That being said, sometimes it's nice to just stop, take stock and appreciate how lucky we really are; and as today marks nine whole years since I landed in Spain ready to start a new life, it seems only fitting to do so now.
I suppose the thing about being happy is that it never looks how you expect it to. If I'd been asked back then where I wanted to be nine years down the line, I don't think any of my current life would have featured. I don't spend my days writing a best-selling novel while sipping wine in my very own beach bar; I'm in bed by 11 most nights and I never did marry a dashing Spaniard (for which I'm sure Mat is eternally grateful). Instead, my happiness comes from places I'd have found equally boring and terrifying in my early twenties.
I didn't plan to stay in the first country I got sent to as a holiday rep back in 2005, so falling completely in love with the first town I worked in came as a shock. Being moved from there after only 6 months to a place I did not like in the slightest took the shine off my job for me, yet losing that same job 12 months later felt like a disaster. My heart broke when I left Andalucía to move north with Mat, and it was breaking again when I packed up my things and left the home we had made in a little Costa Brava town to strike out on my own in Barcelona.
Yet these setbacks, difficult and sometimes painful as they were to overcome, set me on a path to the life I have now. It was in Barcelona that I finally began to settle, that I became part of a wonderful group of friends, that I gained in confidence and started liking myself. It was this city, "trapped between a crescent of mountains and a sea of light, a city filled with buildings that could exist only in dreams," where a life built itself around me and I finally felt like I'd come home.
Things are very different now to they were when I first got here - people have moved on, nights out have become something I plan weeks in advance and seeing my lovely friends is now an occasional luxury rather than a daily pleasure, but the rarity of this only serves to make me appreciate it more.
I'm very lucky and very grateful that my dreams were flexible enough to adapt, that there have been setbacks along the way but nothing I'd term a failure, and that I get to wake up every day in a life I love. Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, there are problem areas and parts that need work, but it's a project I'm delighted to commit to. Not everyone gets to live their dreams, and even fewer people know it when they're living the version of their dream that's exactly how they should be living. I still have moments where I'm awestruck that THIS IS MY LIFE, and that, to me, is what living the dream is all about.