THE QUIRKY PINEAPPLE FINDS LOVE ABROAD…
Fresh out of university in May 2014, I chose to take a different route from my friends, and decided to move abroad for the chance to travel. Three months after receiving my undergraduate diploma and saying goodbye to friends and family, I picked up my things and flew to Spain to teach English for eight months! I had no idea what I was doing, I couldn’t really speak the language and I had only visited Spain once in high school. To make matters more interesting, it ended up that I wasn’t going to be living in a big city, but living and teaching in a 12,000-person village outside of Toledo, Spain. Can you imagine what a city/suburbia girl who lives 20 minutes outside of the capital of the United States felt like, moving into a 12,000 person village?! I was really out of my element!
I certainly never thought that I’d end up loving the small village (despite it’s lack of things to do) and finding love in a village of 12,000, with someone who doesn’t share my native language and isn’t even from the same country! The first day I moved into my apartment, said goodbye to my dad (who had came over to help me transition) and headed out with my new roommate to the town’s summer carnival, I didn’t expect to meet my now boyfriend! Alright, we didn’t actually start dating until months later… but I certainly wouldn’t have thought that he would be my boyfriend and we’d be going through all of these immigration paperwork and trying to figure out visas in each other’s respective countries.
I met my boyfriend, Mario, the first day I moved into the town I’d be working and living in. It was the weekend of the summer carnival and everyone was out on the streets drinking, eating and chatting. I didn’t speak much Spanish and I really had no idea what the customs were and what this party was all about! I went with my roommate, who told me that he had a friend that just came back from London and speaks English really well. Me not speaking ANY Spanish, I was thinking to myself “YES! I will actually be able to communicate with someone!” My roommate never mentioned that his friend was actually Spanish, so I assumed he was British. As soon as I met my roommate’s friend (now boyfriend!), I was a bit thrown off by his Spanish accent when he spoke English! We ended up talking the whole day and stayed up until 6am at the carnival, drinking and dancing. It was easy to talk to him, despite moments where we’d both be confused and didn’t understand the other.
Soon after, we started hanging out more, but just as friends. I kept telling myself (and I actually told him) that I didn’t have time to date or time for boys, because I needed to learn Spanish, I needed to work and I came to Spain to travel, NOT date. We continued our friendship and I deemed him one of my “Best Friends” in Spain. I know what y’all are probably thinking, I was setting myself up and this was probably destined from the beginning! We took trips together with my roommate and he’d come over for dinner, we were the “three musketeers, the three best friends” and they treated me more like a younger sister than anything. I was happy that I actually had people
I could communicate with and happy that I met two people who quickly became my closest friends!
About three weeks after we met, Mario decided to continue studying to earn a second degree. The economy is not doing very well in Spain, so he decided to study more in hopes of finding a better job. He was accepted into a university in Málaga, in the south of Spain, which is about five hours from his hometown (where I was living)! After he moved, I really missed him, and hanging out with my roommate wasn’t the same. We ended up only seeing each other every so often when he came back to his town to visit his parents and for doctor’s appointments; other than that, we didn’t speak much.
It wasn’t until March when we reconnected. I think it happened because I asked him through WhatsApp how to say a loaf of bread in Spanish! *insert laughing crying emoji here haha* We started talking sporadically every day, then every week, and I was telling him about how I’d be alone for my birthday because both of my roommates were leaving. He suggested we take a trip together to another part of Spain, so I wouldn’t be spending my first birthday abroad, alone. Alright, alright, whenever I get to this part, everyone always starts poking me and saying things like “It was bound to happen! You two went on a trip for your birthday!! He didn’t want you to be alone!!” But, I can vouch for the both of us, that we both never thought about it like that! I thought that I’d be able to travel and see another area of Spain, hang out with my friend, and he was excited to see a different area, as well!
The two days we spent exploring through Extremadura, the region of Spain closest to Portugal, was fun and different! We ate a bunch of food, got to know each other better and I’ll have to admit that there was definitely some kind of tension there, but I tried to ignore it as much as I could. For all of y’all who want the dirty details, WE DIDN’T DO ANYTHING DURING OUR TRIP! Something was “a brewing” but the both of us didn’t act on it. We came back home to our town, he dropped me off and we agreed to meet later for drinks. It was so awkward because when Mario dropped me off in front of my apartment building, I guess he thought I wasn’t interested at all (total opposite), so he offered me his hand to shake!! I was a bit confused by his gesture, but shook his hand anyways and then asked for a hug!!
We met for drinks with my friends and nothing happened, again. It wasn’t until the end of the night when I decided to go home, that he offered to walk me to my house. Y’all can probably guess what happened next… no, nothing raunchy! We sat on my couch, having one of those heart to heart drunk conversations and eventually he kissed me! Ever since that night, we’ve been inseparable. Mario still had to study in Málaga, so we talked through WhatsApp and on the phone, and when he came up to visit, we’d spend the entire weekends together. We were both afraid of defining our relationship because each of us was a little worried about what could happen in the future, especially because we aren’t from the same country. We ignored the subject for as long as we could, and then finally admitted to ourselves that we acted like we were already in a relationship!
I never came to Spain looking for love or expecting love. To be honest, I told myself I didn’t want to date or be in a relationship while abroad because I wanted to be an independent and free woman! Now, the boyfriend and I have been together for a year and a few months, we’ve moved in together, moved to two different cities together, trekked from the Mediterranean Coast to the Atlantic Coast of the Iberian Peninsula and even started an online travel coaching business together!
The hardest part in the beginning of our relationship was never the immigration papers and the visas. For me, it was being able to communicate with each other and understand one another. Being in a relationship with someone who isn’t used to your culture is really difficult and not speaking the language makes it a bit more frustrating. After getting through that stage, the toughest part now, is figuring out what we plan on doing in the future. Visas are really expensive in the United States, and almost nearly impossibly for a foreigner to get. Immigration papers are confusing and tricky with a lot of red tape.
As for the future, we’re not very sure what’s going to happen. I don’t want to sound cliché and say that it doesn’t matter as long as we’re together, but even if we were working through a long-distance relationship, I wouldn’t mind. My visa in Spain expires the end of May and afterwards I’ll have 90 tourist days in Europe. So, let’s cross our fingers (and send me some good mojo) that we figure it out before then! We’d love to stay in Europe and continue traveling together and working on our travel coaching business. The adventure lies ahead and although it’s expensive, difficult and extremely frustrating to figure out paperwork, immigration processes and visas, we both agree that it’s worth it.