What being financially fit allowed me to do
I have always wanted to live in Spain. It has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember.
There are several reasons why I wanted to live abroad, but I didn't realize the benefits I could potentially get from living abroad until I delved deeper into linguistics. There is not just one way to live, but constantly being surrounded by the same dominant culture sometimes makes us think there is. There are better, worse, or just different ways of thinking, assessing value, and understanding experiences than we are typically exposed to, especially if we don't leave our comfort zones. I feel like this is true of the United States. We are an amazing country, but we aren't the only amazing country. In my opinion, living abroad is an experience everyone should have at some point in their life. It makes you more open-minded and understanding of others.
Living in Spain specifically was my dream. As you can tell from my "About Me" section, I have a Masters in Applied Linguistics. I love languages, and that love of languages started with Spanish. That will always be my first love in the linguistics world. And what better way to immerse myself in the language than to move to Spain? Spain also just seemed so romantic to a younger me. So when I realized I wanted to live abroad, I latched onto Spain and never let go.
Despite this desire, I had no idea how I was going to make it happen. Furthermore, I wasn't doing anything to make it happen. I had followed the "normal" route in life: going to school, then college and then (after 9 months) finding a full-time job. There really wasn't any room for this dream of mine in my life. Why would I leave a well-paying job to take such a risk? My financial situation certainly didn't support that. Well, at least not initially.
My end goal for becoming financially fit and having control of my funds was to be out of debt and to be able to use my money how I wanted to. Those were my main motivations. I had no idea that they would help me realize my dream to live abroad.
When I lost my job after the 2016 elections, it truly was a blessing in disguise. I had an almost fully stocked emergency fund, no debt and no full-time job to hold me back. I know that if I'd had a stable job, I wouldn't have taken the leap to fulfill my dreams. As I mentioned in my previous post, when I decided to move back to Boston, I also decided not to apply for full-time jobs. This was the perfect opportunity for me to make my dreams come true. I was not going to squander it.
In September of 2017, I moved to Terrassa, Spain, right outside of Barcelona. I taught English there for 9 months (thank God for that Master's degree!), lived with two different host families, sang in a music group, attended some of my first country concerts (in English!), learned a new language (Catalan), ate a lot of good food, and made lasting memories.
I did some research before I went abroad to see if Spain was truly the place I wanted to be. I could have gone to countries in Asia, or other countries in Europe and been paid a stipend large enough to save most of my money. If I taught in some countries in Asia, I would have had my flights and lodging paid for as well. But I wasn't going for the money; I was going for the experience. And the experience I wanted was living in Spain.
Spending those years getting financially fit helped me to lead a life where I could make decisions that weren't exclusively based on my financial situation. I could choose to live in another country and not worry about how I was going to pay my loans. I could decide not to apply for a full-time job so that I could achieve one of my life's dreams. And I could choose an opportunity that offered me less money because that's where I wanted to be.
Becoming financially fit is hard. It takes commitment and dedication and work. But it is so worth it when it opens up possibilities you didn't know existed. Or when it allows you to make decisions not based on money. Or when it turns something that should be a hardship into a blessing. If I haven't convinced you yet that you should be embarking on this journey, then ask yourself this question:
If you didn't have to worry about your finances, what would you do?
Don't be like everyone else. Don't be like I was before. Take the steps necessary to put yourself in a financial situation that allows you the freedom of choice. Make your answer to that question a reality.