Remember that old song from the classic Monty Python's film Life of Brian, Always look on the bright side of life? After so many years it's still stuck in my head 😃
2020 is unfolding as either a weird year or directly a bad year to most people, but in my case some relevant events started in 2019, and even I have to go further back to provide enough context.
In 2017 I switched jobs and I was exploring going full-remote, but in the end I went to a small Spanish ticketing company. It got acquired in early 2018 and, suddenly, a ~70 employees company became part of a multinational with +1000 employees. A few months later they also bought a Canadian company, and on January 2019 I asked my manager if there was a way to get transferred to Canada. I was told that at least in 2019 was impossible, as I was one of the two IC5 level engineers in Eventbrite Spain and I was vital for the Madrid office.
After summer 2019, my partner and I realized we really wanted to change, so I came back to my manager and explained the situation; we agreed to explore a transfer to the Vancouver office for early 2020. This was at the beginning of September. After a few internal conversations, waits and approvals in December 2019 I went to Vancouver and got the final approval from that office.
Advancing to March 2020, with all paperwork ready, the house almost empty, and basically everything good to go... COVID-19 hit globally, and specially hard in Spain. At the beginning of the global confinement, as borders closed we couldn't fly to Canada; then, with the forecasting of extended confinements (which in the ticketing business means almost zero income) the transfer got frozen; shortly after, the company laid off half of the workforce, which included the Vancouver office, so the whole transfer idea went away.
While the lay-offs didn't affected me directly, I was contacted by an ex-colleague with an interesting offer, and this time I listened, liked what I was told and took the opportunity.
Having summarized the key points, what initially was a negative outcome has pivoted to a series of changes for the better:
I started to think about becoming full remote around 2017 but didn't in the end. Now, even if currently it's hard to travel to other countries because of the COVID situation, I have the freedom to move anywhere in the world when the time is right. We're also no longer tied to living in a big city in order to "have an interesting job", so we're moving to the North of Spain to enjoy some nature and a colder (and thus, better) weather.
Out of the Comfort Zone
I've switched my day to day development language one more time! How different is working with Java "for real" from the Java you learn at university, and even from books. Java 8+ features, Lombok, Guava, Dagger, JAX-RS... plus GCP services (Pipelines, MapReduce, DataStore, BigQuery...), and the project itself, which is a new area for me. I am so happy to be learning new things almost every day. Combined with keeping working in English, which means I practice it a bit, I am quite satisfied with the decision.
While discussing and afterwards preparing for the transfer we weren't sure if there was going to be a reallocation package or not, so we took a minimalistic approach regarding physical goods. But before that we had already started to walk that path, in early 2019 when we moved outside of the city center. As an example, excluding clothes and my monitor, all my stuff fits in a backpack and a single standard size box . Two laptops, two handheld game consoles, a tablet, a kindle (I keep only one physical book, until I finish reading it), the phone... and mostly just accessories and cables.
It's been a slow and iterative process, and sometimes not easy to apply. For example, I had a collection of boardgames, and quite a few old videogame consoles, but I gifted or sold each and every one of them. And same with printed books and other things that had emotional value but really I wasn't going to use any more.
We had an old car, and last year almost broke; repairing it was expensive but we had to hold on to it for a few more months. Nowadays was due for another round of checks and potential repairs (again all but cheap), so we sold it instead, opting to try the car leasing model. We now only pay a monthly rent and gas, contract gets renewed each few years (and we get the choice of switching to a different vehicle if we want), and even an early cancellation of the leasing would cost significantly less than remaining rent quotas. Similar to that we have removed or simplified other personal and financial obligations. "The less you have, the less you need to worry about".
Built Healthy Habits
I recently wrote about habits and mentioned specific ones I've been shaping, like pomodoros or meditation, but there have been other areas of improvement, like food & health, a bit of sport (at minimum fitness maintenance, but slowly increasing), quality family time, and keeping less hobbies but fully enjoying the ones that remain. I still think days fly away too quickly, but I definitely "do more by doing less".
 : Actually I also have two "optional hobbies" boxes, things that if there's space (both physical and regarding my time schedule) I'll ask my family to send me, but else I can live without.