Transition time: What comes next?

Lake Merritt Oakland skyline

Lake Merritt Oakland skyline

So you excited to come home? my mom asks on our most recent skype date. I stumble over my words as I debate to give a long or short answer. “Ah well, not really.  I feel neutral.”

Friends back home have reached out more lately as my return home is nearing. They’ve been asking me about my plans for my last month in Europe, how things are going here as I wrap up my job and life here before hoping on a plane to see everyone again. They’re valid questions and good conversations to have as I prepare myself mentally for a big transition but I feel neutral. I’ve admitted before expat life isn’t all pintxos and vino but with anything in life there are goods and bads, happiness and frustrations. I travel, I meet new people, I try new foods and one of the best parts, I work 20 hours or less in a given week. A dream, except the work isn’t gratifying. They say life is a balance and you can’t have everything, which has been true for me so far, but I’m a believer that one can have everything; it’s just a matter of believing and making choices.

But despite 8 months of ups and downs and knowing I’ll return home when the calendar marks June, I’m left feeling indifferent, uncertain, neutral and naturally, with a bit of fear and uncertainty.  Transition. It’s here.

Transition always breeds uncomfortable feelings.

The unknown is scary. It’s exciting. It’s full of questions and what-if’s. And just like a year ago, when I wondered what direction my life was going to take, despite all my good intentions, planning and putting one foot in front of the other, I was lead back to Spain, ahem, Basque Country. In my dark moments of doubt, I reassured myself with the fact that in less than a year I’d know more about myself and know how the year went. I just had to commit and go through with it. Maybe Spring time is simply a time for reflection and changes, new opportunities and perspectives. I’ve come along way despite being back in the uncertainty chair.

What comes next? Where will I be in 3 months?

All questions that can only be answered in time!


This year abroad I’ve learned a lot and I’ve been feeling ready to return to the States to focus on my interests, create community and have a “nest” to call home. I haven’t fallen in love with Vitoria in the last 8 months and despite traveling a lot within Spain, there have only been two places in the Iberian peninsula that I could see myself living in: San Sebastian and Bilbao, both in Basque Country. The only thing I don’t care for is the grey sky and rainy weather. But my main reason for not reapplying to this easy-peasy job is because I don’t want to stay in Vitoria and I don’t want to start from zero by changing cities, which leaves me with one option: Move back to the Bay Area. I would love a place that’s mine (if I’m lucky) where I can have all my “stuff” and photos from my travels on the wall. A place I can stay for as long as I want and jet off for the weekend, 3 weeks or where ever life leads me when I fancy. Dare I say it, a slightly more settled life!


Back in March, I began preparing myself for my return home by checking out job boards, honing my resume and even sending a few job applications to organizations I’ve been fond of through the years. Surprise surprise, I haven’t heard back from them. The never-ending joys of applying for work.

But something’s changed since my travels with my mom and a few side trips since then, I haven’t felt compelled to job search or really think about what my summer and fall will look like. How do I expect to look/find work when I’m 3,000 miles from home without the right frame of mind nor the spirit?  (Distance isn’t the issue, but it doesn’t help).Maybe it’s because I know I’m soon to say good-bye to a beautiful region I’ve called home. Good-bye to being “almost” fully immersed in Spanish on the daily when I know I still have a lot of room for improvement and I’m not sure when I’m returning to Europe.

Good-bye’s aren’t easy.

Just figuring out how I want to spend my last month in Europe has been a challenge. Every day I feel different. And you know what, sometimes I wonder if 3-4 weeks is sufficient? There are so many possibilities and places to see. I’m being reminded on the daily how quickly we can change or see life through a different lens within a short matter of time! 

Playing with perspective

Playing with perspective

Shoulds creep in. Should’s to apply for work while I’m still abroad because the process can take a while. Shoulds to start networking. Shoulds to be in touch with contacts and previous colleagues letting them know I’m coming back.

But you know what; this time around I’m ignoring those shoulds. Should’s are one of those nagging ideas that we allow beat us up but don’t move us forward or make us feel good.

So instead of getting ahead of myself about how life is going to be in California when I return (which most likely will be very different from how I think it will) I’m focusing on today. I’m enjoying my last week in Vitoria before I return again in June. I’m enjoying (slowly) figuring out my travel plans and enjoying this moment of uncertainty and excitement.

Where is life going to lead me next?

It’s anyone’s guess.

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How do you deal with transitions?Are you one that likes to plan life out, go with the flow or just wait and see what happens?

12 thoughts on “Transition time: What comes next?

  1. Hi Lauren, I’m new to your blog (got here through my good friend Cat’s blog, Sunshine and Siestas), and I’ve really enjoyed reading your posts. You say that there are only two places in Spain you could see yourself living, Bilbao and San Sebastian, but I’m wondering whether your travels ever took you to Sevilla. If you haven’t been there, you should really try to go before you leave–not many people can resist its “encanto.” I can tell you from experience, I left five years ago after a year of teaching English there (like you, I enjoyed the experience but did not find the job gratifying or mentally challenging), however, not a day goes by that I don’t long to be back there. Who knows–maybe it will give you a reason to stay!

    • Thanks Kate for reading and commenting!

      I have been lucky enough to visit Sevilla 3X. I did fall in love with Sevilla.
      I just feel like Spain isn’t my “place” you know. I like it. I love all that its provided for me but It just doesn’t feel like where I’m suppose to be for the long term. Then again, who knows… life is interesting like that!

      Where are you now?

      • Fair enough–you should try Argentina! I worked there for a summer and felt like it was wayyyy more similar to the United States, with the mix of cultures and suuuuper friendly people (I actually made friends with girls, unlike in Sevilla!). Plus, the accent is so so fun! 🙂

        I now work for a big law firm in Pittsburgh. I will say that the work is a lot more challenging and gratifying than teaching English in Spain was, however, recently, I have been missing Spain like CRAZY and searching for a way back, if only for a year. Who knows–maybe there are opportunities for American lawyers over there. Anyway, I think that might happen to you once you’ve been back for awhile, so maybe it’s good to leave now!

  2. I’m slightly sucky with transitions. I have always been naturally resistant to change, but I’ve gotten better as I’ve gotten older. My approach to life is the same as travel: I love to plan and be prepared (to an extent) but realize when it’s time to let go of the reigns and be in the moment. Right now I’ve been taking things as they go, knowing I need to start anticipating the next step but not being too concerned with what that actually is at the moment.

    On another note, I’ve moved up to the bay area a year and a half ago and have been loving it! I’d love to meet up with you when you return and hear more about your travels. Just keep doing what you’re doing and enjoy being in Europe! The rest will sort itself out later. Take advantage of the opportunties that you have today!

    • Thanks chica!
      YEs, this year is teaching me a lot and if it’s one thing I take away from my second year is YOU NEVER KNOW WHERE THE ROAD WHERE LEAD. We can plan but sometimes life has other plans for us.
      Happy to hear you’re nejoying the Bay Area! You planning to stay for another year!
      Yes yes yes. Love to meet you and share stories!
      Looking forward to it. I touch ground in CA mid June!

  3. i agree, i would make the most of your last month that’s left and then worry about things when you get home. im in a similar position as you, but I have only just finished my first year and wondering whether to do a second.

    • Thanks. As for deciding, you have time. I didn’t think to a second year and planned to deny it but at the very last minute, August, I decided, WHY NOT? what’s 9 months. It’s been good for me. Only you know, what’s best for ya!

  4. I was in the exact same spot as you last year when I came home last September after living in Madrid for two years. It was a really weird situation to be in–my job ended in June but I had two months free before I returned to the USA so I felt very stationary and it was really frustrating! I did glance around a bit at job/internship postings in the States to see what was out there but I didn’t start job searching in earnest until I got back to New York. And I can tell you with certainty it’s a waste of time to try job searching while you’re still in Spain. Enjoy your last few weeks and just vaguely wonder what will happen–you’ll deal with it when you get back home.

    • THanks. I really appreciate the support and knowing you experienced it as well. I;m enjoying traveling at the moment and am having the feeling of, Am I ready to return? It’s the opposite of last year where I had too much travel time (didn;t seem possible) and wanted to return early…
      Will see what awaits me! Must be a reason why I have to return for a wedding that I committed to a year ago!

  5. Good on you for ignoring the ‘shoulds’ Lauren! I love your attitude and find it very inspiring! Going with the flow of life breeds peace and contentment, especially during times of uncertainty. Enjoy every moment as they arrive xxx

    • Thank you Sarah! It’s an interesting time for me but just trying to flow and remember that I create my path! Was just catching up on your blog too!

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