The first great travel novel I ever read could have been , “Go, Dog, Go!” We all start somewhere. My parents attest that I was running before walking, and they’ve chased me everywhere from gymnastics practice as a kid to various countries around the world. Go, Cat, Go!
But my Spain story starts about 30 years ago, back when my mom was a junior in college. Her cousin decided to elope, and my Grandma McCrae, furious for not being invited to the wedding, told my mother that she could choose anywhere in the world to study abroad for a semester. She chose Rome and ate gelato on the Spanish Steps while studying fashion and pasta for an academic semester.
When I graduated from high school and was preparing to study journalism at the University of Iowa, my mom told me the same thing (just no eloped cousins in this part of the story). Spain escaped my lips faster than I could let her words fully process in my head. It was settled – I would go to the land of toros, tapas and sunshine to study Spanish and the art of the siesta.
I chose Valladolid as my destination of choice – a former capital once inhabited by Cervantes and Columbus – and spent the summer of 2005 with a host family, attending language classes at the Universidad de Valladolid. Study abroad profoundly changed the course of my life.
While I was there, I learned enough Spanish and enough about the siesta to want to go back. As my mom embraced me a few weeks later at O’Hare Airport, I simply announced, “I am moving back to Europe.”
And there it was.
I found a job teaching English in Sevilla as a North American Language Assistant at a local high school. Totally out of my comfort zone and unsure if I’d like being la maestra, I jumped in and haven’t looked back since, moving to Southern Spain’s capital in September 2007.
So, I began teaching at a rural high school, where I found that I actually liked teaching, and that I was good at it. I come from a family of teachers and am comfortable being at the center of attention.
I used my weekends and long breaks to travel to places I’d been longing to travel since I was a kid – Ireland, China, Germany and every corner of Spain, racking up more than 30 country stamps in my passport. In the meantime, between tapas and siestas, I met my boyfriend, the Novio.
One year in Spain turned into two and three, and as my teaching program expired, I had to make a choice: Fight bureaucracy and stay in Spain, or chalk it up to a great experience and go back to Chicago?
I fought the law, which is hard on Americans wanting to live and work in Spain, and the law handed me a loophole.
Eight years, four jobs and a bilingual wedding ceremony later, I’m finding olive oil to be an appropriate substitute for butter, that teaching is my thing, and that Spain might just be my final destination.
If you’d like to read my story from the very beginning, visit the archives page for easy navigation by month – all the way back from July 2007!