Life changing moments can hit you when you least expect it. For me, this past year, has been littered with copious amounts of “ah ha” moments (as Oprah calls them).
Living in Spain this second go around was more enlightening than the first time. From building new relationships, learning another language (again), contemplating career options, to spending so much time alone, the experience changed…me.
Let me share the 7 reasons living in Spain changed my life!
1. Kindness in the human spirit is still alive and well
Spaniards will go OUT…of …their… way… to help you in times of need. So far out of their way. Even if it means driving you 3 hours from their home to your new apartment (this almost happened when I lived in a village near Toledo…however I felt guilty and opted to take the train). Numerous people did so much for me this year just to make sure I was comfortable and happy with my life in Puertollano. Tears flowed from my eyes more times in the past 10 months than ever in…my…life (as an expat). And they were happy tears. Or “I can’t believe these people are so nice!” tears.
2. Walking clears the mind…for reals!
Walking seems to be the communal exercise among families in Spain. You will find the young and old in the “paseo” or “al campo” after lunch or dinner taking a causal stroll. It’s a great way to talk problems out while getting the heart rate up. Go alone it if you have to, I did!
Everyday (most days…haha) after lunch and siestas. It became my exercise of choice (after Yoga and Fitness Blender) to “get in touch with my inner self”. Many “ah ha moments” happened during these walks.
3. Small town Spain, is small town anywhere
This notion came up during an epic conversation with a friend who was teaching in Mallorca. We debated the idiosyncrasies of the people in my small town of Puertollano versus her small town on the island. Not much was different. Maybe the picturesque sunsets but the mentality of the people were the same.
In CT I grew up in a town of 120,00 people. Then moved to a suburb of 20,000. It wasn’t until moving to Boston for college that I lived in what’s considered a big city. Since then I’ve traveled around the world and lived in various population sizes. Small town Spain, really is small town anywhere. I choose to remember this realization whenever I think of escaping the “mundane ways of life”. The person you are and the positive energy you exude will attract a wealth of organic experiences. Not the fact that you are living it up in the lavender fields of Provence or in Picasso’s birthplace of Malaga.
4. Creativity is important in life!
Traveling the world is an incredible experience. It is an incredible way to learn about another cultures customs’ and practices’. But it can be incredibly draining and leave you devoid of feeling. <—-WHAT?!!! Yup! You read that correctly.
There is an ugly side of travel that no one talks about. At some point you start to feel tired, maybe even annoyed with the lack of progressive ideas that are around you. Or maybe you are home sick and frustrated with constantly having to negate stereotypes of your home country. In a slump you may lose your motivation to move (as in move your body off the couch) or even your mojo for creativity.
The best way to combat this problem , is with the problem itself. Get up and go indulge in some form of artistic expression!
In December I found myself in a burnt out and hollowed state. Having been away from necessary forms of creative outlets (city hoping, food tasting, stimulating conversations), the effect of living in a small town and being so focused on teaching. I turned into a hermit.
Not the crabs but the actual people wearing comfy oversized cardigans, barred in their apartments eating ramen from the pot while watching HBO GIRLS. <—Is that how you would describe a hermit? *shrugs* ha ha
Realizing this sloth like state life had taken I made a plan and a budget to visit Barcelona. My favorite city and my north…the place that can awaken any lost soul and shake me out of travel/expat blues. Visiting some of my oldie but goodie spots and some newbies I experienced a much need “divine intervention“. It happened in one of my favorite architects’ creations, Casa Mila.
Selfie’ing (<—-Is that a word?) on the roof top and then wondering inside, touching, inhaling, eyes-zipping around at all of Gaudi’s imaginations that came to life. Looking at a model I nearly face planted into the glass box. I tripped over myself and lost my balance. Not from clumsiness but nerves. Another “ah ha moment” occurred.
Did ghost Gaudi just pull my legs? I thought. Nope it was life reminding to be present in the now. And to remember to do things that I love, like discovering histories past , exploring neighborhoods and to get back to creating…anything.
That weekend with a flush of new ideas I started a new website showcasing another passion…a creative one! I don’t think I will promote it here though. Oh… that hermit cardigan…I packed it away!
5. Making money to travel isn’t as important as creating a budget and having the desire.
You can make all the money in the world and plans to travel.
But if you don’t actually put those plans on paper and create a budget, THAT YOU ACTUALLY USE, you aren’t going anywhere my friend.
Creating a budget to accompany your travel itinerary will keep you focused on your desire to go. Case in point in May
I wanted I planned to visit Germany or Ibiza for an upcoming 3 day weekend. My budget…never set it into stone so clearly my desire to go wasn’t strong enough or I was lazy….I was lazy. (*But to be fair Peace Corps medical clearance appointments killed my travel budget -___- *tears)
6. Language Acquisition opens doors
If you learn anything from my 7 realizations, this next one is key! Learn the language. It is so important for cross cultural communication. People will literally shed layers of themselves in front of you when they hear you, a foreigner, speak their native tongue.
“But my language learning skills are horrible” you say, well just try to learn the survival bits. If you make mistakes…its’s OK!
Just stay open minded to learning and try not to do that negative self hate stream of babel we tend to do in our heads. Immediately STOP IT!…and just say:
” I’m learning to communicate in another language and I feel great! ” ^_^
7. Smiling relieves fears
Yup Yup for reals! Smile at everyone and laugh at yourself. Being an expat working in a foreign country can be very difficult. All aspects of life are now done at a slower pace and at the level of a first grader in an adult body. Well that’s if you are still learning the language. When all else fails…just smile..seriously! Spain taught me how to smile again. And not that fake smile that makes you look like the scary baby sitter. But those smiles that leave your cheeks sore and the corners of your eyes wet from squinting.
I left a part of myself that I needed to peel away in Spain and overcame so many obstacles. And if one day you decide to live in the land of Manchego cheese (pictured above)…I hope it does the same for you!
Ahora vivir mi vida! If this post inspires you….share it!
*Yes all the photos you see are taken by yours truly 🙂