Posted by: Dee Andrews | January 20, 2009


Moving is considered one of the top five stressful events in a person’s life. Death, divorce, loss of job, and the purchasing of a new home rank higher. Surely moving to a foreign country gets bonus stress points.

Writing about the many wonderful aspects of our sabbatical has been easy. We have traveled to some amazing places, spent huge amounts of time together as a family, and minimized the typical day-to-day stresses that come with life. Scott works from home now and has greater flexibility and control over his day. That has been priceless.

But the picture isn’t complete without also sharing some of the stresses embarking on a sabbatical brings. We sold our house of ten years a year ago now: a home we renovated and loved, where our daughters spent their first years; a neighborhood we enjoyed and neighbors that thankfully are friends and we know we will have no matter where we live. It was hard to say good-bye and think of another family having dinner in our backyard and other kids playing in our bedrooms.

We then moved to Scott’s parents’ house. It was a fantastic opportunity for us. They were gone for the winter, the girls stayed in their same school, it forced us to downsize, throw out, pack up six months before we were actually leaving the country. It gave us all time to process (cry, rant, rave, cry some more) that we were leaving our home and town. And it also gave us time to get really excited about our new adventures, dream where we wanted to explore, discuss what we wanted to see and learn.

Last June then, we got on planes and worked our way across the globe to Spain. The details of Day One are best recounted on Scott’s blog. Suffice it to say my lack of Spanish language skills caused us to put gas in our diesel car, which then stalled out in the middle of a tunnel. Yes, stressful.

We eventually made it to Nerja and into our first rental house. And that’s when new day-to-day stresses crept into our lives. Where do we buy food? Where do we buy food our six-year-old will actually eat? (No Kraft Mac & Cheese.) Where do we park to buy food? (Narrow, steep, one-way streets.) How come the grocery cart will NOT come out of the stall? (You have to put money in to use a cart.) How come the underground parking garage arm will not go up and let us out? (You have to pay for the parking when you buy your groceries.) Why are the Guardia Civil (local police) lined up and down the road pulling cars over at random? (They like to.)

I can laugh and make fun of those silly little stresses now, but when you’re going through them day after day after day, they start to add up! Thankfully the wine here is really good and inexpensive!

Seriously though.

The combination of selling our house, finding new schools (English or Spanish?), choosing a new city to live in, navigating the immigration/visa process, finding our way around new cities, speaking a new language, spending all day with the same people… we have been tested on this journey too.

They say breathe deep, meditate, exercise. I have tried those things as well as mega doses of Vitamin B and ranting and raving. I am not always proud of how I handle the stress. I have screamed at my kids. I have screamed at my husband; I think even on his birthday. Parenting is stressful, parenting while traveling and living abroad is even more stressful.

It is no surprise to me why moving ranks so high on the stress meter. I wouldn’t change being here and experiencing all that we are, the downs and the ups. I wouldn’t go back to my home on 15th street. I am excited to find a new one eventually. I see that too is a top five stress! I must go meditate.


  1. Hola mi buena amiga!
    Okay – so for less stress, we’ll move onto English! All I can say is that our sabbatical here in Javea would not have been the same without you. Who, better than you and Scott, could possibly better understand what we’ve been going through. The good, the great, the bad, and the ugly. And the fact that you’re even from Boulder, when we’ve been planning to move after going home is only icing on the cake (if we ever manage to sell our house and get jobs again!). Just wanted to thank you for being such a big part of our experience, and perhaps an even bigger one soon! Love, Suzanne

    ¡Convengo totalmente, Suzanne!

    As we have discussed many times, it’s a little cliché that we move to Spain and become friends with the other Americans in town! But, your friendship is priceless to us. Having a family going through the sames ups and downs has provided for some great conversations, soul searches and mental help lunches. Not to mention we just have fun with you guys! We look forward to many more adventures and less stresses!

    Abrazos y besos, Dee

  2. I’m guilty of being one of those people that would wonder “why would living in another country be so stressful?” 🙂 But after visiting for a month, I have a better understanding of why it can be hard. The language barrier alone throws a loop into day to day activities. Sure, the basics work but what about when you venture outside your comfort zone of asking where the nearest bathroom is to trying to read menus and pronounce the desert correctly? Driving would also be an issue. Going from your big SUV that seats eight to a tiny four seater, 5 speed car would be enough to put me in the nut house. Just losing the basic comforts of home would be tough. Throw kids in the mix and I’m starting to get it. I had an incredible visit with all of you and loved the experience. Spain is a beautiful place with a great culture and so many thing’s to explore. I am proud that you guys made this experience happen and know you have learned great thing’s from it that you’ll never forget. I’m very thankful that I was able to share a small piece of it with you! I’ve only been back three days and already missing you so much.
    Lot’s of hug’s!

    We miss you too, Theresa! It was great to share our life here with you and Mom.

    Not knowing Spanish has been good and bad. I really enjoy my lessons and learning something so new at the old age of 40! But it’s hard to really meet and connect with people when you can only discuss the weather, how old they are or what their dog’s name is! So you then miss your friends and family and conversations all the more because you’re not having too many of them here.

    One of the things I miss the most is a reliable car. I don’t need to seat eight, at least not anymore now that my carpool days are over, but I will appreciate a car that is new and trustworthy and whose warning messages are in English! I love the gas mileage that my little diesel Golf gets though.

    Enjoy your fountain drink today!

    Love, Dee Ann

  3. I love all the thoughts. It has been a pleasure to learn so much from you guys! Love, Caroline

    Thanks, Caroline. I appreciate knowing that my words give something to ponder. I do look forward to actual conversations and sharing when we return to Colorado this summer. Besos, Dee

  4. So good to get on your blog and get excited for something that hopefully is to come for us someday soon.
    As for your stress….would love to help on the home buying side when you return! I am thinking, wow, if I already yell at my kids here in the good old US of A….well then, what will it be like there??? Positive note: folks won’t know that you are threatening to beat them senseless unless they are foreigners themselves and then they can probably relate pretty easily.

    Speaking of threatening and beating kids, it’ll be fun to talk to you Lynn about the differences in British schools here compared to the States. Much more strict and old school! Obviously no more corporal punishment but definitely more severe tone and words. ~ Dee

  5. I love that you’re always so real and honest and authentic. I’m sure you have grown in so many ways this past year…and have such a better, more global view of the world from this experience. You have such an adventureous spirit — and you act on it. Not many people are willing to get out of their comfort zone and follow their passion. It takes courage – and you certainly have that!

    Oh, Sheila, I miss you and your words of wisdom! You are such a good friend… when we women forget to validate ourselves, there’s nothing like a girlfriend to jump in and do it for you! Thank you!

    This year has definitely stretched me in ways I never imagined, and it’s been much harder than I ever thought. The idea of living abroad was a dream of mine for so long, but when the dream and the reality don’t match, it’s an unexpected experience. Some bad and some good. But I hope I have learned and grown and I do know I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything!

    ~ Dee

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