personal travel

How I Ended Up in Gibraltar

So, in case any of you hadn’t noticed I’ve ended up moving to Gibraltar. Typing it out cements its status as quite a bizarre thing that has happened in my life. It’s an odd feeling being honest, especially because of how bruised my arm is after pinching myself too many times to see if I’m dreaming – but I’m still here, or possibly in some deep Matrix-like coma. Maybe we all are, I guess we’ll never know.

The feeling being here is quite different to my experiences of going abroad to Spain and Tanzania, mainly because nobody is holding my hand during the moving process. Both of those relocations were through organisations, where they hooked me up with host families, jobs, and generally kept an eye on us all during our times there. Now it’s me and my girlfriend, all by ourselves and being honest, the freedom of being abroad and making everything work out yourself is probably the best part – if not highly stressful. Yet as they say, no risk no reward.

Made a friend at the top of ‘The Rock’ (September, 2021) 🇬🇮

The story of how I ended up in Gibraltar starts with a solid foundational plan; one that had been in place since November of last year. Charlotte and I had been working towards it since then, getting the necessary paperwork and qualifications together. The thing is, that plan was aimed at moving to Thailand, and moving to Gibraltar hadn’t even crossed our minds until about a month ago.

The initial decision to move abroad came around a month after we’d moved into our flat in Welwyn Garden City. It wasn’t that we were sick of the place already, more to do with the fact we’d been grounded for years and that we’d both developed itchy feet to live away again. That and the fact that we’d never intended to move to Welwyn Garden City, and you get the point.

We had settled pretty early on moving to Thailand as one of my partners’ best friends lived out there, who she hadn’t seen in years. I was just happy to be invited along for the ride. We had nothing in WGC worth staying for, so we got to work securing ourselves a qualification in teaching English as a foreign language (or a TEFL for short).

Ah, the TEFL qualification, the bane of my life. See, when I moved to Lleida, Catalonia, four years ago (four years ahh!!) a section of my contract guaranteed that I would study for and receive a TEFL at the end of my time there. Alas, life, with its giant spanner, threw it into the works and I had to leave my job in Spain earlier than I (and the programme) had originally intended – the chance of getting my TEFL for free while I worked went with it. Thus, I had to fork out £300 to do another one, which for a certified Level 5 qualification wasn’t too bad.

After that purchase I followed up by doing nothing Thailand related. Instead, I worked on The Toucan Man and got promoted at work – all the while the six-month time limit for completing my coursework ticked away. Diamonds are formed under pressure though. Right?

My word was it an absolute slog. After leaving it until the last possible moment to begin, I’d backed myself into a corner where I had to slave night and day on my TEFL. This was not only on my days off, but during work time as well when I could sneak off for 20 minutes at a time. It was horrendous, but I did it, and now I’ve got another shiny qualification on my resume. Even though I never actually used it to get my current job, who knows when it might come in handy in the future. Also, it’s always good to learn new things and add to a fresh arrow to your quiver. On a personal note, I was able to finally tick off something that I should have completed a while ago. So, go me I guess.

Brown on Seashore Near Mountain
Maybe someday… 🇹🇭

We decided that because of the disease that shall not be named we’d be better off booking flights as late as possible to get to Thailand, and that our best chance of employment was getting into the Kingdom first then figuring it out later as the normal recruitment drive for foreign language teachers online had dried up into a barren wasteland.

We didn’t think about it enough to be deterred, too busy building up our savings to fund the, what became increasingly evident, expensive trip. We were excited, passionate and determined to make it work.

This was when August hit and the murmurs coming out of Thailand about another lockdown started increasing in volume, there was talk about pushing back school dates, which meant no classrooms to be taught in, which in turn meant little to no jobs in the country itself as they could all be done over the internet. The October date we would be leaving our Welwyn Garden City flat on was fast approaching, and we were being told to wait for an opening as it might pass in a week or so. Wait we did, and we waited and waited. The good news never came, so we decided that we’d just book our flights and get there, everything else would surely fall into place afterwards.

Then the bureaucracy kicked in, the amount of paperwork required to get into Thailand (at the time of writing) was too much. Each document required another form that couldn’t be filled in until the one we were filling in had been completed. It was chaos, seemingly designed difficult to dissuade people from travelling. In the end, it felt too much like swimming against the tide of a flowing river. We closed the laptop in defeat, the Thailand dream was dead in the water.

However, like a phoenix in the ashes, a new idea formed out of the old one. Our time in WGC was coming to an end, that was a guarantee. The world was now potentially our oyster, as long as it was situated on the UK green list.

This was when the applications started flying out, not for teaching jobs, but for writing positions I was qualified for in Dubai, Malta, and Gibraltar.

For the latter, I was offered an interview the next day for the following week, which I attended and was offered the role two hours afterward. It was mind-bending, we’d gone from fighting the current to being swept up by it, now eager to see where it would throw us off.

After getting off the phone and going hysterical with excitement it dawned on me, we had two weeks to get to Gibraltar. We sold all of our furniture and packed up our belongings, taking only what we could carry. Our backs becoming decimated from 4 days sleeping on the floor as we’d accidentally sent the pump for the airbed back up North with my girlfriend’s dad.

In a way it was the perfect storm. My partner’s job is home-based so she could move to the peninsula freely, combine this with the visa-free access and being on the green list made it a surprisingly simple move. Not long after our arrival we sorted out a flat too. It had all started to finally feel real. We spent our first few days in Gibraltar treating it as a holiday, something we had been unable to do since a trip to Glasgow in early 2020.

Gibraltar at night (October 2021) 🇬🇮

I’m not sure what the moral of this story is. Half of me thinks its knowing when to let go of a pipedream, when to realise something is implausible even if you’ve worked so hard for it – but its in letting go that more opportunities rear their heads, ones that you would have been blind to beforehand like a horse with its blinkers on.

On the other hand, it could be about not selling yourself short, that the opportunities to do what you love will come eventually as long as you work toward them. Being offered a job abroad as a copywriter is something I could have only dreamed of a couple of years ago – especially after working in marketing and my old manager deciding to go external with the company’s copywriting duties, even though that was my bread and butter. In hindsight that may have been the turning point where I started to take writing (and myself) seriously, as I started this website a month or so later.

As I sit here in a bustling café just off Main Street in Gibraltar, with a light lunch of a cortado and quiche, letting myself absorb the new surroundings I find myself in, I’m filled with excitement for the coming years. I don’t grieve a missed opportunity in Thailand, as it was never meant to be, and so in the end never existed.

Because if it had, I’d never be here.


Don’t Pursue Happiness, Let It Come to You

The Declaration of Independence guarantees all Americans the right to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’. Now, I am not at all American – and never have I desired to be. But having a right to pursue happiness appears to me like some sort of paradox. This is because, to me, happiness is not something that can ever be chased successfully.

By now we’ve all heard the age-old John Lennon quote, for the sake of inclusiveness I’ll paste it below for all eight of you that haven’t seen it regurgitated across the internet.

I tell you what, I’ll even post it how it looks when your Mum shares anything on Facebook. It reinforces my point.

Oh yeah.

It’s a lovely sentiment at its core and I do believe we should all aspire to be ‘happy’ in our own lives – of course I do. But I do feel quotes such as these are being misconstrued, making multiple generations believe that happiness is some sort of aspirational goal in a similar vein to a career, perfecting a craft or having children. I believe the act of pursuing happiness is in-fact making people unhappy.

Happiness at its core is not an attainable trait, it is a fluctuating feeling that comes and goes in fleeting moments. It arrives when you would never expect it to and aversely never appears when you think it’ll be there. Think of it as those little light specs in your peripheral vision that disappear when you look at them. Liberty and freedom can be achieved, but happiness? No – it is a side-effect.

Attempting to seek a consistently ‘happy’ state is foolish, in the same way that one cannot exist in a constant state of luck. None of us can decide to be luckier because our heart desires it. We can, however, seek contentment.

Being a happy person stems from the roots of appreciation. Instead of being envious of a colleague for their higher salary or their fancier car, realise that yours fulfils all your needs. Never look at another child and compare it to your own, do not strive for that even more expensive watch because yours is only a year old. Not only can living like this make you a more content human being, it pulls you from the material rat-race and saves you money by living through your own means. Spend the money on the things you want to experience. Nobody thinks about their designer clothes on their deathbed.

Actively pursuing material happiness is the best way to drive true contentment away. The moment you buy that new car, your eye is almost immediately on the next one and you think how much happier the other person with that better car is. This drives discontent in your situation once more, even though you longed for this car for a substantial period of time.

You’ve heard the age-old quote that money doesn’t buy happiness, and this is why. We’re using it wrong. I’m not telling you to donate all your money and live on the streets. Just reign it in a little bit.  While money doesn’t necessarily buy happiness, a lack of it often leads to unhappiness.

Money is your greatest tool to craft a path towards contentment. This constant strive for more is what makes the pockets of billionaire’s jingle.

Take note of what you’ve got around you, not your bank balance.

Close friends, a loving family, having new experiences or embracing your own creativity. Contentment comes from letting go of the idea that material possessions allow it to happen.

The U.S. may grant a ‘pursuit of happiness’ in its constitution, but I’ve spent time in some of the poorest areas of rural Tanzania and they are much happier than many people I’ve seen back on home turf.

Look internally, not externally.

Waffle over.