The Intentional Expat

Living Your Best Life Abroad


Facing my Fears: The Long Overdue End to my 30/30 Bday Challenge

In honor of turning 30 back on September 1st, I decided to spend 30 days doing one new thing a day. While the challenge ended almost two months ago, I am only now getting around to blogging about the last two days. Turns out being 30 is keeping me quite busy! But since it came to a close with a fairly “blogworthy” Day 30 challenge, I had to share it here. Read on to find out what the last day of my challenge had in store.  Continue reading


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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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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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TEDxMadrid 2014

Five years ago, I left the states with plans to create a home for myself here in Madrid. Turns out, I wasn’t the only one. Back in fall 2009, TEDx also made its way to Spain for the first time, with the first TEDxMadrid conference taking place on October 9th at the IE Business School. During the half of a decade that has passed since then, we’ve both put down roots here in Madrid and grown up through the process. Since 2009, I’ve transitioned from being merely one of thousands of English teachers in Spain’s capital city, to being a psychologist and PhD student. In the case of TEDxMadrid, it has blossomed into an all day event hosting speakers from around the world, and requiring an application process in order to ensure that the five hundred people in attendance come from a variety of backgrounds. This growth has also meant a change of scenery, with TEDxMadrid now taking place in Madrid’s former slaughterhouse turned cultural center, “El Matadero.”

While TEDxMadrid and I arrived on Spanish soil only weeks apart from one another, it wasn’t until this year that we formally met. Continue reading


Walking the Walk: Taking Pleasure in the Small Things

Each Thursday (in honor of Throw Back Thursday #tbt), I feature a blog post from the past and for the last three weeks I’ve been doing a series on my experience doing a section of Spain’s El Camino de Santiago last year. Last week I wrote about how my second day on El Camino taught me the importance of relying on your friends to help you push forward during tough (especially rainy) times. This week I’m on day three and although there was less rain, the distance and hills made for a long and exhausting day. 

Day three on El Camino would be our longest of all, with 28 km (17 miles) lying between Palas de Rei and that afternoon’s destination of Arzua. The prior day the hostel receptionist had warned us that this section of the trip was incredibly difficult. Even people who had completed the entire Camino several times agreed that this part was the hardest. Continue reading


English Speaking Licensed Clinical Psychologist in Madrid (Online Sessions Available)

After having this blog for a little over a month, I´ve finally published a tab that includes information about the therapy services I offer both in Madrid (in-person sessions) as well as online (for those living outside of Madrid seeking an English-speaking therapist)Continue reading


TEDxMadrid: Reflections on the Creative Process and How I Got Myself Into this Mess

In March 2005, I embarked on my very first trip outside of North America. Along with 29 other students from my university, I boarded a flight to Europe to embrace twelve weeks of travel throughout Spain, France, Austria, Germany, and Italy. I’ve often been asked what inspired me to sign up for this trip and the truth is that I have no clue. My family never traveled abroad, my experiences outside the states up to this point had been limited to a couple trips up to Vancouver, B.C. and I didn’t have any desire to learn a foreign language. But I knew without a doubt that I wanted to go abroad during college. The only possible explanation is that Continue reading