The world is changing and we have to change with it. If my job is the only thing I will lose during the coronavirus crisis I will indeed be happy. I’m more worried for friends and family – stay safe, please! This post is a tad bit personal and not so much about motorcycles, however motorcycles were what made me pack up and leave a secure and settled life in Sweden for the greater uncertainty of being an immigrant in a country where I could ride my bike every day throughout the year. We all make our choices and I live with mine, this is not to complain, rather to share my experience of two different crises, the Brexit vote and the coronavirus, on a personal level.
In June 2016 we left London. After spending nearly two years there, we packed and stored away our five boxes and went camping in Wales. Summer was going to be spent travelling and seeing friends and family and then we had our goal set for Japan. With my new English teaching certificate in hand, we were going to spend a few years there teaching and travelling. That did not happen. In our tent in Wales we read about the Brexit referendum and the horrible – and for us, totally unexpected – outcome. How would that affect us as a Swedish-British couple with plans of living and teaching in different countries both outside and within the EU? Impossible to foresee of course, but we needed time to think, some breathing space.
When summer ended we were still travelling. I had covered large parts of Europe including the WIMA rally in Hungary. I had been camping and staying with friends and family but now it was time for us to reunite. As we went north up to Scotland, we were accepting that Japan was not going to happen this time. The future seemed too unsure and we aimed to go back to Spain instead, fearing that if we waited Christopher would not be able to. With Brexit done, he would not be able to benefit from European free movement. We had always imagined that Spain would be the place where we would settle, after living and experiencing other countries, it was going to be our place to grow old. Now we needed a change in mindset and a plan. We were fortunate to be able to housesit in England during autumn and halfway through winter, as Christopher took his driving licence for motorcycle with a local driving school. In January 2017 I took the ferry from Portsmouth to Santander and rode to Barcelona. Christopher followed by plane. The first month we stayed in hostels, renting bunkbeds to keep things cheap and looked for jobs. When I got my first teaching position we rented a room through AirBnB – the atmosphere in cheap hostels isn’t great if you want to be able to plan lessons and need good solid sleep. I was equally happy getting my first job as leaving it, I learned the hard way how horrible the working conditions can be in English academies and how poorly the teachers are sometimes treated. I moved on, found some different jobs, teaching at 3-4 different places trying to make ends meet on a very saturated market.
From this, I learned what I like and what I want and then I found a job which would allow me to take own responsibility in my classroom and grow as a teacher. I learned new skills and adapted my English teaching methods with my preschool teaching pedagogics – I am now teaching Swedish to all ages, which is so cool!
A month ago, we were literally on the verge of buying a flat here in our little village, feeling that we had finally come to a point when we both felt like we had found a place we want to call home and feel that we are well enough sustained to go ahead. We were looking at possible flats, and even a garage, hoping to be able to send for our 11 boxes that we had stored away five years ago when we left Madrid. The following week, Spain went into full lockdown and we were not able to even go out for a walk.
While I still have my job, but with reduced hours, the state of the global economy will hit businesses hard, especially companies that deal with the movement of people in Europe, and I have to be prepared for the worst. I need a Plan B and this time travelling is not an option.
How should I go on from this? The possibilities are endless if one wants to see it like that, but the risks are great as well. Should we stay here in this little village with hardly any employment possibilities within my field, or should we try and find another place to settle. I’m honestly tired of living in my bags and I would like to get my stuff; my books, my grandma’s plates, our Murano wine glasses and the quilted bedcover that my mum made for us. This village is not perfect, but it has a lot of what I ask from a place to live, a friendly community, decent weather all year round and accessibility to culture as both Tarragona and Barcelona are within easy reach. I love running along the beach and going for a swim in the sea every weekend. I love our Friday tapas rounds and our weekly morning coffee reading poetry. My heart wants to stay but my mind says it might not be practical. I’m exploring possibilities for work and studies online. The options are many, should I educate myself further as a teacher of Swedish as a second language, although the market here is very small here for Swedish teachers, or should I continue my studies in English linguistics and enrol for a masters course. Should I start teaching English online? There seems to be a constant demand for online-teachers in China, but the paperwork is complicated in Spain. Or should I consider a permanent change or a temporary fixture? I work until mid-June, at the end of June our rental contract runs out – then we need to move on, both physically and mentally.
Nothing is ever impossible, but it might take longer than one would think, or even like. I’m a marathon runner and I have learned that half of the effort is mental, and that the strategy is to take things in small steps and create partial goals. When 42km is divided into legs of 5km, then it is only 8 parkruns and a bit to go until the finish line – and a parkrun is no problem to complete, right? My body might not be able to run marathons anymore, but my marathon mind-set is with me every day. As soon as I have decided my goal I will work towards it in small steps.