Living in Spain

Expat guilt, living abroad, freelancing to freedom

I know I said I was going to take 10 days off blogging here, but this popped into my head this morning…

One of the most commented on elements of my recent recording about learning to live abroad, was the fact that when you up sticks to go and live far away from family and friends, it’s easy to feel guilty about those you leave behind. For many years I felt terrible about having voluntarily moved myself so far from my family, even though I’m just 2 hours from the UK by plane, and it’s just 8 hours door to door from here to my parent’s house.

One thing I neglected to mention is that there is one possible lifestyle choice, which although it may at first not seem open to everyone, can make a big difference in removing those feelings of guilt: being self-employed. In March 2006 my mother became very ill, eventually dying in April 2007. It was a horrendous year to say the least, and the one thing that I constantly thanked fate/luck/myself for was the fact that I was self-employed and able to travel to England regularly, and at the drop of the hat. Had I had a full-time job here with a contract, I would have been up against the horrendous rules that govern emergency days off in Spain. But I was working as a freelance translator and building our websites into a business, and as long as I took my laptop with me and summoned enough energy, I could keep things going from the UK while feeling really happy to be able to be around the family and lend a hand.

Now, I was of course very lucky. Not every freelance job will let you have this sort of freedom, the sort of freedom that goes a long way towards assuaging those feelings of ex-pat guilt. But there are many many jobs and businesses that you can set up or aim towards that will allow you the freedom that was so crucial to my life from March 2006 to April 2007. It’s worth thinking about, especially if you are considering a move to Spain or feel trapped here by an imposing job.

I never, for one minute, thought I could be a successful freelancer or start a business that would give me the freedom to travel freely to the UK and beyond. The former, being a freelance translator, was relatively easy in the end. I’m still not sure I could have done the latter, setting up a business, without Marina doing half the work as well. But if you are determined enough, there is no reason you can’t make the life you want in Spain, relieving half the guilt in the process. There are hundreds of freelance jobs that can be done on-line, and many more businesses that can be set up and run over the net. Good luck!

Essential reading: The 4 hour workweek