Author Caroline Orman on her move to Valencia: The Write Stuff

Author Caroline Orman talks about the extraordinary events that led to her starting a new life in Valencia...

“So what made you move to Valencia?”

It seems like a pretty innocuous question, routinely churned out at parties, meet-ups, and language exchanges, but it’s a question I used to dread.

The problem with this question for me is that there is no quick and easy answer. The answer is in fact, a literal book.

I suppose I could give the potted version…

The Potted Version

Spent ten years in Turkey/nasty divorce/met someone else/ex-husband lost his s@#t/ custody battle/daughter blocked from leaving the country/new boyfriend revealed a hidden past/snatched daughter from school/escaped to the Greek Island of Kos by car ferry/drove through Europe with daughter to Valencia.

The problem with the potted version is, it isn’t all that potted. It also tends to raise a lot of questions as people stare at me aghast. I have no problem with people asking questions, by the way, it’s just that this happens a lot.

I chose Valencia because I had a friend here who kindly invited me to stay with her while I figured out what I was going to do with the rest of my life.

From first steps

It was a sweltering afternoon in late July when I drove into Valencia for the first time. In the back seat, my nine-year-old daughter, in the car boot, our worldly possessions crammed into two suitcases.
After parking (illegally) under a tree close to Plaza de la Virgen, my daughter and I bumped our suitcases along the cobbled streets of El Carmen looking for my friend’s apartment. The insurmountable task of starting all over again beat down on me with the late afternoon sun.

I would need a job, a place to live, a school for my daughter, new friends. There would be bureaucracy no doubt, forms to fill in, things to get stamped and signed. Then there was the question of the language. Having spent years learning Turkish to near-fluent levels, I would now need to learn Spanish. As would my daughter.

That evening we wandered through the streets of the old town, taking in the stunning architecture, the plazas, the fountains, the Torres. I felt like I was walking through a fairytale.

Just when I thought this city couldn’t get any more beautiful, we stumbled across the swathe of paradise I know now to be the Turia. A lush green oasis filled with palm trees, tropical flowers, droning bumble bees and chattering parakeets in the heart of the city. As we sat down under a tree my anxiety about starting my life from scratch seemed to melt away. The sun was warm. The tranquil air felt a world away from its city centre location. Around us, people were picnicking, walking dogs, running, cycling, practicing yoga, or just being. For the first time in months, I felt at peace.

“Mum, I like this place,” said my daughter. “Can we live here?”

Author Caroline Orman on her move to Valencia

Until that moment, I hadn’t planned on staying in Valencia. I didn’t want to live in a big city and had a vague idea of settling in a smaller town further down the coast. But this didn’t feel like a city. This place was something else. This place was magical. My daughter’s seal of approval was all I needed.
“Of course we can,” I replied.

Writing has always been something I’ve done. It is a way of unloading my feelings and making sense of things. While we were travelling through Europe, I began to write about what happened during my last two years in Turkey. The truth-is-stranger-than-fiction series of events that culminated in my escape from the place I thought would always be home.

In the beginning, it served as a kind of therapy. When the words were on the page, they weren’t in my head anymore. They made sense. They lost their power somehow.

Now back to those parties and meet-ups, after I responded as best I could to the question, “So what made you move to Valencia?” and when the looks of horror and inevitable follow-up questions had passed, the next response was often, “You should write a book!”

An idea began to form in my mind. Maybe I should write a book. Perhaps my story might be of interest to others. It could be that it could help raise awareness and educate people about the complexities of domestic abuse. And maybe it could inspire others in abusive relationships to live the life they deserve; a life on the other side of fear.

The journey begins

So I continued to write, creating chapters, dialogue, tweaking and editing until the book gradually metamorphosised into a fictionalised account of the events that brought me to Valencia.

We all find ourselves in this incredible city for different reasons. Be it an escape from something, a fresh start, or a desire for a different life. Whatever the reason you made Valencia your home, I hope you feel blessed every day as I do. I continue to walk in the Turia every day.

The next time someone asks me what brought me to Valencia, I could always hand them a copy of my book. Then again, I could just say I like the weather.

Author Caroline Orman on her move to Valencia; Caroline is having a free author event at Booklovers Valencia, Calle Sevilla 5, 46006 on 15 May at 7 pm; ‘The Other Side of Fear’ is available now on Amazon

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