Emma Schultz Shares Her Five Year Update

Emma's bio photoThe last half-decade has been a voyage of discovery for Emma Schultz. She has hopped back and forth over the Pond between Spain and the US. The lure of Iberia called to Emma, and it was lovely to meet her again in person in Madrid five years later than the first time. Emma is a Hispanophile who speaks Spanish with the ease of a local, despite her public protestations that her linguistic knowledge is no tanto (not so much). I am so interested in seeing where Emma is in 2021, both physically and emotionally.

Your first article, The Art of Slowing Down, was about relocating to Spain in 2016 and adapting to a new pace of life. Five years later, you’re residing in Spain once more. How much easier is it for you to apply the brakes these days?

In some ways, I feel like it’s easier for me to adapt to a slower pace of life in Spain after living here for five years. Especially when I’ve been here for longer stretches at a time, it comes more naturally. I also find that I’m more flexible about my time and scheduling and feel more relaxed about that being the case than I would have in 2016.

In the same breath, though, I will admit that I still walk very fast by Spanish standards and find that hard to change. I also think that after more time here, I feel more and more comfortable being myself, and I do tend to be more fast-paced than my Spanish counterparts. I think there’s beauty in finding a balance between who I am and the place and culture I’m living in.

In 2017, you experienced the reverse culture shock of returning to Texas and a fresh dose of culture shock upon heading back to Madrid. How disorientating was that for you?

It was very disorienting. There’s something strange about returning home for an extended amount of time and feeling like everything about it is wrong. Even though it’s familiar, it just made my skin crawl because I felt so out of place. It’s also a process of coming to the realization that the only thing that’s changed is you. That can be a beautiful thing. But being nostalgic for the past and missing home, it can be hard to go back and feel like you don’t fit.

Yet, I’d say it’s almost as hard to return to Spain after a long visit home as it is to go home in the first place. Because, without realizing it, you have grown re-accustomed to how things work where you’re from. I felt like I was back on a steep learning curve when I returned to Spain in 2017 after a summer at home.

Four more years later and I still find the back and forth difficult in a lot of ways.

What were the challenges of switching from teaching to studying in 2018?

I place a lot of value on my professional life, so it was difficult for me to feel like I’d lost a part of my identity when I switched to studying Spanish full-time in 2018. But I also love learning and language, so it was a great opportunity to explore those sides of myself more. I was proud that I accomplished my linguistic goals by the end of that year.

A photo of a European building at sunset.

In 2019, you relocated to California. How smoothly did you find the transition from moving from the heart of Spain to the West Coast in the US?”

The summer I returned from living in Spain for three years was full of transition for me. I moved almost everything back to the US, planned a cross-country road trip to get to California, and started grad school. While I probably packed too much into that summer leading up to starting my degree, once I got settled into my place in Monterey, I loved my life there.

My program was rigorous and demanding, but I loved every moment of it. I learned so much more about my chosen field than I ever could have imagined and made some great, lifelong friends along the way.

When you returned to Madrid in January 2020 as a tourist, how much of an itinerary did you have? Were you guided by returning to old haunts? Or stumbling across new finds?”

My return visit to Madrid in January of 2020 was a bit of both. While I didn’t have a strict itinerary I followed day by day, as I sometimes do for other trips I plan, I did certainly have a list of favorite places I wanted to go back to. I also saved time to explore new places, though.

One thing I felt most strongly when I returned was a need to “prove” myself. I was eager for waiters and shop attendants not to see me as a tourist, but rather as someone who belonged. It was important for me to be seen as someone who had lived there before and wouldn’t be grouped in with people on vacation in Madrid for a week. That bit surprised me.

You moved back to Spain in 2021. Where do you see your long-term future and why?”

I came back to Madrid in January of 2021 to finish my master’s degree with an internship in the city. It was a great experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world. For now, I’m loving my life in Spain, but as for the future – I’m happy to take things as they come – something that living in Spain has certainly given me the ability to embrace and appreciate.

Emma in front of a beach background

Fast-moving Emma might seem to be pressing pause in Spain. But I know she is always in motion, ready to move onwards and upwards. Her goals continue to be reachable as she strides so purposefully towards them. Go, Emma, go.

by Leesa Truesdell

Meet Marcos González the Picture Perfect Traveler

Marcos González and I have a lot in common. We’ve made reverse journeys across the Pond. While away from our home countries, we have lost loved ones. I founded Dreams Abroad while teaching in Spain. In my latest interview, I speak with Marcos, a traveler who swapped the North Coast of Spain for the West Coast of the States.

“Come home to paradise, come to Asturias.” This is the slogan of the principality’s tourist board. A green and pleasant land, this is northwest Spain. A rugged coast and majestic mountain range crown Asturias. The fare is of the hearty variety, made to satisfy the appetites of those accustomed to working outdoors. It’s Marcos González’s native terrain and while pandemic-enforced absence makes the heart grow fonder, he has embraced a new life in California as a hospitality professional.

You come from Asturias, land of fabada asturiana and sidra. What dish or drink do you miss most from your home?

I miss many, but mackerel is one of my favorite ones! Undeniably, I do love cabracho cake too. It’s like a paté made with rockfish and it’s delicious. I am lucky to be from a country and a location with a rich, delicious, and varied gastronomy.

“If somebody is planning a Spanish road trip, what are the unmissable things to see and do in Asturias?”

First, they need to hire me as a guide… kidding! Asturias is small but you will be surprised by the number of beautiful places that we have. Definitely, Oviedo is a must. Covadonga, Llanes, Somiedo… everywhere there is something beautiful to visit, from waterfalls, lakes, castles, caves, and beaches.

Which country have you enjoyed exploring the most?

I must say that I have loved exploring all of them, but I think France is my number one! I love France. As I used to live in Andorra, I was in France all the time! 

“On your Instagram page, you describe yourself as a traveler, explorer, adventurer. Where was the first place you traveled to both in and outside of Spain?”

Good question… the first time that I went out of Spain was to Ireland. I loved it. In Spain… I would say Barcelona, I think it was the first city out of Asturias that I visited as a traveler.

What has been your favorite individual adventure?

I would say my trip to Hawaii. It was somewhere that I went by myself as a traveler and I had so much fun! Visiting Hawaii was a beautiful experience full of adventure. Kauai conquered my heart!

“You work in hospitality. How did your accommodation react to the pandemic?”

Now I am a food and beverage manager, but I was a hotel manager in the past. We have followed all the protocols and we have been open and busy all the time. I haven’t taken any vacations since March 2020 and it doesn’t seem that I am traveling any time soon. Despite there being a pandemic, I have been working more than ever. I just wished that certain guests could have been more understanding and easier with us. Some people have been extremely rude and aggressive toward us during all this time, forgetting that we are doing our job and putting our lives at risk.

“How much does being based in California (where over a quarter of the population speaks Spanish as a primary language) help you with adjusting to your relocation?”

Well, it’s nice to be able to speak my language. Nonetheless, I am fluent in English, so I don’t mind speaking one or the other language. I have lived in the UK and even in Ireland before, so the language is not a problem for me. The problem is for the poor Californians who have to understand my accent!

What advice would you give to those looking to work in the hospitality industry?

I love the industry. My advice is to be ambitious and enjoy what you do. You should take advantage of the industry to live in different countries as I did. 

“Which one photo that you have taken do you like looking at and why?”

There is a photo with my dog in Asturias that I love. First, because I love my dog and Asturias. Second, I took it when I started getting interested in the photography world.

“When will you return to Asturias to see your family?”

I don’t have plans yet. I am vaccinated and they are too, but I think that it’s risky. With everything that has been going on, I won’t put my family at risk. I can wait until I feel it’s safe. Sometimes, deciding not to visit someone is the greatest proof of love, don’t you think so?

While Marcos is committed to securing residency in the United States for work purposes, his heart remains in Spain. Marcos looks forward to the day he can fly back to Asturias to reunite with his family. In the meantime, Marcos is traveling locally around California. He particularly likes visiting beaches and national parks such as Big Sur and Bodie State Historic Park.

Planning to explore north of California? If there’s one thing the Pacific Northwest is famous for, it’s their coffee culture. Check out our guide to find the best coffee in Portland, Oregon.

Ed Gagnon Gets His Kicks on Route 66

edmond gagnonThe years 2020 and 2021 will go down in the record books as the least traveled of our lifetime because of the pandemic, lockdown, and travel restrictions. For those of us who like to travel, it has been a very frustrating time, which is why a road trip along the famous Route 66 may be in order.

Thankfully, as some of our cities and states now re-open, we can now enjoy a staycation while still venturing a bit further afield. While we may not be able to fly anywhere or cross international borders we can nevertheless explore our own country. 

The Mother Road

US Highway 66, or Route 66, has been called the Will Rogers Highway, Main Street of America, and The Mother Road. It’s been featured in the song (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66 by the Nat King Cole Trio and in the CBS television series, Route 66, that ran in the early sixties. The nostalgic and historic highway runs for 2,448 miles, from Chicago to Santa Monica. 

Established in 1926, US 66 served as the primary route for those heading west, especially into the infamous 1930s’ Dust Bowl of the Southern Plains. Later replaced by the Interstate system, Route 66 linked important cities throughout the Midwest. While many parts of the old road are still drivable, there are other sections that’ve been gobbled up by progress.

A map of Route 66.

Cross-Country Scavenger Hunt

With the exception of the winter months, any time of year is perfect for driving Route 66. And it can be traversed in either direction. Living across the river from Detroit, it was only a four-hour drive to Chicago. My wife and I started our Route 66 adventure in the Windy City. I can’t even begin to tell you about all the different things Chicago has to offer. We grabbed a beer and burger at the Billy Goat Tavern, strolled the Riverwalk, stayed in the historic InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile, and dined at Andy’s Jazz Club

Route 66 officially begins on the shores of Lake Michigan on Adams Street. A historic Route 66 sign on the corner marks the starting point. We started our trip with breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s (c.1923), before heading west out of the city. Although the old US highway is marked with historic signs and markers, city roads now carry their own names. This is where your GPS and a good road map come in handy. 

Don’t forget to bring a good guidebook, too. We bought the Route 66 Adventure Handbook by Drew Knowles. We found it invaluable for staying on the old road and discovering all the hidden treasures it has to offer. Besides explicit directions, it even gives GPS coordinates to locate certain sites that you’d probably never find on your own. 

Driving Back in Time

Route 66 will take you back in time to America’s teenage years. Refurbished roadside motels, old neon signs, and giant statues make themselves at home. Attractions that seem gaudy now were once huge attractions. On some parts of the road, you can still drive on the original pavement, see once thriving locales that are now ghost towns, and eat-in diners that have been around longer than us.

After Chicago comes Joliet, home of the Blues Brothers. You’ll drive through cool and scenic towns you’ve never heard of and see weird things right out of the Guinness Book of World Records. We spent our next night in Springfield, home of Abe Lincoln, and were awed by the State Capitol building. Continuing west we saw more old neon signs, gas stations, cool bridges and The World’s Largest Catsup Bottle before arriving in Missouri. 

St. Louis was one of our highlights in Missouri. We stayed on the banks of the swollen and overflowing Mississippi River. The Gateway Arch was amazing to see and we enjoyed specialties like spare ribs and pork steak with our craft beers. St. Louis is also home to the Anheuser Busch Brewery, but we enjoyed bar-hopping and trying local brews instead.

The Arch from St. Louis.

West of the Mississippi

As you continue west, the space between cities and towns grows bigger, offering off-road sites like refurbished motels, antique cars, the World’s Largest Rocking Chair, and a replica of the Hubble Telescope. These are the stomping grounds of Jesse James and the James Gang. We also met the self-appointed mayor of Red Oak, an antique village with a collection of turn-of-the-century buildings. Along the highway, be sure not to miss Uranus Fudge Factory for a good laugh. 

The state of Kansas offers more than one chance to traverse sections of the original Route 66 that take you into Oklahoma. We overnighted in one of the 50s era refurbished motels where the likes of Clark Gable stayed. We got to drive over old one-lane bridges and visit historic mansions. The once popular and strangest attraction you’ll ever see is the Blue Whale of Catoosa, a giant blue replica that is the centerpiece of a water park. 

After seeing a 60-foot-high pop bottle, we stayed in Oklahoma City. We felt blown away by Oklahoma City’s downtown canal system and Riverwalk. With live music and an assortment of restaurants along the boardwalk, it was a great place to spend the night. We saw a one-room jailhouse in the tiny town of Texola, before crossing the Texas state line. 

The Old West

In rural Texas we saw the Leaning Tower of Texas and the very cool Cadillac Ranch, where 10-year-old land yachts have been planted in the ground. It’s a display of living art where everyone adds something personal by spray painting the cars. After cutting through a small section of Texas, Route 66 takes you into New Mexico, home of Billy the Kid. You’ll also pass Santa Fe and Albuquerque. 

For authentic Tex-Mex, downtown Albuquerque offers desert scenery and adobe pueblo architecture that makes you feel like you’re south of the border. In reality this is where you actually cross the continental divide, the home of Colonel Kit Carson and the Navajo Code Talkers.

Entering the state of Arizona on Route 66 is like entering a whole new country. It offers snow-capped mountains in the north at Flagstaff, the wide-open wonderment of the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert, and the Petrified Forest. You can ‘Stand on the Corner in Winslow’ or visit an actual meteor crater. And there’s cool little mining towns like Jerome, or the red rock in Sedona. Places like Oatman have been made famous by the wild burros that freely roam its streets. 

California or Bust

Heading west into California brings on the heat, along with palm and Joshua trees. There are cool towns like Barstow with its murals, and Victorville with a Route 66 museum. The Wigwam Motel in Holbrook is a truly unique place to see. You can also visit California’s oldest winery and enjoy tastings at any of the many others scattered throughout the Sonoma and Napa valleys. 

You’ll easily lose track of the old Route 66 in the ever-increasing California traffic as you near the Pacific Ocean and the official end of the road at the Santa Monica Pier. This faux amusement park is lined with restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, and kiddie rides. The sun and surf along the beach are visible for miles, both north and south. 

An Excellent Adventure

They say you can drive Route 66 in about five days if you’re trying to set a land speed record. We took our time. We broke up the journey with trips to the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and then San Francisco after driving the most scenic coastal highway in the country. The whole trip took us about a month, with a few more two-and three-day pit stops via Colorado on the way home. 

On the route, we saw motorcycle and convertible clubs as well as mobile homes. We did the trip in our car, bringing along a small barbeque and picnic supplies for roadside lunch stops. For older travelers like us, it was a trip down memory lane. Newer generations should consider this trip to learn what America once was, and how it got to be where it is at today. 

An old-fashioned gas station on US Hwy 66.

If you enjoyed this travel tale and wish to read more about Route 66, please check out the Travel section on my website.

by Edmond Gagnon

International Education Management at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies


emma schultzEmma Schultz has been a Dreams Abroad member since 2017 and has always had an interest in international education. We took the opportunity to catch up with her about how she’s been doing since moving from Madrid, Spain to Monterey, California. She is pursuing a master’s degree in International Education Management at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.

How did you hear about Dreams Abroad?

“I was a friend of Leesa’s when she founded Dreams Abroad. She had talked about wanting to start her own website for some time, and it was really great to see it come to life. I was excited to start working with her as a writer in February of 2017 and have enjoyed other roles with the team since then. It’s been a joy to watch the project grow, change, and flourish over time. It has become such a great resource for anyone interesting in international education.”

Where were you when you first joined?

“I was teaching English in Madrid, Spain when I started writing for Dreams Abroad.”

apartment madrid spain
The view from my first apartment in Madrid, Spain.


How has your life changed since then?

“My life has changed a lot since then. I started writing for Dreams Abroad when I was in my first year of teaching English as a foreign language, which was also my first year out of college. I continued my time as a teacher in Spain for a second academic year and then transitioned back to part-time study. Furthermore, I was a Spanish student in Madrid during my third year and also worked at an internship. Also, I was a dual nanny/English teacher to a lovely two-year-old boy.

My biggest transition happened this past July, however, when I made the big decision to move back home to the U.S. I decided to pursue a master’s degree in International Education Management at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.

It was a hard decision to make and an even harder transition. A lot went into my choice to come back to the States — what I felt I had gained in Spain, what I thought I was missing there, and what I thought I might find back at home. Ultimately, I decided it was time for me to pursue a master’s degree. I have long known that I want a career in education abroad management. I knew that I needed to get a higher education to make that possible for myself.

Transitioning into being more than a full-time student has been challenging, but it is absolutely worth it. I know I am gaining hard skills that I will use for a lifetime. I don’t think I could have picked a better program for my interests and goals.”

international education management at middlebury institute
The Middlebury Institute of International Studies campus in Monterey, California.


What did you learn from your experience living abroad?

international education management college“Living abroad did so much for me. It helped me to understand the world better. It helped me to understand myself better. I was able to explore pre-existing interests and engage new ones; I experienced new ways of seeing, interpreting, and understanding things. After three years in Spain, I can say I really feel that I have a connection to the country, its people, and its culture. The degree of love I feel for what has become one of the many places I can call home isn’t something I would trade for the world.

I loved my life in Spain — the balance between my commitments and my personal life, my incredible friendships, the beauty of the country, the warmth of its culture, and so much more. Leaving was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Coming to the decision to leave took me a long time.

When I moved to Spain, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted my place in the world to be. In my three years in Madrid, I built something there for myself that mattered. I had a home, a life, and a strong love for where I was in the world. I learned, grew, and changed so much.

Why I Had to Leave

In the end, I think I had to leave Spain because of all of those discoveries. I wanted to stay, but for lots of other reasons I needed to go. I wanted to advance in my professional life. Plus, I needed to feel more stable and grounded. I needed to feel secure in a way that temporary visas didn’t provide. I needed to feel like I was working towards a life that I could make well-rounded.

Even though I loved Spain, sometimes I ended up feeling stunted. I felt like I didn’t have enough to engage my mind or fill my time. It was a limitation I had because of the restrictions of the visas I was able to use while there. It was a reality for me nonetheless.

monterey ca rocks on the water
This all led to the very challenging and definitely bittersweet decision to move back to the U.S. and pursue a graduate degree. I felt that by doing so, I could find my way to more professional fulfillment. Ultimately, I wanted to feel more balanced and grounded in my life. I hope to work towards feeling stable here or back abroad someday.”

What have you been doing this year?

“This academic year, I have been focused on my master’s degree and all of the work it entails. Choosing to go for a master’s degree in International Education Management at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies was one of the bigger decisions I’ve made in my life; I gave up a life in Spain surrounded by people I love there to pursue it.

Although I miss Spain and the life I built for myself there, I can’t say for a second that I regret the shift. I know that I am in the right place doing the right thing and that it will propel me towards the future I know I want.”

International Education Management at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies

Emma has been in California for almost two months now and may need some more time to feel like it is home too. But she’s hopeful that the skills she gains and connections she makes will help guide her forward to the next step after this. Hopefully, she can find all the things she’s looking for. Be on the lookout for Emma’s next pieces on how her life has changed and follow her journey!

city on the water
Fisherman’s Wharf Monterey, California.


by Emma Schultz