout out “Bravo” and “Molt Be” when the marathon passes!

Have you ever dreamed of moving abroad and starting afresh with a new you?

Perhaps you already made the move and found the ‘old you’ came along too?

I’d love to hear about you.  If you have changed your spots by moving home or if you’d like to,  leave a comment and tell me what happened.

Thanks for coming to read this post – I hope you’ll come back soon!  If you want to stay in touch then Like my Catalan Way Facebook page at the top right of this post or sign up for regular updates.

Till the next one, best wishes from Catalunya and from me, Kate