365 days ago we untethered ourselves from life in Australia and took a leap of faith into the unknown. We boarded a plane that carried the four of us across continents and oceans.
The only known was that we would spend a year living in Granada, Spain. The remaining pieces of the journey were a mystery and required us to surrender to whatever came our way. None of us had ever been to Granada previously so we had to trust our decision-making process that consisted of a bit of research, gut instinct and a large portion of luck.
We were full of hope and excitement for whatever awaited us. Today, 365 days later, as the train pulls out of Granada station and we bid farewell to a wonderful life and community in Spain, all those unknowns have now been lived. What an incredible year this has been!
All too often the unknown, ‘the other’, ‘out there’ can seem frightening or inspire comparisons of better or worse or just too different. The experience of this year has shown us that there is little to fear ‘out there’ just lots to be learned and gained. We have found exceptional people and places everywhere we have been. Reflecting back on this year one of the most outstanding elements has been the diversity and kindness of people.
There were our family and friends in France, Switzerland, Hungary and Finland who welcomed us and shared stories of our families’ history and identity; the Berber villagers in Morocco who guided us through the Atlas mountains and fed us tagines; our friends in Israel who included us at their Seder and Shabbat tables and showed us their ancient land; the friendly strangers in Italy who showered our children with food, gifts and attention. And of course our wonderful new friends and community in Granada who guided and supported us in the Spanish way of life. Every person has been exceptional in their own way and we are eternally grateful.
A Year in Granada
Granada is a small city surrounded by much natural beauty and history. It has mountains, rivers, lakes and is relatively close to the Mediterranean beaches, as well as many historical cities (Cordoba, Ubeda, Baeza, Sevilla, Cadiz) and let’s not forget the famous Alhambra Palace. Living in Granada provided many opportunities to explore beyond the city limits and travel throughout Europe.
In addition, certain activities that are difficult to do in Sydney became very accessible in Granada. My daughter and I were able to go horse riding regularly with little effort or cost compared to home. We could go for hikes in the mountains directly from our house without having to drive anywhere. Skiing in winter was just a 40-minute drive away and adventure abseiling, mountain biking etc.. were also very accessible. Arts and cultural events were also numerous and affordable and rarely did events sell out like they consistently do in Sydney. No need to buy tickets in advance or queue, just turn up on the day for the various theatre, dance, music and arts events and enjoy great performances.
The history and culture that is maintained with passion in Southern Spain was eye opening for us coming from such a young country as Australia. Every few weeks there was a procession or festival to mark another Saint or holy day. There was never a shortage of participants or spectators with young and old and in between filling the streets time and time again. The commitment to celebrating these cultural rituals is very strong in Granada and is a memory we will take back to Australia.
Our kids did complain that there weren’t more entertainment options like at home but that was an important adjustment to make, to wean them off big-city entertainment and help them become more creative by transforming their boredom.
In our little Albaicin neighbourhood of Granada, we had the opportunity to integrate into a vibrant and diverse community that welcomed us with open arms from the very beginning.
Through our neighbours, families from our children’s school, our son’s tennis and soccer teams as well as my language school, we were gently guided through the vicissitudes of Spanish life and culture. Many of the people in our neighbourhood are Spaniards married to foreigners so they had an empathetic ear however we also knew several proud Granadino families who go back generations and were excited to share their culture with us.
Although initially there was a lot of hard work for the children and I to improve our Spanish before we could thoroughly enjoy the life in Granada, we knew we were supported by people who were happy to speak to us in English when we really needed it. Through the initial hardships and subsequent rewards and achievements, I can see how our children have grown in confidence and have opened their eyes beyond the world they had known.
Particularly in the last months I derived such pleasure watching our children playing, laughing, taking risks and blabbing away with their friends in fluent Spanish. They have become well versed in European history and have learned so much at school. I am proud of how they adjusted to and accepted their new environment and culture as if it was a just another usual occurrence. Even when there were sad days not once did either of them say they wanted to go back to Australia. They just accepted this is what we were doing.
And so after a year of new and wondrous experiences, we bid farewell to our second home in Granada to begin the journey back to our other home in Sydney. We have three weeks of adventure and travel remaining before transitioning back to life as we knew it…but will it be the same? or more to the point…are we the same people?