You’ve read about our adventures to Porto and Ibiza, the gastronomic delights we’ve enjoyed, hikes we’ve taken up steep, rocky hills, and the awe inspired within us while gazing at elaborately decorated architecture – the highlights that make a good story. Perhaps some of you are wondering, however, what we actually do all day every day over here. I promise it’s not all adventurous exploring, wine tasting and excitement. Sometimes – actually, every day – we just live and work, creating some semblance of a normal (albeit perhaps our best normal) life. So in case you are curious, here are some glimpses into a typical day in the life of Joe and Abbey abroad.
Most importantly, we attempt to settle into a routine, just as we would back home. Our days begin with a protein shake, after which I convince my husband that yes, he really does want to get up and work out. When first settling in to life in Barcelona, we realized that we couldn’t simply fly by the seat of our pants every day; we needed healthy, daily patterns and habits. Once we found a store selling protein and oats, we were ready to go – morning workouts are just so satisfying and really lend a sense of accomplishment to the rest of the day. Major bonus: I hardly ever have to actually cook breakfast (my least favorite meal; not to be confused with brunch, one of my very favorite meals).
Once we’ve knocked out a workout – alternating between interval and strength training routines – we can tuck in and get work done. A beautiful thing about living 6-8 hours ahead of most of the rest of your working world (ie Austin) is that mornings are free to take care of ourselves and other projects. Joe catches up on email, works on tasks that might have been pushed aside before, and prepares for the four-hour chunk of his workday that overlaps with the Central US timezone – about 3-7pm, depending on our country of residence. I alternate between blogging, working on my book, making my way through an online travel writing seminar, and planning our trips. Sometimes our schedule pushes work hours later – Joe might have a 6 or 7pm meeting, I might get wrapped up in blogging – and we’ll often both be intently focused on our computers until 8 or 8:30pm before realizing it’s almost dinner time. But this makes sense for us – and the flexibility is mind-blowing for me.
In an attempt to take full advantage of these amazing cities we’re calling temporary homes, we typically spend one weekday morning a week visiting a monument or exploring an unfamiliar area of town (in addition to exploratory weekend outings). The other day, for example, we ventured over to the ancient agora (civic center) of Athens before the crowds got big or the sun got really warm. Back in the apartment by late morning, we got right back into work mode – our spirits a bit more enriched and our feet a bit more weary.
One part of our schedule that I really enjoy is meal time (shocking, I’m sure!!). Cooking allows me to take a break from my writing, reading, blogging, studying, etc to stretch my legs, clear my head and stay inspired. It’s therapeutic, satisfying, healthy, and cost-effective. Even if I’m simply throwing together a salad or making a quick snack platter, I take pleasure in creating tasty, nutritious, and beautiful food. Plus, I get to make trips to the fantastic and massive indoor/outdoor markets selling the freshest and most beautiful food you’ve ever seen – it’s always an eye-opening, educational experience.
Most evenings wind down with a calimocho, some music, windows or patio doors flung open, and me dancing around the kitchen while Joe finishes up whatever project has his attention. We have several TV show seasons begging to be finished, so occasionally we’ll watch an episode or two in a slow attempt to catch up. Sometimes we go out for dinner – we’ve certainly had some memorable meals on this trip – which enables us to further explore our current city. And let’s face it – cooking is great, but not every single night. One evening we’ll wander into a new bar, and another we’ll just zig zag our way through narrow streets back to the apartment. Every now and then we’ll stay up way too late talking to brand new friends, dancing the night away, or finishing a bottle of pink bubbles on our couch. We also read a lot – thank goodness for Kindles.
Sounds pretty normal, doesn’t it? Once we’ve re-established our schedule in each new place we settle comfortably in to working, laughing, hanging out, exploring, cooking and eating together, enjoying each other’s company and delighting in each new experience as well as every familiar moment. While we may be having the time of our lives (except when miring in visa hell – more on that later), reveling in this incredible opportunity to live abroad for one year, some of our greatest successes and most authentic moments happen quietly, almost imperceptibly, while we’re just living.