Fall is undoubtedly, without hesitation, my favorite time of year! Crisp Autumn winds, smells of outdoor fire pits, crunchy leaves between your feet and a warm scarf wrapped around your once tanned shoulders. It signifies routine, with kids back to school, and an anticipation in the air of holiday festivities to come.
Most recently since our family’s relocation from America to Spain, the Fall season also represents a slight tinge of…homesickness. When I long for apple cider, candy corns, roasting marshmallows and the crackle of that first firepit of the season I think of our old life in New Jersey.
Every expat goes through it at one time or another, usually around their second or third year in a new country. I mean, Barcelona is simply breathtaking every. single. day. of the year and I pray we never take that for granted having the opportunity to live and work in this majestic city. Some days I still walk the streets and pinch myself that we are here.
But something about sipping sangria at an outdoor cafe surrounded by palm trees in November makes it feel more like vacation than a transition into my favorite time of the year. (I won’t lie, though, the sangria definitely warms me up on a brisk Barcelona day ha!)
So what does an American expat do when those moments of longing for the familiarity of home start creeping in?
Head to the Kitchen
It’s so true what they say, food really does bring people together. It’s the universal language of culture, tradition and celebration. So this Fall, when my nose begged for the scent of familiar comfort foods, I headed into our tiny (cozy ha!) kitchen and whipped up my mom’s amazing family recipe for Italian meat sauce.
Carefully adding herbs and spices with a dash of parmesan cheese (not to mention a generous cup of red wine) filled our Spanish apartment with aromas of home. That’s when I grabbed myself a huge chunk of bakery fresh bread, soaked up the delicious hearty sauce and reconnected with my inner Italian Jersey Girl 🙂
Turn Up the Volume
Lots of people don’t realize that New Jersey is home to some of the greatest musicians EVER! Jon Bon Jovi, Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springstein, Whitney Houston and the Four Seasons. So if ever I feel homesick, it’s never long before the beats of “Dead or Alive” or “New York, New York” fill our fourth floor apartment. Yes, I sing.
Sometimes I dance.
And always…I feel at home.
A trip to Starbucks
There are roughly 4 million cafes in the city of Barcelona alone!! (Okay I’m exaggerating…but it sure feels that way!) I pass about 20 just on our commute to school each morning. All are different, unique, cozy and inviting.
But truth be told, there’s something oddly comforting about walking into this Seattle originated coffee factory with its eclectic saxophone music and signature green cups. Everything about it says America – English menu, baristas that speak the same…AND VENTI sizes, which are unheard of on this side of the globe. Not to mention PSLs people!!!!! (Which, for my European friends, is traditional Starbucks lingo for Pumpkin Spice Latte, only to be found this time of year.)
Taste of America – Literally!
The first time a friend here in Barcelona mentioned this Taste of America store to me, I imagined a Wal-Mart superstore with endless aisles of sale items, brand names and oversized everything! I was giddy with excitement…
What I got was a bit of a buzz-kill both in size, scope and sales!! A box of Lucky Charms cost €10 (equivalent to $13)!! Nonetheless, stepping inside this little bodega and spotting shelves filled with American favorites gave me a reminiscent feeling.
Pillsbury cake mixes, mini marshmallows, Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups, diet cherry Coca Cola and beef jerky sparkled like jewels and also gave me a good laugh. So THESE are the delicacies sought out by fellow Americans living in Spain?! Not a single gluten-free, additive-free, color safe product in there!
So you might be wondering if the hefty price tags and overload of high fructose corn syrup scared me away?!
I selected four items, paid €50 and happily marched out the door excited to go home and indulge in overpriced American junk food!
Spend Time with New Friends
The great thing about being an expat is, we run in packs! When you move your family abroad thousands of miles away from home, the first friends you make are most likely other expats. There’s a certain comfort found in the friendship of someone else going through the exact same stage in life as you.
When one of the kids gets sick, my expat mom friends jump in to help. When I lock myself out of our apartment by mistake, they open their doors and start brewing fresh coffee. And when I start to feel tingles of homesickness, I can rest assured that they’re likely going through the same thing.
We have each other’s backs. We’re each other’s family.
With the holidays in full swing and Christmas almost a month away, beautiful memories fill my heart of past celebrations in America.
It’s hard not to feel homesick this time of year…
But just maybe the memories we make with the children this year in Barcelona will earn a place in my heart right alongside the beloved memories from back home.
And as the season comes and goes, that pesty little homesick bug will too…
Wishing you all a blessed and beautiful holiday!