A Change of Plans

Daylight was beginning to creep behind snow-covered mountains as I chugged south towards Madrid, watching my dream fade slowly in near darkness. I was just south of Oviedo, in Asturias, a place I was so glad I’d found and which now made me sad as I was suddenly forced to leave. Life’s an adventure, I reminded myself. When one door closes, another opens….

change of plans
My last views of Asturias on the train towards Madrid airport.

Just five days before I was thinking how much I enjoyed teaching in Spain. Olin, my five-year-old, had found a great school and had made new friends quickly. Our apartment was in the old quarter of Gijón, my favourite city in Spain. We were two blocks from the sea and cafés/bars lined our front entrance. I enjoyed watching the sunset behind Plaza del Carmen from my balcony.

That same day my partner went for a hospital checkup about something that was bugging her and it soon became one of those things in the back of your mind that you fear, but is (almost) never realised – like a bad dream. Funnily enough, the next day her parents were due to leave and just like that my family did the only thing sensible. They fled too.

a change of plans
Gijón’s San Lorenzo Beach and 15th-century church, San Pedro

I had four days to tie things up and say goodbye to our life in Gijón.

It still feels a bit surreal sitting here in Byron Bay, 26 degrees Celsius and clear blue skies, while in Gijón it was five degrees and winter was kicking in. I already miss the multitude of history that lay around us, as there were so many writing opportunities, places to explore, and I was just beginning to get a better look at things after finally setting up our life there.

But then again, our trip has made me realise that family is the most important thing to me and Spain was nothing without them. ‘Fuck Spain’ has become our new lighthearted saying to make the most of closed doors.

The positives

First and foremost, Nikki is on the mend and things are looking good. A full recovery looks likely and while the past few weeks have been dark, the cloud is beginning to lift and the positives of life back in Australia are becoming apparent. It’s a place where Nikki can start her passion – art therapy – and I can have an easier base to explore from.

change of plans
Back in Byron Bay. It’s a dog’s life.

Upon returning, we’ve been reminded how easy it is to be healthy in Australia. Comparatively few people smoke here, while in Spain it felt 20 years back in time in this regard, and not so infrequently I was forced to swallow a plume of smoke on my wanders.

The food in Australia, at least in my experience, seems more varied, is healthier and I would say the standard of living is a little higher. Although I will miss the wonderful Asturian stews and cider, I won’t miss the endless sweets and pinchos de tortillas. Of course there are many benefits to living in Spain compared to here, but I don’t want to think about those now, given we have no plans to return any time soon.


I often heard in Spain, in regards to where we’re from, “que lejos!” (how far!) and it got me thinking about spending more time in our neck of the woods. Of course I’m not done with travelling, or this blog. In fact I’m gearing up for 2016 to be my biggest year to date. I struggled with this blog in Spain, and looking back we really did struggle quite a lot there. I will write about that soon.

change of plans
Returning to explore Cumbebin Swamp – the old hunting ground of the Arakwal who are the traditional custodians of Byron Bay.

Right now, I’ve got my eye on a couple of islands, one at the bottom of Australia and the other about 2,500 kilometres to the south-east. Dramatic, stunning places that are relatively inexpensive to get to, places I can whip in and out of solo. I’m also keen to see more of the South Pacific and of course Australia. I will be putting more energy into this place, right here.

Being back for one week, the freelance writing work has picked up and Nikki’s looking better. I’ve also got quite a lot of Spanish adventures to catch up on here and I’m feeling a surge of energy and passion. I’m looking forward to finding new mysteries and old places, which of course are just everywhere.

Another door opens…

Thank you Spain. You, like many places I’ve been to, have taught us a lot.

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