Amanda Cushman

My story started many moons ago when I was a child. My parents moved us across the pond, as my father believed that the United States was too limiting to raise his family. He was in advertising and got transferred to London where we lived in the city for two years. That was the beginning of my love for Europe and my fascination of big cities. I loved it, and spent plenty of time with my sister out and about on the bus, playing in Hyde park, and wandering the city streets in our neighborhood.

When we returned to the States I was keenly aware that I never fit in. I couldn’t relate to the American way of life and I vowed to myself I would end up living in Europe again one day.

I took a year off from college and partnered with my best friend and a back pack we crossed the globe with a thousand dollars each and didn’t return for a year. This trip changed my life and marked me forever as a person who loved other countries, cultures and ways of living. Upon returning, I moved to NYC when I was twenty two and fell in love with Manhattan and continued to travel extensively over the years.

My career as a chef solidified in the city and I became an entrepreneur and self made woman. The freedom that this offered me was perfect for my lifestyle that revolved around travel.

I often visited the Caribbean in the winter to escape the snowy streets of Manhattan and found myself connecting with the island of Jamaica. After ten or twelve trips there I decided to move to the town of Negril where I opened a small vegetarian restaurant. The food I cooked catered to locals and foreigners alike. I lived alone in a thatch roof tree house with a cat named Rita and a dog, Survivor. I ended up being the survivor when Hurricane Gilbert raged through the island and wiped everything out. Returning to Manhattan and taking a loss of my business I vowed to find another place in the sun, perhaps somewhere more user friendly.

Over a period of twenty-five years I had a long successful career in New York; cooking privately for people, catering, food styling and writing but I had an itch to leave the urban lifestyle and find a place in the sun. I moved to Miami beach and found a place on the water. I found myself cooking in a South beach hotel and realised it wasn’t for me. Meeting my Dutch husband was the turning point in my connecting to Europe again.

 

A cross country trip brought us to Los Angeles to visit friends and we loved it there. We made it home for ten years and found we it easy to love the climate, the dry air, lifestyle and beach. A seed was planted. We wanted to find a place with similar qualities but across the ocean and affordable.

 

Both of us are wanderers and have the idea that life is a journey and a destination is not the goal. We left LA as we wanted to be closer to Europe and moved back to the East coast where we lived in two places; Connecticut, where I grew up and then later, North Carolina. During this period we took a number of trips; Holland, Portugal, Greece and Spain and narrowed down our choices to Spain or Greece.

Towards the end of 2019 we decided to pull the trigger and get ourselves out of America. I was feeling increasingly uncomfortable there with the violence, political mess and economic uncertainty, we felt it was time to go.

Having inherited a house in Holland we chose to spend the first few months there. Lucky for us, we were in the right place when the pandemic hit. Who knew all our lives would change so dramatically.

We took a trip to Greece in early March 2020 just before the lock down and decided it was not for us. The economy was unstable and it seemed almost third world. Having cut that trip short we came to Valencia for a week. We had been here the previous September for a two week vacation and upon returning, fell in love with it a second time. The day before we were scheduled to return to the Netherlands I clearly felt that this was our city.

 

We were fortunate to be stuck in Holland for eight months during lockdown. Our house is in the country and our neighbours are horses, cows, sheep and ducks. We had no masks, no quarantine and plenty of space to walk and enjoy nature. It was a long wait and we spent the time working on the house, learning Spanish and taking a host of classes online. I set up my cooking classes via Zoom and it felt almost dreamy. Being so removed from the real world I believe it was ideal for adjusting to life outside of the states.

 

We chose Valencia for a variety reasons; good weather, delicious food, a decent size airport, warm and open people, lower cost of living and a language we could actually learn.

We moved here in September, spent a month in El Carmen and found an apartment in Ruzafa. Something about this neighborhood has clicked and we love it here. I find it hard to judge as the pandemic is ever present and we are currently studying Spanish and for me, at least, finding it more challenging than I had expected. I don’t know if I would describe Valencia as “home” as it’s a work in progress and time will reveal the future. For now, at least, we are here, open and grateful to have taken on the challenge. After a slightly nomadic life I know one thing for certain, change is the only thing we can be sure of or as Mark Twain put it; "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of people and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."

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