I left the UK, moved to rural Spain, and married in 6 Months at 26. Driving from London to Barcelona through the night in a jam-packed Transit Van whilst neck-deep in bureaucracy was all worth it.
It wasn’t easy. I know it may seem like I have to say that because life is pretty damn good right now… — It wasn’t.
He said when we met: “I can’t promise you it will be easy but it will be fun”
And he meant it. In the middle of the Brovid (Brexit-Covid) pandemic, my life changed so radically in 6 months, I’m still checking if this is not just a beautiful dream. Or is it?
If you believe in borders you could say I’m Catalan, born in Barcelona. And also Spanish. The Catalan side likes to work hard. The Spanish side likes to chill hard. It’s taken me years to refine the perfect balance.
Home at the time was Margate. I’d already done the “big” move from London a year before and was now enjoying the privileges of the softest side of the pandemic by the cold sea: time & fresh air. We were looking at properties to buy in the area. Had a tight group of mates.
It was a cold, wintery day by the British seaside. The smell of weed & incense embodied the air and made me daydream myself into a cozy doze. Suddenly, I felt a pair of googly, starey eyes on me.
The crazy eyes. He said: “I’m moving to Spain next week, are you coming?”
Next thing I know, my now-then boyfriend and I are meeting a random bloke from Gumtree behind a closed-down pub in the middle of bum fuck nowhere. Pissing rain. A wad of cash stuffed in my knickers. Not sketchy. Just a casual, between lockdowns, mid-pandemic Wednesday afternoon.
Besides the giant Christmas tree left inside and the fact that it was almost as old as us, we bought Tanzania. The toughest, most reliable Transit van in the world. That for a mere 1,300 GBP and a few missing parts later, took us thousands of miles and never once let us down. We never saw the bloke again.
Trapped on Island
We were moving to Spain for reals. Shit.
The van was so full I’m pretty sure it was 10 inches lower. Mostly from all the paperwork you had to carry in order to cross invisible borders, including but not limited to 1 flat rental contract in Spain, 2 green cards, 3 travel certificates (one for each country we would cross), work contracts, covid certificates, curfew certificates, sworn statements, the Eurotunnel ticket, plant passports, our passports, etc.
The reason for such an extravagant amount of bureaucracy was that a week prior, at Heathrow Airport, with two tickets to Spain and a bunch of work-related documents, my British lover was still denied boarding.
Cold sweats, panic, claustrophobia. You should’ve seen his face. Looked like something out of Final Destination. “We’re trapped on plague island” he uttered as we jumped on a train back to Margate. Not because of Covid, because of Brexit.
The next two weeks were spent wrapping up our lives: vacating the flat, packing, saying goodbye to friends, plotting in which box we could smuggle Conrad out of the country, worse came to worst, if he got denied entry into France— mysteriously our 1-year rental agreement was coming to an end. And our landlord had decided that same week to put the place up for sale.
Suffice to say, we were pretty nervous and excited to cross into France. Especially considering some dude had tried to do a runner on foot, through the same tunnel; and got arrested.
2 AM. 886.7 miles ahead. Back to the place where I was born. 15h non-stop driving (that’s a lot of thinking folks). They barely looked at us at the border. We stopped in Paris for a coffee and couldn’t even find a miserable croissant.
We made it to Barcelona. All is well… phew. Except.
My boyfriend is now living against an invisible clock. After having lived there on and off for 10 years now he was only legally allowed to stay in the country for 3 months (in any EU country) in a 6-month period. Then we would dramatically be separated like Romeo and Juliette. Fun fact: my real last name is Romeu.
Get Married Abroad: We Did It
Predicting this shitshow, and since so much adventure had made us really close, we decided to get married. Renegade Millenials in our 20’s. In a pandemic. No proposal. No engagement ring. Cos that’s how we roll, baby.
Overall it only took hundreds of hours, whole weeks finding & filling documents, hiring several notaries, translators, and one lawyer, sending a ton of emails, waiting on hold with embassies for what seemed like an eternity, a family drama, paying a bunch of money, waiting several months and finally, we were married. That’s what I call Romantic.
Six people with masks were allowed to witness the overall 10-minute affair that took place right outside our apartment. My father didn’t come, he was pissed off I didn’t invite his girlfriend. My gran threatened she wouldn’t come if the girlfriend did. It was a whole thing. Neither did Conrad’s parents who would not have been able to take a flight. They don’t even know we’re married yet. Then again, they did the same thing to their parents 30 years ago. Oops.
They let us take off the mask for the kiss though. I wore pink head-to-toe. We had paella after, duh. My new husband jumped on a Harley, drove that same night to the airport, and flew to Paris for work. I got hammered with an old friend and had a great time.
Not that look again, you guessed it. The crazy eyes.
“You need to stop doing this”, I said eyes still lazily adjusting to the morning light. “Let’s put everything we own in storage, take Tanza, and go around Spain and Portugal. I had a vision that we would find a bit of land or a house or something and then we can buy it.”
Next thing I know, I am saying thanks to my godfather for storing all of our belongings and heading out on the adventure for 3 weeks.
Just like he had predicted, we traveled. It wasn’t 3 weeks, it was 3 months.
Three months of living in a commercial van. Not a camper, not in the least adapted for living. We left with two bags of clothes, a laptop, a Mutt Motorcycle (yes, inside), a shitty tent we used once, and a fridge full of beers. 0%, of course. Cough.
It wasn’t glamorous. At one point I had more mosquito-bite-covered skin than not. We drove for so, so many miles covering the whole of Spain and Portugal.
I got stung by 4 wasps at once. We slept every night al fresco on top of the van on a DIY bed frame made of old beams, two nights in a commune. I got a fined 780.00€. He got into surfing and looked like he was straight outta Bay Watch. I got into rapping, really into writing the lyrics and singing my little heart out.
We savored the Algarve. Reconnected with old & new friends. Windowless for the whole trip (that’s another story). We rejoiced in the meaning of the word freedom.
Swam naked, made love on top of cliffs, and howled at the moon. We petted wild bores and saw majestic deer and exotic flowers in bloom. In Santander, after the most delightful insight-filled afternoon, we ended up in an Emergency room. Sigh.
Nightly we put up fairy lights and bought plants in Lidl to make it homely. We ventured into the eeriest abandoned towns and told each other ghost stories.
Drove more and more, into the day, into the night. Drank beer, smoked weed, ate pizza late; felt totally and utterly inspired and amazed.
And eventually in Andalusia, after an extraordinary roam, in a tiny sleepy white town in the middle of the mountains and hills, we found a home.
Little did we know what was gonna happen next.“It won’t be easy but it will be fun” he had promised.
Note featured image from Wedding couple vector created by story set – www.freepik.com