Welcome to the latest edition of the Intentional Expat interview series! Each and every Tuesday I post an interview with either an avid traveler or someone who is fully embracing life abroad. Today’s featured expat is no exception. Lauren Aloise is a Madrid based entrepreneur originally from Massachusetts. She is editor of the award winning food and travel blog, Spanish Sabores, and co-founder of the food tour company, Devour Spain.
First things first, tell us a little about yourself.
I’m Lauren, an American expat, food lover, travel blogger, daughter/sister/wife, and cat mama– and also the co-founder of a company called Devour Spain. My company currently offers food tours in Madrid and Barcelona, and will start offering tours in Seville and Malaga this spring! In addition I write a blog called Spanish Sabores, which is about Spanish cuisine and culinary travel.
I love the combination of food and travel, and truly believe that to the best way to get to know a new destination is to taste it! And while you discover its best bites, you’ll undoubtedly meet some fascinating and talented individuals along the way.
In addition to food and travel, I love jogging, dancing, reading, languages— and cooking of course!
What motivated you to move abroad?
I’d wanted to live abroad as long as I can remember— which is strange considering my family didn’t travel much. But at the age of 16 I’d already saved up to study abroad in Italy for a summer (when most of my friends were buying cars, I was always saving to travel). After college I wanted to delay the seemingly inevitable 9-5 job, and thought about attending culinary school. But instead I found the opportunity to become a Language Assistant in Spain for a year— I signed up right away! And six year later I’m still here.
And why did you start your own business?
I started my business after making the decision to stay in Spain with my husband (who’s originally from Cadiz). Teaching wasn’t for me— I’d studied tourism and wanted to be a chef! My way back into the food and travel industry was by starting my blog, and soon after I came across the idea of a food tour. After lots of research it became clear it was a good business proposal with a chance at survival despite the recession in Spain. I put 110% of my time, energy and love into the project, and haven’t looked back (or stopped working!) since!
What advice would you give people starting businesses in Spain?
Do plenty of research and surround yourself with smart, motivated and hardworking people. Positivity is key!
Where all have you lived abroad? What place was your favorite and why?
In high school I spent a summer in Sicily, and then in college I spent a semester in Granada, Spain and another in Buenos Aires, Argentina. They were both incredible places to study abroad and I yearn to return to Argentina one day soon. Upon moving to Spain for the teaching program, I lived for three years in Seville, a summer in Cadiz, and then moved to Madrid where I’ve spent the past few years.
I could never choose a favorite place— I’ve loved things about each place I’ve spent time and always feel nostalgic looking back to places I’ve lived.
What’s the most difficult part about living abroad? What’s the best part?
It is very difficult to be so far from friends and family. I miss my family a lot and wish I could see them more often! But I love the extra awareness that comes with being an expat. I don’t take anything for granted and notice little details that I don’t catch when I’m back home.
What have you learned from living abroad?
Patience and more patience. Things are different, cultures are complex and patience is key (I’m still working on this!).
What is your secret to keeping a positive attitude while living abroad?
I try my best to do the things I need to do to feel fulfilled (exercise, cooking, reading, travel etc.) and I don’t try to over adapt to the local culture. When I lived in Seville the local women wore stilettos everywhere— I learned quickly I didn’t even want to fit in because stilettos hurt my feet! I’m comfortable being the odd one out sometimes, if that’s what makes me happier!
What´s the best place you´ve ever traveled to?
I love so many places in the world (and have so much left to see), but within Spain there is something absolutely magical about Andalusia (I especially love the Alpujarras in Granada) and also about Basque Country in Northern Spain.
Last year I also took an incredible trip to Poland with my mother. She was born there, but left when she was only three years old. We met our Polish family, aunts and cousins who had pictures of us in their homes but we hadn’t even realized existed! It was an indescribable experience.
Do you have a bucket list? Would you share with us a couple of things on that list?
I don’t keep a bucket list per se, but I have lots left to do in this lifetime! Eating my way through Asia is at the top of the list and I also want to help finance micro projects in developing countries— I’m looking into possibilities at the moment.
Do you watch TED Talks? What´s your favorite one?
For pure motivation and awe: William Kamkwamba on Building a Windmill
A powerful look at perspective: Chimamanda Adichie on The Danger of a Single Story
What advice do you have for people who are considering moving abroad, but are feeling doubtful?
Not many decisions are completely irreversible. Give it a try— but do your homework, and read, read, read. Don’t expect it to be easy, and most importantly go with a positive attitude and realistic expectations!
I couldn’t agree more with Lauren’s advice on keeping a positive attitude, having realistic expectations and being the odd one out by avoiding stilettos! Thanks so much for sharing with us your experience and tips for savoring life abroad!
Are you living abroad? Love to travel? Want to be featured in an upcoming interview? Don’t hesitate to get in touch!