The latest chapter of my ‘hit refresh’ journey begins on a grey overcast, mid-June day in 2014 at Le Havre, a port in northern France. My boyfriend-at-the-time, Stuart, and I had just stepped off the ferry. There we were with 2 bikes, 2 bags each, 2 months ahead of us, and 2 big paper maps with no real clue on how to get where we were going.
We’d recently left Cape Town, Stuart’s hometown in South Africa, where I had been living for a year and a half. In 2011, I met him on a nine day transformational leadership program. We fell in love fast. Much to the surprise of my friends and family, who thought Stuart was a rebound (I met him 3 months after my 5 year relationship ended) and after very little time spent together, I decided to pack up my home in the UK and start a new life with him in the Mother City (what locals call Cape Town). I knew it was only temporary, as Stuart planned to live in Europe to pursue his MBA, and much of my international development work was based in East and South Africa, so it made sense to be in that region.
In 2014 Stuart’s full scholarship had been approved for him to study at IE Business School in Madrid, Spain. So… like you… I suggested that we take a ferry from Portsmouth, UK (near where I’m from) to the north of France, and then cycle to our new life in Spain. I had done the Camino de Santiago 10 years earlier with my best friend, and I wanted to do it again with my soulmate- except this time we would be camping and cycling the entire length of France!
I was hitting refresh on the cusp of turning 31, and things felt different for me. I was moving to a country with a different language and I knew I wanted to make some significant changes in my life- specifically in my career, and yet I didn’t have a clue what I wanted. So I decided that doing the Camino would lead me to discover my life purpose, and once I got to Madrid, I would be crystal clear on my life’s path and ready to start afresh.
Being a lover of all things regarding personal development, I’m intrigued by spirituality. On our cycle adventure I interpreted almost everything as a sign from the universe, some metaphor, to be deciphered like a Paulo Coelho novel. I would write these things down in a beautiful red leather journal every night, as we sat around our little camp stove – with the hope, that these would be the crumbs leading me to my destiny.
Fast track 2 months and 3000 km later, we arrive in Madrid. I still had no clue about my life purpose – I hit a massive low point. The kind of low point that floors you and has you spontaneously bursting into tears wondering if you’ve made a huge mistake. Sound familiar to anyone?
I had spent all of my savings, our Spanish was hopeless, and we just discovered that Stuart’s scholarship had fallen through. All of a sudden, my boyfriend was an ‘illegal immigrant’. We were temporarily staying in the home of a very sweet Evangelist family from Ecuador, who were all sleeping in one room and renting out their second bedroom to us. A contract I had lined up for months, which was going to bring in a few thousand pounds, suddenly got cancelled. Then I received a call from my mum, my sister was in hospital and asking me to come home to help look after my nephews. It was a lot. A lot all at once.
The day that all this seemed to come to a head, I was sitting at the business school while Stuart tried to negotiate a solution with the admissions department. I was super self-conscious, as students walked past in their Dior sunglasses and Ralph Lauren polo shirts. There I was in my one pair of leggings (with holes), my tattered and stained t-shirt that I wore on the cycling trip! As a way to distract myself, I got out my journal and drew a mind map of how I wanted my new life to look in Madrid. On that mind map I wrote a few things such as ‘life coaching’, “making Spanish friends’ and ‘get clear on my life’s purpose’.
The next day I was on the earliest flight out to the UK. I gave my last 50 euros to Stuart and kissed him goodbye. I didn’t have a flight back as I didn’t know what was happening with my sis – who thank goodness was on the mend some weeks later. I was grumpy and tearful, worried about my sister and feeling like a failure with my mother’s words “I don’t think that cycle trip was a good idea” ringing in my ears. As I got on the plane, prepared myself to go to sleep, a beautiful woman sat down next to me and we got to chatting. I asked her what she did, and she said “I facilitate a process that helps people get clear on their life purpose.” In that moment I knew I was in the right place at the right time with the right person. Bam!! Goosebumps. There was my answer. Before she even told me about the method used, I told her “I want to do that, in fact I want to train other people to do that!” My clarity came – up there in the clouds, and my life took a 360 degree turn.
Four months later, I trained to become a “Passion Test” facilitator. The Passion Test is based on the New York Times bestseller, written by Janet Bray Attwood and Chris Attwood. It’s a super powerful clear process that helps you get clarity on the five things that matter most to you in priority order. On this basis, I changed the focus of my work from facilitating workshops in international development to working in personal development – one-on-one coaching, running workshops on finding your life purpose, giving talks, and training as a Mindfulness-based psychotherapist. I trained to become a trainer of trainers in The Passion Test. I spent three years traveling around the world with Janet Bray Attwood, delivering training courses in Italy, Finland, Thailand and the UK. I got the clarity I needed. Since then, things just started to fall into place. I noticed that the more true to myself and my passion I was, the more opportunities arose for me to do the things I loved – and the better my life in Madrid became.
Over the years, as I grew my coaching practice I noticed that almost all of my clients were women living abroad, from a Mexican in Madrid, an Ecuadorian in New York, a German in Sao Paulo, to an Italian in Chennai. It made me decide to focus on working with this niche group of women. I used my own experience, that of my clients’ and friends to create services specific to them. Before turning 30 I had hit refresh by living in Zambia, Belize and South Africa with a few months spent in some other countries in-between. I had experiences in how it felt to rock up in a new country, without friends and to create a community.
I know all about the challenges of ‘moving for love’ (a friends mother from Stuart’s MBA class called me a ‘trailing spouse’ – ouch!). I have actually done this three times in my life. It puts a lot of pressure on the relationship and at times can cause resentment. You leave behind all that feels safe and stable, for your partner. It can be super tough not to blame them for feeling lonely, missing home, etc. I know what it’s like to work through these things, we’ve been living in Spain for four years now, and Madrid feels like home for us. Stuart and I had four wedding celebrations in four different countries (long story) and in July this year I gave birth to our son Remmy. Becoming a mother feels like a whole different kind of refresh, a different identity if you will, perhaps another blog post altogether… being a new parent away from your home country comes with a whole new set of challenges or should I say opportunities?!
As I reflect on these last few years in Spain, I feel so blessed to have the life we do here. We have a phenomenal network of loving friends – to the point where when Remmy was born they all pitched in and cooked meals for us for an entire month. I get to do work that really lights me up. Stuart finally received full funding to do his MBA, completed it last year and got residency in Spain!
Looking back at that mind map I created, I have achieved almost everything that’s on there (still working on speaking fluent Spanish)! This exercise for me is such a clear reminder of the power of intention – consciously stating what it is that you choose to have in your life. For me, The Passion Test provided me with both an inner compass – a simple decision making tool to guide me in living a life that I truly love and to help others to do the same.
Wherever you are in the world, take a moment to imagine your ideal life without barriers. Don’t get stuck on thinking that you need to be in a certain place, doing the job you were trained to do. Don’t let money, your relationship, your family or not knowing how to do a particular thing get in the way of your thinking… move beyond any of the things that might inhibit your wildest dreams. Get a pen and paper, start writing down what comes up… you never know where it might lead you! Get clarity and over half the work is done. The rest, is to take the action needed to make your vision happen, to keep on having faith in your vision, and take little steps everyday towards making it your reality.
Wanna connect or learn more about Katie?
- Contact Katie via email, on her Website, Instagram or Facebook.
- Download her free guide ‘The Ultimate Guide to Thrive: 21 Tips to help you to find your feet in a foreign land’ available on her site.
- Watch her in action in the She Hit Refresh Facebook Group – Live Videos
- Join us in Morocco for our first ever She Hit Refresh Retreat. Katie will join us in Marrakesh to lead our first workshop – Finding Your Passion.
- Check out her new online course A Whole New You. An online course on how to create a life you love. Katie is offering a 5% discount to all She Hit Refresh members!
Member Spotlight highlights stories of inspiring women from our She Hit Refresh group. We hope that by sharing their stories of change and travel we can expose the unconventional paths that thousands of women 30 years and older have chosen. There is no one way to live a life, just your way.