How did I get here?

In the Galapagos – bad hair, good times. What do you think those grey things lying on the white sand beach behind me are? Rocks? Gotcha! They’re smooth, shiny, fat seals.

Everyone has a story about how they ended up living abroad as an expat. Here’s mine.

After 10 long years living in London and working as a journalist, I was fed up with my job, with commuting to the office every day by tube, and with people’s negative attitudes. Almost everyone seemed to be miserable, unhappy about every aspect of their existence – work, house prices, the endless hassles associated with big-city life – and loved nothing more than to voice their dissatisfaction. I found it soul-destroying.

I decided I needed a major life change. I’d always longed to travel more than the one or two annual holidays allowed – as soon as I got home, I’d ache to leave again and start planning the next trip. So in 2002, I packed up my life in London and went on an overland trip across South America, from Chile to Ecuador.

Up above Quito, spectacularly situated in the Andes. The ideal place for a TV antenna, obviously.

The trip finished in Quito, and I took a fancy to this little-known Andean city. I worked in a bar, volunteered, taught English and learned Spanish – and rediscovered my joie de vivre, which had been buried under piles and piles of stress and anxiety, failing relationship and career, and depressingly grey weather. Life started being fun again.

With my Ecuadorian friend Pasionaria, named after the famous Communist leader from the Spanish Civil War.

Alfonso, who owned the bar where I worked serving drinks and as a DJ. Free drinks and my favourite music - what more could you ask for?

I made some wonderful friends, travelled around Ecuador, and after a year, decided to come back to Europe to be closer to my family. A few people suggested Seville, as a small, sunny, historic and beautiful city with plenty of character and some interesting annual festivities.

I arrived in September 2003, started sharing a flat with my now-best-friend, met my now-husband a few weeks later, and soon realised that I’d made the right move. I’ve never regretted leaving London, not for one minute. Although I do miss the restaurants, museums, multiculturalism – but not the weather.

28 thoughts on “How did I get here?

    • They are all amazing countries, Paddy. I left part of my heart in Ecuador, for the people (made some good friends there), the ceviche (the latest food fad, apparently), the bosque nublado, the Amazon, the volcanoes, the Galapagos… The altiplano of Bolivia is also stunning. I could go on forever, but I won’t.

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  2. Hej! I am a swedish mother of two sons who is about to move with my husband to Seville, and I found your blogg and liked it. I might have some questions as we move along with our plans. How it is as expats in Seville – and how to get in contact with other expacts for practicalities, iformation etc. Really like your blogg – it inspires!

    • Hi Katarina, thanks for your visit. InterNations is good for expat advice and information, they have monthly get-togethers. Also the American Women’s Club is great for mums, as they have lots of parties, picnics and other kids’ activities and it’s a really handy network/support system of other English-speaking mothers. I’m a member of both, and go to some events. Hope that helps!

      • Thanks a lot Fiona! I asked for membership in Internations already now, and then we will see. I will be the one working and my husband settle the family – so let’s see about the American womens club once I know more :)

        • The AWC has men’s events too, and plenty of evening and weekend stuff – wine tasting, book clubs, picnics, parties. I rarely go to the weekday events myself. Between the AWC and InterNations, you should meet plenty of people for advice, socialising etc!

  3. fascinating!! and boy can I relate to being fed up with the job. I admire your adventurous spirit!! I wish I could just pick up and move NOW. Alas…gotta wait until the kidlet is at least out of high school. Less than 8 years to go and counting ;) Hoping to join you in Andalucía!!

    • Thanks – nine years later, I find myself looking longingly at friends’ beautiful houses in England, compared to our 2-bed bungalow. Then I have to remind myself that it’s not sunny there and life isn’t as relaxed (comparatively speaking) as it is here.

  4. This is a great story Fiona, I have been following your blog for a while and I really like you style of writing. There must be something about Ecuador as one of my friends went travelling around South America and ended up staying in Ecuador and marrying a local girl. I have always wanted to visit the Galapagos islands, so maybe I’ll take a trip out there :)

    I really like Seville, it sounds an odd thing to say but I have never been to such a nice smelling city…all those orange blossoms, lovely! I moved to Gibraltar/Andalucia in January and I’m really enjoying being out here but I do miss the choices in London, especially the huge range of restaurants.

    • Thanks, Jenny, good to hear you enjoy reading the blog. Ecuador’s such a diverse and fascinating country – mountains, jungle, cloud forest and Galapagos, as well as some beautiful colonial towns. I know what you mean about Seville, the scent in spring is like nothing else. A trip to Morrisons in Gib is a major bi-annual treat for me, so exciting and varied compared to here – to my eyes, at least!

  5. Hi Fiona, I love your blog and your life change experience! Well done, i think it is important to follow your heart. My life is the opposite, i m living in St Albans, close to London, for the last 2 years with my English boyfriend and I truly understand why you left London. You should not compare your property to your English friends. Here (It is my humble opinion) is about “image”(not everyone of course).Big houses, big cars but still big faces, few friendly words and maybe not as happy as you think they are. I personally dont like the lifestyle here even though I also come from Northen Spain, Vitoria, where the climate is worse than here but I think we still have some values and other life priorities than “showing our status and money”. Of course I dont want to generalise, I have met lovely people here too. I love your blog..keep on the good work!!

    • Dear Ana, thanks very much for your comment – it’s always interesting to hear the views of Spanish people in England. Yes, values here are different – family is much more important, which I think is very good.

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  7. Hi Fiona!
    Have just come across your blog and it is a great source of inspiration to me! I’m coming to live in Seville later this month and am excited at the prospect. I’ve just taken redundancy from a pretty dreary job in a London University and, at 50 years of age, am now set on something more fun and adventurous. I have some Spanish but will need to improve quickly so have enrolled on some courses and plan to do lots of intercambios. I’m an English teacher so may get some paid work too. I’m coming alone (this doesn’t worry me) and am keen to get involved in as much of the Seville life as I can. I’ve spent time in Seville (and a lot of the rest of Spain) before so I’m not totally new and I know the city fairly well but this feels like a new lease of life!! So impressed by your story – loved the pictures of the various ‘pets’ you have acquired! You have really embraced the whole experience of southern Spain! I look forward to following your blog and I’m sure it will be helpful to me when I get there in 2 weeks time! Gracias!

    • Thanks for your kind comments, John. Best of luck with your new life in Seville – I’m sure you won’t have a problem finding work in the city as there are legions of English academies in and around Seville. This is one area which has been less severely affected by the crisis. But please be aware (I’m sure you already are) that life in Spain is difficult for many people at the moment, so you have to keep your wits about you – if you catch my drift.

  8. Thanks Fiona, yes I think I know what you mean. I spent a couple of months in Seville last year and it was apparent that there are serious economic problems – my phone was stolen which may or may not have been related! Thanks again for getting back to me! Best wishes, John.

  9. Yeah, thanks Fiona I’ll keep everything close to me. Spent today looking at rooms to rent and met some lovely people – I love this city! Cheers, John.

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