Risking it all for a European adventure

“Have you thought this through?”

We were celebrating Christmas at my grandparents’ house a few days before the 25th. The day was clear and you could see the base of Mount Diablo from the couch I was sitting on. It seemed like as appropriate a time as any to announce that I had decided to leave San Francisco more than 5 years after I had arrived with all of my possessions in the back of a minivan. Where was I going? Barcelona. My grandma’s immediate response – “have you thought this through?”

The truth was, I had been thinking about this move for years. I fell in love with Europe during my time studying abroad in Paris my Junior year at UCSD. The electricity of an urban city like Paris was something completely new to someone like me who had grown up in small, car-centric cities that lacked the diversity and dynamism you find across most of Europe. A semester abroad quickly led to a Master’s degree in England, and an internship in Marseille. I agreed to temporarily return to California while I looked for a job (preferably in Europe). I settled for a position in LA so that I could some money, but I was planning to move back to the UK as soon as I could afford it. A year later I relocated to SF to be closer to my ailing father. One year turned into two, then three, and so on. There were long hours working for startups, trips to Europe every summer to see my partner’s family, and a move to Oakland to see if having more space would address any of my angst. And through it all Europe had to wait. My partner and I finally sat down and planned backwards- if we wanted to be living in Europe in 2017, what steps did we need to take day by day, month by month, to get there? We began planning our move to Barcelona almost a year in advance. I enrolled in Spanish classes, enacted a moratorium on any new purchases, and started telling my family and closest friends about our plan. So yes Grandma, I had thought it through, and my European adventure could wait no longer.

“What do you do?”

It always surprises me how far you can get into a conversation with a Catalan before work comes up. In SF it seemed like so much of my identity was wrapped up in my title, the company I worked for, and how much money I made, so it’s refreshing to no longer be badgered by this question. Especially when I didn’t know how to answer it. Before I moved, I had lots of ideas about what I would do for work in Barcelona. I trained as a yoga instructor, thinking I might reinvent myself from a SF tech worker into a lithe and spiritual yogi. But after my 200 hour teacher training program I had to be honest with myself, I preferred practicing yoga to teaching it. I considered joining a startup in Barcelona, especially since the strength of the startup scene here was one of the deciding factors in deciding to make it our home.

It was around this time that I heard from the CEO of a company I had worked with as an Account Manager at Intercom. Her company was building out a dedicated Customer Success team and she wanted to know if I was interested in heading it up. I was flattered but explained that since I now lived in Barcelona, it would be difficult to manage a team based out of LA. Undeterred, she asked if I would help them build out their team as a consultant. I had never really considered Customer Success consulting as a possible career. Was I qualified to offer this kind of advice? Were companies even willing to pay for it? Would I be able to find enough consistent work to make a living? I was afraid of being an imposter, of having clients dissatisfied with my work and the resulting fees, and of failure. I’m not sure I would have been able to overcome these fears before I uprooted my life in SF. Moving to Barcelona had challenged me in ways I couldn’t have imagined (like arguing with the water company to not turn off your water in a language you don’t speak very well), and I was no longer scared to death of looking stupid or of taking chances. So I took a deep breath and told the CEO yes, I would be happy to consult on this project.

My first consulting project wrapped up and I found that I enjoyed being a consultant. Working in Customer Success over the past 6 years had given me a lot of experience interacting with and managing customers, and now I had an opportunity to pass what I had learned on to my clients. But in set a reality consultants and freelances know all too well- I had to find more clients. It hasn’t always been easy drumming up business this past year, and giving prospective customers my rates still makes me uncomfortable (hello, Imposter Syndrome, my old friend…), but I’ve also been encouraged and flattered by how many people have been interested in working together. A lot of my projects have come in through referrals or people reading my writing here and on other blogs.

“What’s next?”

This year has been a bit of a whirlwind. There have been professional and personal highs, and a few lows right alongside them. Before looking ahead to 2018, I want to celebrate some of my favorite moments from this year.

2017 highlights from my European adventure

Getting to know the locals.

Despite the underlying political turmoil that has enveloped Catalonia this past year, the people here are incredibly warm and welcoming. The diversity and dynamism that I fell in love with in Paris is replicated and transformed in Barcelona. Some aspects of life here have been easy to embrace (siestas), while others have been more challenging than expected (learning Spanish), but getting to know the people and culture of Catalonia continues to make it all worthwhile.

Running my first half marathon.

I would never have characterized myself as “a runner”. I never particularly enjoyed running, and had scrapped a previous attempt to run a half marathon after I found it too daunting. So I was as surprised as anyone when I committed to running my first half marathon in Lausanne, Switzerland in October. Countless runs up and down the beaches of Barcelona helped turn me into a convert. I came within a few minutes of my goal of 1:45 and even managed to appreciate the journey to 13.1 miles.

Getting my first consulting project.

To the CEO who took a chance on me- thank you. I feel like I’m still just getting started, but it’s been such an exhilarating journey to be able to provide value to the fast growing startups I’ve worked with this year.

Being reminded that I have amazing people in my life.

Moving to Europe isn’t just hard on me, it also puts a huge strain on my relationships with the people I care about most. My friends and family have risen to the challenge in a way I could never imagine. From a bewildering rendezvous in Amsterdam (I’m terrible at surprises!) to Thanksgiving with a chicken substitute, the love and support I’ve received this year has been overwhelming.

Marrying my partner after nearly 10 years together.

Last, but certainly not least, I got to tell the man I love how much he means to me in front of 20 of our closest family and friends. Need I say more?

Looking forward to 2018

One of the most common questions I get asked is “what’s next?”. While the future for Catalonia is unclear, we are happy living in Barcelona for the time being. My friends and family continue to make a huge effort to keep in touch, and I feel lucky being able to maintain these incredible relationships while making new friends in Barcelona. Continuing to improve my Spanish and learning more about Spanish and Catalan culture remains high on my list of priorities.

Being a consultant has been rewarding and challenging and I’m exciting to see where it continues to take me. I am always looking for my next project, so feel free to contact me at Brooke.Goodbary [at] gmail.com if you think we could potentially work together.

And to wrap up 2017, I want to say a quick word of thanks for reading my blog. The support and encouragement I receive (including from people I’ve never even met) helps keep me going. Wishing you all happiness and success in 2018!

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Where my writing was featured in 2017:

Wondering what I got up to in 2016? Read my recap of 2016 here.