The joy and splendor of travel lost on one man

So You Want to Live Abroad, Eh?

Before we even set foot in Barcelona, my head hummed with romantic visions of living there. The moment my plane hit the Tarmac, I was going to immerse myself in every aspect of this new and exotic culture. I’d roam the ancient, narrow streets of the Gothic and Raval neighborhoods and soak in the centuries of history lurking around each corner. I’d visit every Antoni Gaudí building, audio guide gripped tightly in my hand, and study every Dr. Seussian detail. I’d enroll in metalsmithing classes and hunker down at my bench for hours, carefully sawing, filing, and shaping raw materials into pieces of art. After mastering Spanish (and why not a little Catalan, too!) I’d befriend the local fish monger and beg him to share his grandmother’s recipe for preparing that day’s catch. Each of my five senses was going to be a sponge just waiting to absorb what Barcelona had to throw at me. I was going to spend every waking moment taking advantage of this golden opportunity.

Instead, I immediately slipped into an almost catatonic depression that lasted through most of the fall. Carpe diem? Try “carpe Prozac.”


What fresh new hell will this spectacular Mediterranean sunrise bring?


Within the first week of living in Barcelona, I realized my landlord was a complete asshole, my daughter Rae’s school seemed to have basically forgotten she was enrolled there, all my friends were now 7,000 miles away, my high school Spanish rendered me barely able to order a glass of water, and I couldn’t even find the local fish monger let alone ask him for his stupid grandmother’s recipe.

The voices in my head took turns shouting at me.

“Rae doesn’t even have a math teacher here! Say goodbye to a decent college now. You’ve just doomed her entire future, dad!”

“You signed the worst lease in the history of apartment rentals. If you so much as cut a fart in this place, you can kiss your entire security deposit goodbye. And you’d better go look up how to say ‘mop’ because the washing machine just flooded the kitchen.”

“All your friends in Ouray are having a ball right now. Know what you’re doing? Spending two hours a day arguing with your cellular provider in broken Spanish.”

And lastly and most loudly, “You’re spending a year in Barcelona–the jewel of the Mediterranean–and you’re depressed? What the fuck is wrong with you, you idiot?”

I guess what it all boiled down to is that I was just ridiculously homesick. All the other little inconveniences just piled up and made things that much worse.

I’m not entirely sure what made me turn the corner and take my head out of the oven (probably because our oven was broken and the landlord refused to fix it,) but things got better right around the Christmas holidays. I think Pam helped a lot by forcing us all to go out and be more social. (This is not generally my forte, but I did somehow manage to meet yet not offend a group of very pleasant people.) My Spanish also improved to the point where I could conduct day-to-day activities without sounding like I had recently suffered a major brain injury. That certainly helped. And I think I just eventually overcame the annoying little obstacles that come with moving. Moving sucks, and when you’re moving to a place where you don’t speak the language every little task becomes ten times harder.

So as a wise man once said, “Much better now, though.”

I will start updating the blog more often. Barcelona really is a fantastic city, and I have plenty of stories to share from the last year. For instance, I almost got beaten up while trying to buy basil at a farmers market, Catalans have the most scatological Christmas traditions in the world, and I once found myself weeping in a pew inside the cathedral in Siena, Italy.

But what would really make this blog sing is if Catalonia seceded from Spain, didn’t join the EU, and created its own currency called the “boner.”

Then I’d have something to write about, and my friend Lee would have a reason to read it.

6 Responses to “So You Want to Live Abroad, Eh?”

  1. Johnhollrah

    I hear ya, Nick. The only thing that helps is to be 22 years old and know the language better when you arrive. And not have an asshole landlord. And not have to be in a place where dinner is served at 11 pm.

    Are you still showing up this summer? We may have a mushroom season.

  2. Nick

    Craig, it appears Bruce lowered the bar for you.

    Bruce, this is a classy joint. Clean up your act.

    Jen, I eventually realized you were actually the reason I had no reason to be homesick.

    Lee, who couldn’t use a few more boners in their back pocket?

  3. Lee Horwitz

    Nick who?? Friend Lee? No comprendo nada. The only thing that rings true is your yearning for a few boners.

  4. Bruce Gulde

    Oh, I thought this was about Bruce Jenner wanting to live as a broad.

  5. craigkaminsky

    It’s not really fair to use a quote that I cannot properly respond to in today’s PC-obsessed world. Dick.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: