Woman at table with two friends

It was the summer of 1991, one year before the Barcelona Olympics. I left for Europe alone with my backpack on my back, sad to leave everything I knew – my family, my home, my friends, my everyday routine…my comfort zone!

I knew that I was starting a new chapter. No longer a kid but now an independent woman.  If anything happened, I was on my own. Everybody else was on the other side of the ocean.  If I needed rescuing, I had to count on myself alone. The concept can be scary but my need for adventure was too strong to ignore. This experience was one of the foundations in my life and I carry it with me to this day. You will soon find out why!


Liz – Barcelona

I’d always dreamed of being trilingual, so I started in Barcelona. I went to a renowned international language school and made 3 good friends: an Italian, a Belgian-Portuguese and an American from California.

I had an amazing time discovering Spain – the food, the people, the nature, cafés, restaurants, life! Travelling can be paradise but, as life goes, everything can change in just one minute.


Liz – souvenirs


Liz & Julene – Corte Ingles


Liz – Park Guell









I lived with a Spanish family and another tenant, Javier. He was very nice. He told me he was from Porto, Portugal and that he’d had to get away from his hometown because he had a drug addiction. At that point he had been clean for 7 months & was looking for a new start. I know nothing about drugs and personally never felt an attraction to them.  I had a good friend at the time who’d been addicted to cocaine since her mother’s death. Strangely enough, like Javier, she had also been clean for the last 7 months. She had driven me to the airport with my parents and had confided in me that is was very difficult, like a 7-month itch.  At the airport I asked her to stay strong, and to not do anything stupid while I was away. When I met Javier I felt that by helping him, in a strange way, I was also helping her.

I was going to school every morning but I didn’t feel as though I was learning Spanish fast enough. So, Javier promised me that the upcoming Saturday he would take me to spend the day with his Spanish friends so I could practice & at the end of the day I would be trilingual!  We laughed together. We helped each other. He confided in me & in return for my listening ear and support, he helped me with my homework when I needed it. Both away from home, we had developed a nice little friendship.

One morning I was waiting for the shower before school. I knocked & knocked but there was no answer. Eventually I got really worried, so I went through the window to find him on the floor. I tried to revive him then ran to find a doctor next door, only to find out he had the needle in his arm. It had been hiding under his body. He had overdosed – he was dead.

The adventure was no longer a happy one.  The lady where I lived begged me not to tell anyone since it would be bad for her ‘reputation’. I went to school as normal, except nothing was normal. I felt like a walking zombie.

I kept wondering to myself, “Where is Javier now? Why didn’t my gut wake me up earlier? Did he come knocking on my door for help & I didn’t hear him? What if I could have stopped him? What’s the meaning of life? Why is this happening?”

I wanted to scream! I called my parents to make sure they were okay and because I needed to hear their voices. Of course, I couldn’t tell them anything – they would have had a heart attack on the spot! But I needed to be certain they were okay & make sure my friend Anna was okay too.

I went to school in body but my mind was not there, like I was on another planet. The happy energetic person I was had been transformed. Everybody was asking, “Are you okay?”

I felt like I stepped from paradise to hell in 24 hours. You’ve probably heard the saying ‘1 day at a time’. It’s so true, because 24 hours later everything was going to change again, like I said that is the rule of life!

That day, I couldn’t speak for many hours until at some point I was alone with my 3 friends and I exploded! I couldn’t handle it anymore. I was going crazy. When I did, I saw their mouths drop in unison. I felt relieved. I wasn’t alone anymore.

When I explained what had happened my friend Isabelle, the Belgian-Portuguese, exclaimed, “Enough with Barcelona, you’re coming home with me! Get your bags, we’re leaving, we’re going to Belgium & Portugal!”

So, we left. Isabelle & her parents felt so bad that they pampered me. They introduced me to their friends. I had all these offers from people who wanted to show me around their city, in Belgium & then in Portugal. I saw so many beautiful places. I biked in Knokke, Belgium and in Holland on historic tours with Bebelle’s good buddy Reggie & his friends. I met great people. I jumped from a rock into the beautiful emerald sea of the Algarve in the South of Portugal, picked lemons in the garden one day with Monique, Isabelle’s mom, and picked almonds one day with José, her dad.  I was back in paradise… until I had to leave. I fell in love with her family & that part of the world, because of their care and generosity. Really, Isabelle was a godsend!


Liz, Isabelle & cousin – Algarve


Liz – Las Ramblas


Liz – Sitges










A few years later I went to Isabelle (Bebelle)’s wedding, and she came to mine with her mom. I went back to Portugal with my husband & my son. A few years later Bebelle called to tell me that her younger cousin Justine was coming to live in Montreal to study at HEC, and she asked me to keep an eye on her since she would be far away from her parents. I was happy to, and since Justine has gone back to France, I’ve followed her adventures with her now famous company Respire. I’ve also made friends with her mom Nathalie & keep in touch with her on Instagram.

Today we can’t really travel, but my mind travels every time I cross path with Bebelle’s Instagram posts of her surfing in the Algarve!


Bebelle surfing – Portugal

Why am I telling you this story? I don’t know exactly. Maybe it’s because I needed to visit happy memories in my mind, escape to better times?

Maybe I wanted to tell you something like… “Please don’t give up if something bad happens. Believe, because life works in mysterious ways, it really does.” Maybe I wanted to say, “Be good to people because 20 years from now, you could have a great friendship that started right about now!”

Or maybe I wanted to say “Thank you Isabelle for taking me away from Barcelona that day & bringing me into your world!”


Wherever you are, stay safe & don’t give up!

You are not alone.

A friendly face could be just around the corner.


If you like this article please let me know in the comments below, and by sharing and giving it some love! If you’ve made friends travelling or met people that have helped you out in a time of need, please share your story with me & tag them in the comments to say thank you!

2 replies
  1. Justine Hutteau
    Justine Hutteau says:

    Magnifique cet article ! Merci Elizabeth, tu nous manques !!! Viens vite nous voir à Paris dès que tu peux, et je viendrai à Montréal très bientôt aussi 💛

    • Elizabeth Peladeau
      Elizabeth Peladeau says:

      Merci Justine! Ça fait plaisir de te lire!! Tellement hâte de vous revoir! Faudrait vendre du Respire à Montréal!!


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