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I'm moving to Spain for a year—but it's not all sunshine and roses. Plus: join me on Notes
#1: Feeling like a child
I’m almost ashamed to say, but at 41 years old, I’ve never lived in another country. I’ve traveled to more than forty, often staying for months at a time. But to live permanently? I just never got around to it.
Anyway, that’s finally about to change.
This Summer, I’ll be moving to Spain for at least a year. My son will join me and attend an international school in Barcelona. I’ll be able to do my consulting work from here and of course, continue writing this newsletter.
Before it was clear my son would come too, my plan was to go live in Cornudella de Montsant where I would rock climb and work on the renovation. Now that he is definitely coming with, the plan is to live full-time in Barcelona somewhere close to his school. So, I’m not sure how much progress I’ll be able to make on the Cornudella property.
Anyway, as everyone has been telling me—THIS IS SUPER EXCITING NEWS!—but the truth is, right now I’m pretty stressed about everything. I’ve been in Barcelona the past week trying to get some logistical moving stuff out of the way before the Summer, and everything is just proving more difficult than I’d hoped (but maybe not more than I’d expected).
Moving to another country is like being a child again, and right now I’m incredibly frustrated at myself that I haven’t managed to become fluent in Spanish yet. Everything would be easier if I were.
Sadly, I speak exactly enough Spanish to do the stuff a tourist would want to do plus maybe hold a basic conversation, in the present tense, for about five minutes.
My current Spanish won’t help me on the phone with the electricity company to get the billing switched to my name. It won’t help me at Leroy Merlin (like a combo of Home Depot and Bed Bath & Beyond) to ask why the plumbing systems don’t work like they do in the U.S. It won’t get me answers to mechanical questions about the used car I want to buy. And it definitely won’t help me at the Cornudella de Montsant town hall to get them to turn my water on.
And on and on and on.
Even at the climbing gyms in Barcelona, I do stupid stuff like fumbling around with where to wave the tiny printed-out piece of paper with the QR code on it to get through the turnstile by the front desk—they don’t have these at gyms in the U.S. Do I wave it on top? On the side? Which side? Plus no one told me I’d need to keep it and wave it again to get out at the end of the night.
I could list twenty more minor annoyances like this where I kind of feel like an idiot. For someone known for his general competence at moving through life, having the annoyances pile up one after another, day after day, can get pretty draining.
Of course, I do have people here to help, who speak the language, and my greatest gratitude goes out to them—but there are only so many times in a day that I feel good about texting someone yet another basic question.
I know it will improve over time. I also know I chose these frustrations.
Anyway, the real thing is to get fluent in Spanish, and quickly. But I can’t do it quickly enough before the utilities need to be transferred, a car purchased, an apartment in Barcelona needs to be rented, and all the other little and big logistical things I need to figure out, hopefully before my son’s school starts in September.
Small steps. Poco a poco.
#2: Quit Twitter, join me on Notes
You may have heard: Substack just launched Notes—basically a competitor to Twitter, but seeded by the network of writers, like me, who are already publishing long-form pieces on Substack.
I’ve seen a lot of new social media-like platforms come and go and have generally skipped the hype around all of them, but Notes is exciting for me in part because Substack built the monetization strategy (monthly subscriptions) AND the network (over 500,000 paid writers), and only then did they built a Twitter-like extension to those tools.
Thus, Notes has all the same strengths as Twitter—tons of media types, politicos, public intellectuals, and opinion-makers who are already publishing on Substack, together with all the network effects that come with that—plus the strength that its users are already financially invested in the platform.
And that includes me. I signed up for Substack all the way back in ancient times, i.e., 2019. Back then, I was mostly interested in a blogging platform to replace Wordpress, and even then I wrote about Substack’s strengths. But the network effects features (such as Recommendations) that Substack has been slowly introducing over the past two years have been a happy and unexpected benefit, and have greatly increased my ability to build readership.
So I’m all in-in on Notes. Especially because you might have heard, Twitter has recently been taken over by a former entrepreneur/businessman turned alt-right egoist troll.
No, but seriously—I used to think pretty highly of Elon Musk. He transformed electric cars, created SpaceX, and runs a successful rooftop solar & battery company that will help build resiliency into our national grid.
But my opinion of Elon started on a slow decline when he decided to buy Twitter, which seems like a frivolous distraction compared to his other businesses. And my opinion worsened further after reading this Rolling Stone piece, in which Elon called an all-hands of his engineering team to essentially rig the Twitter algorithm because he was butt-hurt that one of his Super Bowl tweets got less engagement than one of Biden’s.
I mean… COME ON.
Then, less than 24 hours after Substack announced Notes, Twitter went to anti-competitive war, banning Tweets with links from Substack from being liked or re-tweeted. And this is adding to the many journalists Elon has summarily banned for totally innocuous (or sometimes mildly critical) reporting.
All of which I’d understand as being completely within his powers as CEO, were it not for all the bloviating about the sacred tenants of free speech, transparency, and open dialogue, tenants which the previous owners had been supposedly disrespecting.
Anyway, I’ve been meaning to get off Twitter for a while now, and as it turns out most of the folks I follow there already write on Substack. I’m talkingand his musings on our relationship with work. Anna Gát of and fame. by Gena Gorlin for the psychology of entrepreneurship. To get my politics fix, the great . For annoyingly good wisdom on life, I get a lot of value from , and for fascinating and definitely NSFW research, I recommend by Aella. Finally, every mom should read my brilliant sister who recently started writing about motherhood at
The point is: Notes gives me the kick I need to get off Twitter and make it a permanent divorce. At least those of us who are invested in Substack’s success aren’t chasing eyeballs to sell ads—we’re trying to deliver substantive value to monthly paid subscribers (and a wider audience of free ones, I love you too 👋 😉)
In that spirit, I’ve already been posting to Notes via the Substack App—who knows what the vibe will be there, I think it’s too early to tell. But do join me there.
And for the love of God, get off Twitter. It’s time.