The Intentional Expat

Living Your Best Life Abroad


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Crazy Little Thing Called…Love? Destroying the ¨Love¨ Myth

I´ve officially dubbed this the season of breakups. What is it is about the end of summer that makes people´s relationships start to waver. Maybe all those care free days spent at the beach and poolside gazing at other half naked people prance about makes people´s minds wander to ¨what if¨ sort of scenarios? Or perhaps here in Europe it´s because autumn signals a big transition following the obligatory vacation in August, and just like the start of a new school year, it brings with it a host of new obligations and stressors which means that these relationships that pre-summer seemed like a breeze are now seen for what they truly are: work.

Working as a couple’s therapist, I find that time and time again my job seems to consist of ¨being the bearer of bad news,¨ or rather the ¨bearer of realistic news¨ as I dispell myths and lower expectations about what true love and relationships are all about. This week I shared two great articles on Facebook that spoke about this: ¨The 9 Most Overlooked Threats to a Marriage¨ and ¨Love is Not Enough¨ that were a big hit, so along these same lines, as part of a new #TBT series on love and relationships, I´m sharing with you today a post I wrote as 2013 was coming to a close and I was on my own quest to redefine ¨love.¨ 

It’s late, and I’m really tired. I got up at 8am to have a productive day and spent the morning fighting the hordes of tourists in Madrid´s Puerta del Sol in an attempt to get all of my errands done. I stared at books and a computer screen until I felt like my eyes were crossing and I really wasn’t sure if my vision would be less blurry with our without my glasses. And tomorrow I’ve got a busy day with a NYE party at my house and oh yeah…I’m running a 10K. My first. Who plans a New Year´s Eve party on the day they’re going to run a race?

Anyways, thankfully I got a break from all of my studying today when a friend surprised me by stopping by to drop stuff off for tomorrow’s party. This turned into an impromptu dinner date and eventually got us chatting about the topic of love.

I’ve really been enjoying the conversations I’ve been having with friends lately about love, because they’re so distinct from the conversations I had in my early and mid-20’s. We all actually have a little bit of experience under our belts, and we understand that our ideas concerning the magic of falling in love are most likely due to the unrealistic expectations instilled in us by movies, music and television. Love is supposed to come riding in on a white horse or in a short mini skirt and change your life forever, inspiring you to do things you never believed were possible. Bullshit. If you’re feeling confused, lost, empty, unmotivated, etc. already, love is not going to do a damned thing to change that. A close friend of mine recently sent me this excerpt from ¨The Orphaned Anythings¨ by Stephen Christian, which so eloquently explains this:

 “the way love is conjured up is not by concentrating on living life to find love, but simply living and loving life itself. It seems to strike when one stops trying to find Mrs. Right and starts being Mr. Right….people are continuously pursuing relationships thinking that the other person is going to make them happy. When they realize their partner cannot make them happy they end it. You have to be satisfied with yourself, and have the ability to find happiness on your own life before you can go and share your life with someone else.” 

At 29, I feel like what is “romantic” is not at all how I defined romance ten years ago (or even last year perhaps!). Romance is not about buying flowers, or writing poetry or posting on Facebook about how you have the best boy/girlfriend ever. For someone to be romantic, they don’t need to be creative or do something out of the ordinary. I’m not saying that those things AREN’T romantic, but if a relationship doesn’t have those things, that doesn’t mean that it’s lacking romance. And I think that the true hallmark of romance is actually in the smaller things. It’s found in the continuing on with the other person despite being at a bumpy point in the road. It’s waking up next to them day after day and allowing this person who you feel like you know so well to surprise you, for better or for worse. It’s letting yourself be vulnerable and intimate with another person in order to grow closer to them, to share your life with them. And this is the hard part about relationships, especially the relationships that really last. I feel like this concept is really embodied in one of my favorite movie quotes regarding the definition of love and how it differs from being ¨in love¨:

 “Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body…That is just being “in love,” which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.” (Captain Corelli’s Mandolin). 

 Five years ago, most of my conversations with girlfriends about love seemed to have to do with finding “the ONE,” your soulmate. And it’s refreshing that now I find myself surrounded by women who realize that there are many men (or women) who can walk into our lives and with whom we can connect and be compatible with. There isn’t just one person who is right for each one of us. It’s a matter of chemistry, circumstances, timing. And most importantly it’s a matter of choice. You choose to share your life with someone. Not because you can’t live without that person. Because you absolutely can. No, you choose to share your life with them because you enjoy spending time with them, because you like spending time apart from them and coming back together and sharing what you’ve learned and experienced. Because you have common goals. Whether it be to start a family, travel the world together or see what sort of adventures you can share together on this crazy road of life. But it’s a choice. And it’s a choice you continually make.

Tonight I read a fantastic article entitled “How to Know When You’re In Love,” in which the author compares relationships to being on an airplane. Sometimes you’re sitting back and enjoying the flight, staring out the window at the puffy clouds that look like cotton candy…other times there is turbulence and you find yourself wondering, “what the hell have I gotten myself into?” And you’ve got a choice in front of you which is: do you continue on in this flight or do you jump?

The person who chooses to jump often gets a bad rap for being a coward, and yes, often that jump is a way of running away. A way of saying “I don’t think I can handle sitting this close to you on the airplane anymore!” Maybe because you want to sit next to lots of different people on lots of different airplanes, or because you feel incredibly uncomfortable after sitting for such a long flight, or maybe because you see that the person sitting next to you on the plane looks pretty miserable too. But just know, that there is a free fall awaiting you when you jump out of that plane. You might realize you’ve made a huge mistake. You might be depressed, especially if that choice was a cowardly one. However, as the author goes on to explain, that choice could also help you to grow.

The article concludes with the author pointing out that the question isn’t “How do I know I’m in Love,” but rather “Do you CHOOSE to love this person or not?” And as he concludes in the article:

If the answer is yes, love as hard as you can. Love with everything you’ve got…If the answer is no, promise me one thing: 

Let the fall make you stronger.” 

I don’t feel jaded about love. I think love is often the only thing that makes sense in this world. I just don’t think that “true love” is what we’ve been raised to think it is. I think it’s less glamorous. I think it’s much more genuine. It’s not something that falls into your lap, it’s something that’s consciously created between you and another person. And the things that we put energy and dedication towards are always the things we treasure the most. 

Check back next Thursday to find out how a love story that unfolded in ITALY may have been a deciding factor in convincing me to move to SPAIN. And if you´re looking for more articles on love and relationships, check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the topic.

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Interview with Melissa Parks from The Intentional Expat

I’m really honored and excited to be featured today on “The Goal List.” I would highly recommend checking out this blog if you want to get motivated to reach your own goals. And the story behind how The Goal List came to be is sure to inspire you, maybe even to make a list of your own.

The Goal List

Today’s interview is with Melissa Parks, who writes as The Intentional Expat. On her blog, Melissa writes that during her first international trip (a study abroad with her university), “it only took a couple of days in Madrid before I had fallen in love with the city.” She now lives and works in Spain as a mental health therapist, and blogs to help people “learn how to navigate the ups and downs of expat life,” or more broadly: to “[Live] Your Best Life Abroad.”

Photo courtesy of Melissa Parks (theintentionalexpat.wordpress.com) - Used with permission Photo courtesy of Melissa Parks – Used with permission

Name and blog:
Melissa Parks from The Intentional Expat

Fun fact about you:
I’ve been writing since before I could actually write. I used to dictate stories to my dad to write for me and then I’d illustrate them. Once I could write, I started journaling and haven’t stopped since. I now have over 70 journals!

Funner…

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#TBT: Bienvenidos to the Cold and Flu Season (2009)

Every Thursday I publish a post from another blog I used to have in honor of Throwback Thursday (#TBT). This week’s post is from exactly five years ago (October 2009) when I’d been living in Madrid and working as an English teaching assistant for a little over a month. It seems appropriately timed since Madrid’s weather is just as strange right now. Although Madrid’s weather patterns seem to have remained the same, my life has changed a lot over these past five years though and I’m hoping my immune system is quite a lot stronger too!  Continue reading


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Check Out My Expat Spotlight Top 3 Tips for Spain on InsidersAbroad.com

I’m excited to announce that I’m going to be a contributing blogger on Insider’s Abroad’s Spain website. My first contribution is the the Expat Spotlight Top 3 Tips Section. Check out what I have to say in regards to where to dine in Madrid, must see places in Spain and an unexpected item that all travelers need to include in their luggage when packing for Spain. While visiting the site you can also check out what other expats have to say about Spain or visit their France and Italy pages.

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The Intentional Expat Interview Series: An English Teacher in Western Mongolia

The past few weeks of interviews have been a huge success! The first week we heard from J Russell Mikkelsen, an avid traveler and blogger and last week got a glimpse at life abroad for a Spaniard living in the USA. Today’s interview comes from fellow blogger Tina, who got in touch with me a few weeks ago to be part of the interview series. I took one look at her blog, Kulturschock! and sent the questions her way. While we haven’t met personally, Tina has the Intentional Expat spirit written all over here. An American who got an MA in Germany and is now teaching English in none other than Western Mongolia, this is a woman who is taking life by the horns and living her best life abroad. Like she says in her “About Me” section of her blog:  Continue reading


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Walking the Walk: Why Was It So Life Changing?

For the past six weeks, each Thursday (in honor of #TBT, “Throw Back Thursday),  I’ve been sharing blog posts that I wrote back in 2013 regarding everything I learned on my week long trip along Spain’s El Camino de Santiago during Spring Break (Semana Santa) 2013.

 In Part 1 of the series, I hinted on the fact that it had been a life changing experience. Today I’d like to explain just why that was. I wrote those posts when I was going through a particularly difficult time in life and in order to get through it I did what I’ve always done during moments of emotional turmoil: I turned to writing to help me to make sense of things. By reflecting on my experience on “El Camino” through my writing, I was able to recall some of the important lessons I learned along that weeklong journey and this ultimately helped me to continue on through the darkness until I arrived at the end of that particular emotional journey:     Continue reading


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The Intentional Expat Interview Series: Meet Jhey!

It’s Monday and that means that it’s time for another edition of the Intentional Expat Interview Series. Last week’s interview with fellow blogger J Russell Mikkelsen was a huge success and this week I’m excited to introduce you to Jhey, a Spaniard living in the states. I also met him several years ago in Alicante when he was my Spanish teacher for four weeks. In the years that followed we traded places, but we’ve stayed in touch in the way all 21st century expats should…via postcards
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