We arrived back from Norway at about 6 in the evening, and we could hear the work going on upstairs through the open window. We’d been gone for 5 days, the time when most of the final work was coming together. We weren’t sure what to expect.
We dropped our bags and took a quick tour.
The first thing we noticed was the rooftop terrace. When we left, it was covered in black paper. When we walked upstairs, we only saw a beautiful terra cotta tiled floor, ready for a big umbrella and some cushy chairs.
The bedroom floors were sanded and varnished to a gleam, and the white walls were a stark contrast. The dark overhead beams gave each room character, and we began imagining how we’d furnish and decorate each space.
The hardwood floors in the kitchen gave a rustic flair to the more modern white cabinets, and we could imagine friends sitting at the new wooden bar between the kitchen and dining room, chatting with us as we cooked delicious meals together.
While all of this was beautiful and we could see real progress, the fact remained that many of the ways we wanted to use the house were still in our heads.
We didn’t have any furniture on the patio, sheets for the bed, or even blankets or pillows. There were no barstools at the bar. Dust was still everywhere.
Thankfully our years of travel have given us the kind of skills that make almost every situation manageable.
One of the joys of living in a small village is getting to know everyone. We ordered our mattress from Eloy, the local furniture maker, before we left for Norway, and he promised to deliver it on the day we arrived. He wouldn’t take payment until we got back and no paperwork was done.
Trusting in the local way of doing things is something we learned a long time ago. The old us would have worried that he’d forget, or the bed wouldn’t arrive on time, or we’d get the wrong one.
But the mattress did arrive on Monday in perfect condition. Our only problem was that we forgot to order pillows and had no blankets. (Whoops!)
So we took our sleeping bags and put them on the bed, rolling up our fleece jackets to use as pillows just like we do in the tent. Instead of freaking out that we had no blankets or pillows, we simply turned it into an indoor camping experience.
Ask for and Receive Help
You don’t have to do everything for yourself. As Americans, sometimes we have this attitude that we have to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and be completely independent all the time. But giving and receiving help is what binds a community of people, and we put it into practice right away.
The pillows in our area of Spain are commonly just one long pillow to be shared by two people. That just doesn’t work for us, and to get two regular pillows means a trip to another town. We don’t have a car yet, so we simply asked a friend if we could borrow pillows. She dropped them off the next morning, telling us to keep them as long as we needed.
Our neighbor Juan allowed us to store our couch and chair in his garage until the dust settled in our place. Two other friends drove us to do some shopping for housewares in a nearby town.
We’ve been shown many acts of spontaneous kindness and generosity, including fresh eggs from another neighbor, a welcoming container of soup, and rounds of tapas and drinks from villagers we meet in the sunny outdoor cafes. As we settle into this community, we’ll pay forward these kindnesses.
Buy Only What You Need
When we bought the house there were a number of existing kitchen supplies (dishes, pots/pans, and utensils) so we decided to dive in and create a meal and see what was missing. We quickly had to get creative when we found that we had no colander or skillet, but that did not slow us down. We started making a list of items we needed, but only after we determined that it would greatly improve our cooking situation. By asking each other if we really need it, we can keep true to our goal to staying minimal while continuing to enjoy the life we’re creating here.
I will say that regardless of the number of shortcuts we had to go through to make it, the chorizo and white bean soup tasted all the better because we cooked it together as a team in our new home. It was delicious.
Remember the Romance
Waking up that first morning, we agreed that we would watch the sunrise from our new terrace. True to our goals, I started coffee first thing and waited for Betsy to join me. It wasn’t long that the smell of freshly brewed ambrosia filled our new home and Betsy was bounding down the steps. We embraced and reminded each other how amazing that we were standing in our own kitchen…in Spain. WOW, what a fantastic feeling.
We poured nectar into our cups and headed up to the terrace to watch the sunrise. We’ve seen hundreds of these, and it never gets old. Standing there watching the light come up over the hill I was reminded of just why I love the life we are creating together. The last few months have been stressful as we write our next book together at the same time we decided to embark on buying this house in a foreign country, but that all seemed to wash away as we stood overlooking this tiny village we’ve decided to make our part-time home.
We continue to follow the principles we identified all those years ago and honed over the last 3.5 years of living, traveling, and working together. Our dream has evolved, but our commitment to the creation of a life well lived has not.
We’re going after this new adventure with the passion and excitement (and romance) we’ve created over the last 10 years together. Now we’re just doing it with good wine and more siestas.
And just to remind you that life doesn’t always work out the way you want, the first morning we woke up in our new house we heard jackhammers.
Yes, the house next door – the one that we share a wall with – is undergoing a complete demolition and reconstruction. Our little writing retreat won’t be very peaceful until the summer.
Luckily we have a 6-week book tour coming up!