For context, this is the second article in a series where I share my experience with the “push and pull effect” that has played a large role in my decision to move cities multiple times in the last several years. Read my first article, where I detail my journey moving from Los Angeles to Castelló de la Plana, Spain.
In this piece, I explain my thought process for moving from Castelló to Valencia and why taking the risk is worth it.— The risk I took has opened multiple doors for the next chapters of my life in ways I could never have planned or imagined.
Here’s a reminder of my timeline:
- August 2020 — Was feeling pushed away from LA and pulled toward Spain. Moved to Castelló de la Plana. (part one)
- August 2021 — Was feeling pushed away from Castelló and pulled toward Valencia. Moved to Valencia. (part two, current article)
- March 2022 — Was feeling pushed from Valencia and pulled back to LA. Moved to LA. (part three, coming soon)
- June 2022 — Feeling pushed from LA and pulled to Jerusalem. Moving to Jerusalem in August 2022. (part three, coming soon)
If you compare the timeline above to the version in part one, you’ll notice the addition of my next move to Jerusalem! Stay tuned for part three of this series for more on that unexpected twist in my adventure of life…
Part Two: From Castelló to Valencia
Before getting into the reasons, I feel like it’s important to emphasize that relocating is an often overlooked means of continuing down a straight path in life to achieve personal and/or professional goals. For me, since 2020, I’ve never felt like I was “going backward.” From the outside looking in, relocating — especially relocating often — can seem like a decision driven by negative factors. To list a few: “running away,” “being stir-crazy,” “expecting a new place to solve all your problems for you,” etc. In my experience of moving cities every year for the last seven years, I can say with full confidence that each decision was necessary and important for my current and continued success — no matter how risky each decision seemed.
Pushed from Castelló: COVID-19 Restrictions
Castelló de la Plana is a beautiful city on the east coast of Spain near the beach (and also surrounded by mountains). I lived there from August 2020 until June 2021, in a time when COVID-19 restrictions were especially tight in Spain. At one point, the only socialization that was allowed was outside with a maximum of one other person. Because restaurants, bars, and other gathering places were closed, the only option for spending time with friends was going for a walk outside — with ONE friend.
You weren’t even able to enter each other’s homes. For a few weeks at a time, this restriction was sometimes loosened to two or three people. Sometimes even small gatherings were possible inside homes. The regional government was constantly reviewing the epidemiological situation and for a while published revised restrictions every two weeks. The one thing that remained constant was a curfew (though the time itself would change from as early as 8:00 PM to as late as 11:00 PM).
During this time of constant flux, I was still working 16 hours per week at an elementary school in the nearby town of Almassora. My commute wasn’t long, and I didn’t have any issues with it. As a composer signed to a U.S.-based label, I was able to take advantage of being isolated in my apartment by composing, recording, and eventually releasing my second album. There was no shortage of inspiration because I was able to go to the beach and hike in the nearby mountains often. I also made some great lifelong friends during this tumultuous time. I had the opportunity to get to know them on deeper levels because there was a limited amount of options for things to do besides talking to people.
Small City? More Like a Big Town
I eventually realized that Castelló was becoming a bit too small and too slow for me. The locals referred to it as a city by locals because it has a cathedral. However, I felt a more accurate description for it would be “big town.” It’s normal to bump into people you know on the street multiple days a week or notice the same stranger on their morning walking commute.
Before living here, the smallest place I had lived in was Boston. It has a metro-area population of almost five million compared to Castelló’s nearly 200,000. Pandemic or not, Castelló just didn’t offer as many things to do and experiences to have as I was used to. I initially decided to live there because of how close it is to the elementary school in Almassora that I was assigned to work in. I don’t regret living there at all and I had many wonderful experiences. However, I was also being pulled elsewhere.
Pulled to Valencia
Valencia is the third-largest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona, located just about an hour away from Castelló by train or car. In 2017 and 2019, I spent two of the most rewarding semesters of my college experience studying at Berklee College of Music’s Valencia campus.
When I moved to Spain in August 2020, one of my best friends from my undergrad had just started his master’s degree program on campus. Throughout the time I lived in Castelló, I went to visit him over the weekend whenever regional travel restrictions allowed it. I also continued to make new musician friends on campus through mutual friends.
Valencia offers a wide range of live music venues, massive amounts of public spaces like parks, tourist attractions such as the remarkable City of Arts and Sciences (where Berklee’s campus is located), and much more.
City of Music
Beyond the tangible offerings of a big city like Valencia, it also has something quite special. Valencia boasts one of the highest numbers of musicians per capita in any city in the world. The annual Las Fallas festival in March is a big reason for this since every neighborhood in the city has its own band.
Additionally, I felt the presence of Berklee at pretty much every music venue in the city. This community and the culture of music were very attractive to me not only in the professional sense but personally as well. When I lived in Castelló, none of the friends I had made were pursuing careers in music. It was refreshing and necessary to expand my network outside of my field, but it also felt a bit isolating. I felt like I needed to surround myself with more musicians in order to continue to grow as a musician.
The Decision — Why Was it Risky?
When I ultimately decided to move to Valencia, I also made the decision to renew my contract with the elementary school I had been working at in Almassora. This meant that I was extending my commute from about a 45-minute round trip from Castelló to a three-hour round trip from Valencia. Most of the staff at my school called me crazy for making that kind of decision, especially since my job was only part-time. There were a few teachers who made this commute. However, they were all full time which made the commute more worthwhile to them. Although my job itself was 16 hours a week, it was more like a 30-35 hour per week commitment when factoring in commuting.
I knew that spending time in Valencia meant that I would be taking on more commitments in addition to my job — more freelance music projects and more time connecting with my musician friends, going to concerts, and starting to establish myself more permanently in a place that I really loved. Knowing I’d be waking up each day at 6 AM (or sometimes earlier) to spend what felt like a full work day commuting, teaching, and finally returning home around 2:30-3:00 PM made me feel exhausted to think about it before I ever actually did it. I knew it would be draining. But I also knew that my day wouldn’t be over at 3:00 PM. I’d continue working on music, being productive, socializing, prepping my meals, going for beautiful walks in one of my favorite cities, and so much more.
Making the Decision — Why It’s Important to “Know What You’re Getting Into”
Ultimately, I made the decision to leave Castelló and move to Valencia. When the school year ended in May 2021, I packed all my things and left them with different friends in Castelló and Valencia who had some extra space to store a suitcase, a box or two, a TV, or my guitar. Then I flew home to LA to surprise my family and spend a couple of weeks at home. After that, I returned to Valencia in August to find a new apartment. When I eventually returned to Valencia and got settled into my first apartment in that city, I was beyond excited. I felt like I had finally arrived at the place I had long known I really wanted to be.
At the same time, I was a little worried about the commute that I’d be starting in October when my job resumed. Questions popped up in the back of my mind now and again. “Will this commute be too much?” or “Will I really have enough time and energy to spend on the projects that truly fulfill me?” were some of the questions I had. When the school year started in October, those questions started popping up more and more frequently. In my next article, I’ll go in-depth about how I ended up making the seemingly insane decision to move back to LA at the end of March 2022.
Why Taking the Risk Is Often Worth It
I knew I had taken a risk when I moved to Valencia. But just like living in Castelló also had its disadvantages, living in both places was absolutely worth it.
To conclude, Castelló, despite being small and isolating at times, was a necessary and important place for me to live. The slower pace of life allowed me to stabilize my mental health, be creative, make meaningful and lasting friendships outside of my field, and have more time to explore nature and reflect. In short, it was a domino that needed to fall to propel me forward.
As a takeaway, I think it’s important to internalize the idea that taking the risk is quite worth it. Being outside your comfort zone and knowing that you’re putting yourself in a situation that will likely have disadvantages can actually be quite advantageous. It forces you to be more critical of your life decisions. It also makes you constantly re-evaluate and adjust. You make sure you’re keeping yourself on the best possible path forward to achieve your goals. In doing so, you get to know yourself better than you could have ever imagined, no matter how much you thought you already did.
by Eli Slavkin