This story begins in the mid 1990’s when, as a fresh faced 21-year-old university graduate, I embarked on a gap year in Europe.
The initial summer months were spent swanning about Italy and France with exchange student friends at their family holiday houses, followed by backpacking across Greece and Turkey.
When the cold weather finally caught up with me in Istanbul and winter was closing in, I decided it was time to settle somewhere and re-engage my higher brain. I settled in Salamanca, Spain – one of the oldest university towns in Europe – where I enrolled into a Spanish language course and made fast friends with my Dutch, German and Italian housemates.
It was an exhilarating experience to be playing house in a foreign city while exploring a new language, culture and customs. We were having the time of our lives learning about Spain as well as our 21-year-old selves; and the friendships made during this ‘coming of age’ experience were destined to last.
At a certain point though, great experiences must come to their inevitable conclusion, and I had to return to Australia, to my other life that required me to become a responsible adult.
Fast-forward 8 years to 2004
I was sitting in the cinema in Sydney with my spunky, new husband and my large belly housing our first child. We were watching a French film called The Spanish Apartment (L’Auberge espagnole), about a French university graduate who goes to Spain for a year to study and lives in an apartment with a group of zany students from around the world.
The antics of this young and eclectic group brought tears of laughter to my eyes that swiftly developed into heaving sobs of despair for a former life that I had lived and would never know again.
Whether it was pregnancy hormones or the process of adjustment to married life with imminent child, the film triggered a grief in me that my life was about to change irrevocably.
Fast-forward another 9 years to 2013
It is unequivocal that my life has changed since I first visited Spain as a 21-year-old and since I saw The Spanish Apartment:
I am now a wife of 10 years and a mother of an 8-year-old boy and 6-year-old girl. Those early parenting years were quite tough at times and there are still today the occasional blindsides but overall life has settled into a happy equilibrium.
Being an explorer at heart, it is time to embark on a new adventure: another gap year in Europe, this time with my nearest and dearest in tow.
And so, we as a family have decided to move to Spain for a year. First we will travel for two months retracing our family history and friendships across four countries, before settling down in Granada, Andalusia for 11 months.
We have found an old Moorish house to rent in the Arabic quarter with cobbled stone pedestrian streets and no cars. Instead of looking at the Tasman Sea each day our outlook will be the magnificent Alhambra Palace and Sierra Nevada mountains.
The kids will go to a local Spanish school and my husband and I will combine study, part-time work and general mooching about.
I am under no illusions that this experience will compare at all to the free-spirited Spanish adventure of my 21-year-old self or that it will be smooth sailing all the time – no travel experience ever is. I am however, excited to be sharing an adventure with the ones I love and to see new things through their eyes.
The four of us will share this trip as a family unit that will hopefully bring us closer and bode us well for the bumpy adolescent years around the corner.