Confessions,  Living Abroad,  Thriving

At Home Anywhere: Journaling and Reflections

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Dear Carol,

Earlier in the week, we shared a book review of At Home Anywhere. If you haven’t read it yet, be sure to follow this link for context into the resource. Today, Dani’s decided to get a little vulnerable and share with you her answers to some of the poignant questions author Rachael Lynn asks readers to reflect on throughout the book. Although it can be scary to admit the answers to some of her “Write it Out” questions to yourself (let alone over the internet) we’ve found that really tuning in and digging deeper has helped us tremendously when defining and creating a sense of ‘home’—especially given the unusual circumstances of quarantined life right now.

To quote page 31 of At Home Anywhere: “Be your own best friend throughout this journey and throughout this book. The book can’t save you, but your dedication to yourself can.” We couldn’t agree more. In order to share with you some of the questions that are helping us do just that, we bring you excerpts from Dani’s journal…

(Her reflections upon putting this together for the blog are noted in italics.)

Chapter Two – It’s Time to Go

Even if I didn’t necessarily work through it at the time, it’s nice to know my reasoning and perspective now.Question 1: Write out the clear reason for your decision. What benefits do you see of moving? Why have you decided to take this risk? Then say thank you to yourself for taking the chance.

I’m stronger than I know and wanted to show myself that. I didn’t want to be afraid; I didn’t want to miss out. But not in the shallow FOMO way, in the more profound, a-deeper-part-of-me-could-tell-it-was-right way.
The benefits were:
-growing into the person I want to be
-feeling challenged everyday
-creating a comfort zone outside my comfort zone
-a change of perspective

I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting that reason before I sat down and wrote it out. It’s also intriguing the way in which I felt a need to qualify my FOMO as being different from the run-of-the-mill FOMO. This shows me I still have some inner-work to do on that topic.

Question 3: Write a letter to yourself about all the things you have gone through in this place you are now moving away from. You are not the same person you were, and that version of you needs to be acknowledged for getting you to this place.

Note: I wrote this excerpt to the person I was in 2015, when I chose to move to Spain indefinitely.

I’ve loved and lost—in all the clichéd ways and not. I’ve grown close to people I’ve known only a few years and accepted them as family. I’ve also accepted letting some of them go. I was where I needed to be for others and for myself in our time of need and now I need to be elsewhere. I learned from past relationships what a healthy relationship should and could be. I’ve learned from those experiences, too, that it’s okay to walk about from something good when the timing is right. You don’t have to destroy the good that something was or hurt the people involved. You can just do what’s good and right and fair for you and walk away with a bittersweet smile. You can move on and let go without forgetting everything those experiences taught you. In fact, you should. Staying in something/some place that’s comfortable when you know new opportunities could be more fitting and better is wrong. It is passive and it is not wise. Intentional action is better.

Of course, this is very vague if you don’t know everything in my personal life that I’m referring to, but it was a deep and surprising reflection for me. I had never considered the connections before.

Chapter Three – A New Beginning

Question 1: When was the moment you really realized you’ve moved and you’re not going back? Describe the scene, what you were thinking, and how you felt. How do you feel now?

Having my very own apartment (for the first time) in Spain was a meaningful moment.Maybe my first night in my own solo piso—alone. It seems funny to say, seeing as it was a full two years after my most substantial move but, yah, I’d say it was then. I’m so supported by others and already had [my husband] in my life at that point, so it’s not like I felt alone. Still, it was this moment of realization, of being reminded I’ve DONE THIS, on my own. At that point, I had the friends to support me, I also had the love of my life, but it’s all because I made a very big personal decision and wandered into the (relatively) unknown. That’s when Granada most felt MINE and I knew I’d moved home.

I still feel a lot of these same feelings. Although, I’ve also had more moments of doubt and questioning what ‘home’ really means to me since then. It almost feels like it was easier to feel at home then (two years into my real life in Spain) as opposed to now (five years in). However, after reading the book I no longer feel that’s unusual. Instead, it feels like the natural ebb and flow over time and it doesn’t worry me. I know I’ve made the right decisions for myself.

Question 3: Write out how you want to define happiness. What does it mean to you? What is the most loving way to ‘judge’ yourself?

I think happiness should be defined not by how many days LOOK sunny, but by how many FEEL like sunshine. I think happiness doesn’t come from the days of clear blue skies, but from the days I feel inspired to search for the blue behind the clouds. I guess what I’m trying to get at with all these metaphors is that I don’t want to define happiness by circumstances—this state of being is inherently removed from that. It is defined by feelings and a CHOICE to feel the sunshine, the blue skies, the comfort, the joy, the happiness.

For me, the pursuit of happiness IS the happiness. It’s a state but also a journey. It is all of the things—but no physical ‘things.’ I define happiness as a choice to be. Quite simply—to be happy; to be free; to be ever-changing. I want to feel happiness even when I choose to surrender to sadness or tiredness, any of the ‘unhappy’ emotions.

I want to give myself the happy space to welcome them, too, to be felt, explored, and further understood. I don’t want to feel like I need to withdraw from or hide from ‘negative’ feelings. I want to allow for every gradient of life’s feelings from a deeper, inner happiness. If I can do that, I can manage to cultivate an aura of happiness, even on my darkest days. 🙂

My answer to this prompt definitely has a different ‘feel’ to it (at least in my opinion). I credit that to the fact that I was actually participating in Rachael’s Journaling course last month and tackled this question as one of the course prompts. Therefore, I think I was in a much more vulnerable and contemplative headspace when answering this one.

Chapter Five – What’s Your One Thing?

Question 1: If you left your new home next week, what would you regret not spending more time doing while you were there?

Eating more tapas, just going out for a café con leche, getting to know the owners/waiters at a local café the way I know them [in my old Granada neighborhood]. Investing more time in my friendships with Spaniards and making more Spanish friends. I think I’ve reached a point where I feel that the friendships I have are enough and I don’t want to continue seeking out new ones [the way I so often did at the beginning when I was an avid intercambio and Couchsurfing participant]. On a daily basis, I like being a homebody and I don’t necessarily want to be more social. However, I have to admit that the unique opportunities [of living in Spain] that I’d regret are those—to be social and form part of the Spanish community.

Of course, this is all a little difficult to read right now as, under quarantine, I don’t feel able to act on most of these potential regrets. However, I have been making more of an effort to chat with my Spanish friends over Whatsapp and videocalls as well as to participate in virtual intercambios to meet new people, even while confined at home.

Chapter Eight – Taking Care of Yourself

Question 1: How do I currently feel about my transition and how I’m doing? Where has there been progress? Where do I still feel lost?

Taking care of myself is important, but I need to invest in my community, too.I’m honestly feeling grateful for this lockdown in terms of my transition. I was feeling more lost at the beginning of the year and this time is helping me come into myself again. I feel better about my engagement with the Spanish language—my classes, finding a Spanish radio/podcast app, and my reading. I feel like I’m investing in myself in all the ways I would have envisioned back in my 2013-2014 Auxiliares days, when I idealized this lifestyle [that I found in Spain] so much.

I still need to make progress investing in and immersing myself in the community—I need to volunteer at an [animal shelter]; I need to join a yoga studio; I need to try harder to make/nurture friendships. I’ve been focused a lot lately on my relationship with myself (which is important!) but I need to focus now on the externals if I want to feel I’m thriving all around.

It’s comforting to see my response to this question right after talking about how the lockdown makes me feel I can’t make changes (in terms of the regrets). At the very least, there are upsides and downsides.

Chapter Ten – Visits with Family and Friends

Question 2: Before you go for a visit or have someone come, where can you schedule in some alone time? Do that now.

For visitors, I will schedule at least every other morning at home for writing, not offering to meet up until lunch. Maybe even one evening to be at home by ourselves as well. Actually, the above sounds good when visiting, too!

This seems like such a simple answer (despite being a good one) but I also know it would be difficult for me to put into effect. Especially when you have people visit you, you want and feel a need to be with them 24/7. However, in order to implement this plan I think I would need to remind myself just how nice I, personally, find it to have some alone time when traveling—to take things slow and see what really interests me, rather than feel I’m at the pace of my ‘tour guide’ the whole time. Trusting that others need/want this too will likely help me take the alone time I need to be a sane host.

PinterestAnd there you go! We hope you enjoyed getting a look inside Dani’s head with her responses to these seven questions. Of course, this is only a snippit of all the “Write it Out” prompts included in At Home Anywhere (there are generally 3-5 at the end of each chapter). However, we wanted to share a few that especially resonated with Dani in order to give you an idea of what the book is like and how it may prompt you to consider things about your move differently. If you feel inspired, be sure to purchase the book for yourself.

Let us know in the comments if you try out these journaling prompts and/or if you read the book! We hope you enjoy them as much as we have.

Sincerely,
Spain

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