God Leads Every Adventure–Living Abroad for a Year

By Marjorie F. Eddington

Categories: Business, Education, Family, Freshness and Newness, Power of Prayer

Not every family decides to live abroad for a year for the experience. But the Villamans did. Here, the parents share what they learned about making new discoveries, letting God control their business, emphasizing harmony, as well as how prayer helped them prepare, travel, overcome challenges, and more. The kids talk about their experience in For Teens.

How did you decide to live abroad in Spain for a year?
CHRISTINE: When the kids were very young, I remember Ray saying that we should live in Spain for a year, and I would think, “OK, whatever. It’s just a dream.” Then, back in 2011, when our kids were 9 and 11 years old, some friends of ours encouraged us to live with them for a year in Barcelona in three years’ time. We trusted God with our plans, and ironically, our friends didn’t end up going while we did.

RAY: Living abroad always intrigued me. Taking our family out of our day-to-day routine to explore a new culture would get us out of our comfort zone. As a family, we decided on three objectives for this trip: 1) learn Spanish, 2) travel and see Europe, and 3) be together as a family. This would be the first time that our family would spend seven days a week, 24 hours a day together, for the most part. What a fantastic opportunity to bond and grow!

What was it like to live abroad and travel?
RAY: It often felt like we were searching in the wilderness. You always have this sense that you’re lost.

CHRISTINE: So we actually embraced this concept. We would make it a plan to try to get lost, or find something new, or take an alleyway we hadn’t seen before. We would go down an alleyway and follow it, sometimes to the very end so we could discover new things about where we lived. It was really fun—manna from heaven.

So let’s take travel. How was that?
RAY: Traveling is often stressful for me because I worry about safety and all the decisions we have to make. I did my best to let things go, but it was hard for me. Focusing on being grateful for all the details of each new adventure helped bring me back to why we were doing things. I realized how special this opportunity with my family truly was. I enjoyed being grateful for freedoms we sometimes take for granted. Christine, though, doesn’t have any stress traveling. I think it’s because she doesn’t have any expectations.

What else makes traveling easy and fun for you, Christine?
CHRISTINE: I don’t have a lot of opinions. I trust that God is going to guide us every step, and if we make a wrong turn, I just look at it as an adventure and know that we’re going to learn something. Being peaceful and living in harmony are more important than having everything go perfectly. I focus on being together. Wherever we are, whatever we’re looking at, we’re experiencing together. It doesn’t matter how much time we have to spend here or there. The really small details I don’t try to manage. I do try to make sure we have good places to eat and sleep. And sometimes I had to let that go, too, and say, “God, guide us.”

For instance, for our son Jacob’s birthday, we wanted to do something special. But we had no idea where to go because it was at the end of a long day in Paris, and we didn’t have the time to do research. I suggested he take a look at a few menus on the street where we were staying. He chose one and we received some of the best service that we’d had in Paris. The food was really good. They had something for all of us, including my mom and me who are vegetarians. When I consciously let go and trust, saying, “God, you guide us,” it’s so happy. This was a little thing, but it was proof that God’s plan for us is harmonious.

What were some of the challenges you faced and how did you deal with them?
RAY: I really had to trust our businesses, our restaurants back home, to God’s management and relinquish personal control since I had been accustomed to overseeing the day-to-day operations of our restaurants. This trip required me to become more self aware of my own issues of control not only with our restaurant businesses, but also with our family, like wanting to protect my boys as they traveled independently on the city metro. So I turned to prayer.

So how did you prayerfully prepare for the trip?
RAY: Christine frequently reminded me how God’s plan was unfolding and that this trip was a “right” idea. I prayed to know that our team members at the restaurant would reflect divine intelligence, and that they would be blessed by the autonomy of the experience, as well.

CHRISTINE: I really felt God’s hand in all aspects of preparation for this trip. For example, when we met with people at the Spain Consulate who seemed to want to hinder our plans with red tape, I was led to come prepared with documents that could not be disputed. Through each step of preparation, I really took to heart the saying, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Prov 3:5 KJV). God was opening the way to fulfill His plan for us. I just needed to listen and obey each message I received from God. And trusting God always worked out.

How have you changed as a result of your experience?
RAY: It is impossible to know, but I feel I probably experienced the biggest change. I realized I needed to slow down and smell the roses. But the major change was my awareness of the need to give up control. I let go of a self-centered mentality and personal sense of ownership/responsibility with our businesses. I did not want to return to the U.S. and simply jump back into our old habits and routine. I wanted this experience to impact my life at home. So I’ve been examining my professional and personal purpose more closely.

CHRISTINE: And our boys have now lived in a different culture and are more accepting, and that acceptance of others is huge. (Read about their experience in For Teens.) Our whole experience living abroad and traveling to many new places from our base in Barcelona was so enriching and rewarding, allowing our family to see the world and its people in a new light. We have loved seeing the differences amongst the diverse cultures and embracing the uniqueness of people’s ways of life and thinking, and mostly being able to enjoy and connect with them. . I enjoyed our journey so much that I didn’t want it to end! So I’m doing my best to incorporate the adventures, growth, and lessons we learned into my daily life at home.