The Move to La Gomera (Canary Islands, Spain)

So I’ve been living in Spain- or more specifically, La Gomera- for almost TWO months! Not that you’d think it from my lack of updates.

arriving-in-gomera

La Gomera is a unique, enchanting island nestled among 6 other islands, forming the Canaries. We’re probably closer to Africa than Europe, which adds to the sense of other-worldly and bubble like atmosphere I find myself in. I’m in Spain and yet I’m not at all- I’m (literally) in the Atlantic Ocean.

one-edge-of-gomera

Here comes the inevitable, “well what have you been doing?” from friends and family, and I’ll admit, from myself. In short, not a whole lot. Nothing to dress up and publish on an inspiring travel blog anyway. But isn’t that the point? This is an expat blog, so mundane or not, it’s all part of the big picture.

So, what have I done?

I moved into an apartment.

wide-view-san-sebastian-pastel-colours

It has 2 bedrooms, it’s incredibly cheap and boasts a view from the balcony so spectacular it’s worth the 300-odd steps to get there. My boss found the apartment for me, but if you can speak the lingo it isn’t difficult at all. My colleague viewed several before choosing what she likes to call her ‘old lady cottage’, while other colleagues are very happy living in the centre of town, above a pizzeria. Something for everybody here!

I suffered my first lonesome nights without a working phone or wifi.

secluded-beach-quava-tenerife-volc-distance

Times like these I hate myself for not downloading the entire box set of Friends or a handful of decent movies before leaving home. Nope, I was stuck with the few on my laptop which have been watched and re-watched so many times I know all the words. At least I had some company.

I took a drive outside of town.

valley-gran-rey-slopes-to-sea

Valley Gran Rey is dream-like but jaw-droppingly stunning. I realised La Gomera is actually far bigger than I thought. With the national park and all the mountains, it takes over an hour to get to the other side, despite it having a diameter of only 22KM (14 miles).

With a week before school starting, I spent my days planning lessons for my 3 to 12-year-old classes.

burst-of-orange-sunlight

It’s always so overwhelming starting a new job, particularly in teaching. Every school has it’s own way of doing things. There’s new syllabi and books to get acquainted with, levels and ages of students you may have very little experience working with. But I fell in love with my classroom. It’s so spacious and well-equipped. I have hundreds of resources, toys, flashcards, books and games at my disposal.

misty-sunset-over-town

So I sifted through everything at leisure, went to a few cafes and tested the coffees, bought postcards, got myself a SIM card, located the Post Office, worked out how to do my laundry (such an odd washing machine, it likes to electrocute me from time to time). Nothing to write home about, really.

But settling in is such a HUGE part of Expat Life.

me-sitting-view

I’m not giving it enough credit. Those first days (more so the long nights) are scary and difficult- you are such an outsider. Even now I can’t sleep with my bedroom door closed. When the fuses went the other evening I sat absolutely petrified until I peeled myself off the sofa to go investigate. Going to the fruit and vegetable markets is new and a little daunting, especially if this kind of thing gives you anxiety (which they do for me, a LOT). With little contact with the outside world, you wonder if you made the right choice. You think about the fireplace at home and your ma’s roast potatoes and the washing machine which never electrocuted you.

where-sky-meets-sea-platform

Soon enough work started. I met my colleagues, we got the dreaded first lesson out of the way. Not too many tears if I recall (from my end that is, ha) and life went along pretty smoothly.

tad-drunk-paint-tattoos

What really has helped me to form a sense of belonging is a colleague in particular who- even after I laid in the street after one too many and proceeded to invite myself to hers and wet her bed- is a constant source of laughter and support. We’re near enough the same age and come from similarly unconventional backgrounds and well, what can I say? We’re kindred spirits.

proud-like-palm

Now I’m over the “AHHHH” overwhelmed phase of moving to a new place, I’m in the “I need to sort my life out” phase. There’s only so long you can get away with saying ‘it’s okay, I’m still settling in’ and binge eating whole packets of biscuits.

So this is where I am now.

bay-of-san-sebastian-and-boats

I’m sitting on my far-too-big-for-one-person blanket (the kind you’re supposed to share with others, like a giant packet of crisps- which I’m also half way through eating) on the grey, stony sand. The sun has just set and there’s a couple of naked kids running in and out of the sea. The street lamps have all flicked on and the town is alive again- the bars re-open after their afternoon siestas, the teenagers gather in groups and own the place- I tell you, the kids have better social lives than me!

pinky-purple-sky

Next week I (finally) start Spanish lessons.

All I’ve heard myself saying ALL October is, “I need a routine sorted”, “I definitely want to start learning Spanish”, “I need to go back to those online courses I was doing”, “need to get back into yoga” bla bleugh bla bla. Did I? No. I watched BBC’s Broadchurch and Thirteen series, then Happy Valley and I’ve just started Orange is the New Black. I’m also shamefully watching X factor just because I miss home. I like watching all this TV because for a little while I’m home. But mostly because mindless TV offers the perfect distraction from life.

park-tower-trees

I feel like someone’s been playing God with my hormones.

One minute I’m up up up. Feeling super creative, ready to go. Then I’m down, curled up in a blanket with a cup of tea. Then I’m focused, planning fantastic classes for my students, moisturizing regularly, cooking decent meals, even remembering to shave. After a bit it all goes out of the window and I can’t get up from the sofa unless it’s to eat a whole packet of biscuits. I’m not on any medication- and I’ve not lost my mind (I hope)- this is just the way it always is. I’m going through the motions.

go-for-walk-portrait

But with next week also being the start of a whole new month, I’m ready to make it a productive one. I read a guide by Mark Manson the other day which really helped me to get going. He said rather than jot down a whole bunch of things you want to do, focus instead on which habits you need to implement in order to make anything you want to do actually achievable.

Mine looks like this:

Habit to ImplementDesired Goal

1. Be in bed by 11:30pmread more/ wake up earlier and refreshed

2. Listen to funky music in the morningstop snoozing the alarm
3. After morning wash, immediately change into yoga clothespractice 20 minutes of yoga Monday-Thursday
4. Be at school by 11AM Monday to Thursdayplan lessons in advance
5. Instead of watching TV in the day, go to the park or beachread yoga books, write notes for blog
6. Study 30 minutes every evening (will need to install Wifi)Complete FutureLearn online courses.

You’ll notice that thinking about the habits makes things a lot more precise. It takes the goal out of the ‘Would like to do this at some point‘ file of our mind to the ‘I WILL do this at this specified time”, which is obviously more likely to result in achieving our goals!

sunset-view-balcony

Get up every morning and try to think about what you wish to grow to be. Is what you’re currently doing really expressing that? Then go out and walk the walk, talk the talk, and do it and be it.”- Swami Chetanananda

Do you have a routine to help you stay organised, focused and productive? Or do you think I ought to just enjoy my simple life on Gomera? If you’ve just moved somewhere and are struggling with homesickness or a wave of overwhelm– particularly with teaching or the new culture- drop a comment or email me anytime!

Hi! I’m Sarah. I dropped out of university tired with the mundane life I was living in England. Now I’m an aspiring ex-pat of the world, having already lived and worked in Vietnam, Italy and Maldives. I’m using this blog to document my experiences and hopefully inspire others!

48 Comments

  1. I have left my country more than 3 years ago and I remember how hard it was at the beginning to adapt to the new life. Even now, I find it difficult as I don’t work with people my age and I have almost no friends in the small town I live in, on the English South Coast. But slowly slowly, even with the lack of friends, I adapted to the new lifestyle and I love my new life. So I think you should just enjoy the simple life and stop worrying. 🙂

    1. Thanks Joanna, gosh that must have been difficult without some friends to ease you in. Its great you’re loving your life! I do enjoy the simple life but can’t help feel at my age I need to be constantly “doing” and improving where I can. But you’re right! Worrying is counterproductive.

  2. That view from your apartment is awe-inspiring. It must be amazing to wake up to those views. Great to know that you are getting acquainted with new life and exploring the nature around your town.

  3. Two years ago I left my country for 8 month and went to China… It was so difficult for me to be far from my family. I felt lost, almost did not speak Chinese… But at the end I felt I was going to miss China and now I just hope I’ll go back there as soon as possible! Enjoy your time!

  4. So exciting and inspiring to read about your move and new life in La Gomera! I sometimes enjoy not having wifi and technology around, i find myself more creative without the distractions. This place looks so beautiful and serene. Good luck with your new adventures 🙂

  5. Well done on your move and new job. Things will take time to settle into a routine. I just finished watching Thirteen gosh how scary. Good luck you will be fine give yourself time to adjust.

  6. With time new friends too will drop into your life and you will soon get busy with them. Enjoy the scenic beauty all around, forget internet for some time. I think you are lucky. 🙂

  7. wow congratulations for having an apartment here! Now you got to enjoy these beautiful surroundings like everyday and night ☺

  8. Your photographs of the views looks amazing! It is great that your boss helped you find a place. I hope you enjoy your stay. Think of the lack of wifi a mandatory down time to go exploring!

  9. Settling in an other country can be a tough process, especially if you don’t speak the language. I had a hard time when I lived in the Czech Republic. I had some up and down moments. I’m going to do the settling thing again in February when I’ll move to Florida… I’ve been to the US before and I like it there, so hopefully everything will go smoothly. I wish you the best time in La Gomera and hope you have an amazing time there, because it looks like paradise judging by the pictures 🙂

    1. Thank you Frenchie:) Up and down, the story of my life at present. Ooooh Florida, a big change. I think I’d struggle to adapt even though they speak my mother tongue- it’s just so different! Good luck yourself and immerse into the culture!

  10. La Gomera is absolutely beautiful! I love your shots and would totally understand if all you did for a while was to admire this place’s beauty. A new country, a new house, a new job, it sounds like a lot, so settling in should be a priority. i also get the struggle of setting up a routine of sorts. Whenever I find my self in a situation where a lot is changing, and fast, trying to come up with a workable routine is what helps me adapt to all the changes.

    1. Haha exactly! I needed a few months just to feast my eyes on it all. Yes I think that’s what I’m trying to do with building a routine, but some days it just does to pot!

  11. What a beautiful place to begin a new chapter! The views are incredible, the weather looks sparkling and the atmosphere unmatched! I hope you do well with your Spanish lessons! I know a bit, but not enough to get by if I were to live there.

  12. Very happy if get apartment bargain price and very beautiful scenery. I love to see the sights in the area. There are a lot of buildings in the surrounding hills. protected by the walls of the hill

  13. I hope that November allows you to settle into your routine a bit more. It’s true that you should embrace the simple life of Gomera, but having a solid schedule of good practices/habits will make it much more enjoyable. How long do you intend to stay there? I’m currently on my 5th country and 9th city within the past 8 years and contemplating the next move 🙂

  14. Wow, from the looks of it, this is one of the best places you can be as an expat. The place looks stunningly beautiful going by the photos. Quite an unconventional destination to be an expat but so much worth it. Good Luck 🙂

  15. I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never been to the Canary Islands even though I was born in Spain, but I’ve always heard great things about La Gomera. Apparently less crowded and more local than the rest of the islands. I envy you a little for living in a permanent sunny place! 🙂

    Good luck with your Spanish lessons, the ‘canario’ accent sounds lovely!

    1. Oh well I was born in England that doesn’t mean I’ve been down to Cornwall or had my Beatles photo taken in Liverpool, don’t be embarrassed! Yes a lot less crowded and very peaceful. Yes but we do get the odd cloudy/rainy day!! Gracia! (here they don’t always pronounce their “S” 🙂

  16. Good thing that you have not given up. It makes all the difference that you carry forward and make things work in your favor. Good luck with this move and I am sure you are going to soon settle in and have fun. p.S: I love your pics.

  17. I can understand the phase from which you can passing by but then your clearly designed ‘Habits to Implement” would help you in many ways if followed by strictly. Discipline and yoga make life better.

  18. Hey Sarah! This is totally bizarre – I was reading your old posts about the Maldives as I have a teaching job offer there and see you’re now working exactly where I did last year! Unless they’ve opened a new school on La Gomera (unlikely) heh. My girlfriend and I ran the school in Playa de Santiago. Hope you’re enjoying it down there and making the most of your time on those extraordinary islands 🙂

    1. Haha oh wow!!! Awww Amy has mentioned you guys! Yes isn’t La Gomera incredible! A little quiet sometimes but I adore it. I’m thinking I’ll stay another academic year! How you doing? Will you accept the post in Maldives? Is it in Male or Hulhumale? Maldives is stunning but not if you’re a hiker!

      1. Great to hear you’re enjoying it so much! SS has a bit more going on than Santiago which must help. We managed to visit all 7 islands during our time there, they’re all so distinct. Unfortunately the Maldives job is in Male and I haven’t heard many good things about the capital and quality of life there. Where were you based? I’m slowly getting through all your posts about your time there but still have a million questions!

  19. This is nice. My wife and I are excited for the vacation we’ve booked in Spain and definitely we will go to the Canary. La Gomera is one of our eyeing place for our 1st stop 🙂 There so many thing we want to do from a page we’ve read https://www.canaryislandsinfo.co.uk/la-gomera/.I wanted to know if you have experience traveling to this wonderful Island. Is there anything you can recommend aside from your past travel in in Spain?

    1. Hello! Thanks for stopping by. I hope you have a magical time in La Gomera! The best advice is to give yourself lots of time, rent out a car for several days, get yourself a map and have an incredible time exploring.

What do you think? Let me know!

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