Now that I am about halfway through my stay in Spain for this year I have decided to change up my blogging style for this post and talk about the 23 things I have learned from moving to Spain. I chose to write about 23 things in honor of spending my 23rd birthday here in Spain and to mark how much I have grown during this journey. Overall, the list is full of not so serious topics and others that are a little more serious. Most of it is random thoughts from my head and (what I believe to be true for me) bullet points that I thought about one rainy afternoon, but they all kind of sum up my life here and show what I have been up to the last 4.5 months. So here it is:
1. I am the owner of a lot of pointless sh*t.
- When I moved to Spain, I was forced to pack 9 months into one suitcase, a hiking backpack, and a personal item. In reality, it seems like a lot of space, but when you’re someone who loves shopping and probably buys new clothes every two weeks, it can be hard. Deciding what to bring was hard because I have a closet, a huge dresser, and plastic storage bins full of clothes and shoes. Not to mention all of my furniture at home, electronics, and other random things that I can probably live without. Most of it I don’t even wear and maybe touch it every two months. Well, my point is that now I realize how much I don’t need all of those clothes and things that I own back home. Here I live off of wearing the same outfits basically every week and I maybe own like 6 pairs of shoes here. Don’t get me wrong I still do buy clothes here in Spain because they are cheap, but I have definitely gotten better about buying things only if it is needed or necessary. This summer while I am home, I plan on selling so much of the stuff that I own and don’t even use.
2. Experiences>Material items
- This ties in a little with number one, but I have learned that experiences are worth way more than material items. I have believed this for many years but I was never good at really practicing this in my life in the U.S. because I still spent large amounts of my paychecks on Victoria’s Secret and Nike. Now I feel like I have integrated it better. Every time I pick up an expensive pair of Nikes or anything that I don’t particularly need I remind myself that the money could be used to buy a flight or train somewhere. Many times I re-wear the same clothes on my trips but it’s all worth it when I can use the extra money saved from not shopping to travel to new places.
3. Traveling is great, but it’s the people you meet who make the experience.
- This goes without too much explaining, but I never realized how true it is. Before coming to Spain, I was wanting to travel to all kinds of countries and different cities to see XYZ historical monuments. Which is still true, there are still so many places on my list. However, I can say that seeing those things are great but it’s the people you meet during your journeys that really make it special. Take my trip to Barcelona, for example. Barcelona was beautiful and it was absolutely amazing to finally see La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s art, the churches, etc. BUT during that trip I met so many people from all of the world and one night like 15 of us went out bar hopping for the night and that turned out to be one of my favorite memories from the trip because they were all so great and funny and it really helped to make the trip memorable.
4. Spain is great, but there are things the U.S. does better.
- Neither of the next two points are a bash at either country, because I love them both. However, I do notice things while I am here that I miss about the U.S. For example, I do miss how in the U.S we are more aware of time. In Spain, time appears to just be a number that doesn’t mean anything. If you’re meeting up with friends at 9, you’re better showing up at 9:20 because they are usually late, which I’ve come to love because it’s just how they are. I also do miss bureaucracy in the U.S. (something I never thought I would say) because ours tend to be a little more punctual. It took me a over a month to get my debit card because my bank forgot to order it and would lie to me saying that they ordered it when they would forget to order it again. It took five trips to the bank and 4 emails before it was finally ordered. Which I’m sure can happen in the US as well but it all goes back to how we handle time.
5. The U.S. is great, but there are things Spain does better.
- What has stood out the most about Spain to me is the lifestyle. Spain is a very social and happy country. People meet up with friends and socialize every night of the week. People are happier living with less, and money isn’t a very important thing here like it is in the U.S. On Sundays, no one really works unless it is in bars and restaurants. In the U.S, we are definitely more work-focused and are always working to meet some sort of end and before we know it we have wasted our lives without really making any great memories. Spain is also more environmental friendly. Most people recycle and it is made easy for everyone to recycle so you look like a jerk if you’re not. Water isn’t free and you have to actually pay for it in restaurants/bars. Energy/electricity are more expensive and it makes you pay attention to how much of it you are using.
6. Every country/government has its problems.
- This has become an important realization for me because as I studied Political Science, I was always critiquing the U.S. government for what we were or were not doing; however, after living here I have realized that literally nowhere is perfect. As most of us know, the U.S. is going through a rough time right in all different ways but when I talk to my local friends in Spain they remind me that the same problems are occurring in Spain everyday. They have career politicians as well that they feel they can’t trust. Their economy isn’t doing great and they feel cheated most days by their government. There are problems with discrimination. There’s a little bit of everything happening, just like in the U.S., but obviously because of our status in the world we are just more focused on in the media.
7. Living abroad is a lot different than just taking a trip.
- Before coming here, I really did think it was just going to be a long vacation and don’t get me wrong, it kinda is. I am very lucky to be living here and I have a more relaxed life than I would in the U.S., but I do still have a job and private lessons Monday-Friday that are weekly obligations for me. I have basically a set schedule every week that I follow and most days I am just living a regular life like I would be if I was in the U.S. working or going to grad school.
8. Life goes on without you.
- The hardest thing sometimes about being so far away from realizing what you are missing out on back home. I try not to think of it much because it does make me feel guilty. I realize that while I am here my nephew is growing up faster than I can even imagine and speaking in almost full sentences. My grandparents are getting older. My parents are making changes in their lives. I have friends moving to other places, friends deciding what their next steps will be after graduation, and friends that are getting married. I guess when you move away you expect that everything is going to stay the same for the most part and is just waiting for you to come back but that is definitely not the case.
9. Friendships will change.
- It has been harder to keep up with people as much as I wanted to. The truth is when you and your friends’ schedules are very busy it is hard enough to keep up with each others’ lives but when you add in the time difference it makes it even harder. There are some friends that I talk with everyday, some I talk with maybe once a month, and even some that I haven’t really even talked to at all.
10. “Cafes con leche” will solve 85% of your problems (if not all of them).
- No explanation needed. Trust me on this one.
11. Portugal is its own country and it is time we recognize that.
- I mentioned this in another post, but before I came here I really had no interest in Portugal at all. I think most of it was because I didn’t know anything about it and you don’t hear many people say ‘oh I took a trip to Portugal,” because most of the time they are going to Barcelona or Madrid when they visit the Iberian Peninsula. In geography classes it would be the European country that is mostly forgotten about and just kind of there, sitting alone in the corner of Spain like someone at a Jr. High dance. Many times I think Portugal is overlooked and kinda seen as Spain’s forgotten sibling, but they are actually their own person that matters just as much and we need to respect that. Portugal is an amazing country that differs greatly in culture from Spain and it should quit being treated as if it is living Spain’s shadow.
12. Chipotle/Qdoba, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Sonic are somethings that should never take for granted.
- This one is dumb, but I really am just craving food from these places. I would literally do anything for a happy hour drink from Sonic and some mozzarella sticks.
13. It’s easier to remove toxic people from your life.
- Obvious, but should be mentioned. Moving 4,000 miles away has helped me put an end to friendships and past-relationships that just needed to be buried and forgotten about.
14. I’ve learned to live in the present.
- This has been one of the most stress-relieving things I have learned to do since I have been here and I hope I can keep it up when I move back and begin grad school or a new job. In the past, and during most of my life, I was always working or doing anything to meet some type of end. I have learned to live in the now and enjoy every moment for what it is. I rarely plan my weeks out ahead of time. I usually do everything last minute and it is a great feeling.
15. Pulpo is actually a blessing.
- Galicia is famous for its pulpo. Pulpo is octopus if you didn’t know and it is one of my favorite foods that I have had in Spain. Liking pulpo is actually a requirement to live in Galicia (just kidding, but it should be.), but it is a “don’t knock it until you try it” type of food and when you add some red pimenton on top of it..perfection, there’s nothing like it.
16. Skype dates will never add up to actually spending time with someone.
- Similar to #9, but skyping will never add to up to going to have a drink with someone or going to the movies. Especially when you’re conversations are dependent on whether the wifi decides to work that day or not (Thanks, Spain).
17. Domingos are one of the best things to ever happen.
- In Spain, domingo (Sunday) isn’t just a day of the week, it’s a lifestyle. It’s a day when practically everything is closed, but bars and restaurants. It’s a day off work and it creates a forced day of relaxation that is perfect for spending the day relaxing at the beach, hiking, or watching Netflix. It is a day that should be spend socializing with friends or spending some quality time alone while doing something that you enjoy.
18. Sometimes having so much free time stresses me out.
- Even though I do work and have private lessons every day of the week now, I still have a significant amount of free time…and it oddly does stress me out. I think in the U.S. I had gotten so used to always doing something at all hours of the day from a young age. Growing up, my days were filled with school, sports practice, homework, eat dinner, and repeat the next day. In my university, I was very involved on campus and usually took a high amount of credit hours every semester. My schedule has always been full until I moved here. So for awhile it took some getting used to. Some days it feels overwhelming because I feel guilty for not doing anything. It has gotten better because I am trying to focus more on getting healthy so I have began to spend my free time working out regularly and I have even picked up a Portuguese class to help kill some time as well.
19. Material items don’t create who you are as a person.
- Another thing that is different about Spain is that if you go to any street market, you will find “fake” designer clothes, shoes, purses, etc. In the U.S., I think it is common that many people think that they need to buy the best of the best to raise their status in society (or at least they think so), but here people have no shame in paying 15 euros for a knock-off Michael Kors bag because it literally looks exactly the same as a real one. The truth is that here you aren’t impressing anyone if you decide to buy the real thing here, the only difference it makes is that they paid 15 Euro and you paid 300 Euro for *basically* the same bag. People don’t care about what brand of clothes you are wearing, what type of phone you have, or what kind of car you drive and that has been a breath of fresh air.
20. Forcing yourself into an independent state is the best thing you can do sometimes.
- I think the most empowering thing about moving here is that I have been completely on my own. I have been forced to solve my own problems. I had to find my own place to live, decide on what bank to choose, navigated myself around cities while traveling alone, etc. Obviously, as I am not very old, most of this was kind of already done for me as I grew up. At first it was scary, but now I have realized how much I am capable of doing without needing anyone’s help.
21. The best days include wine.
- I don’t think I need an explanation for this one.
22. I’ve learned what matters most to me.
- Living in Spain has saved me in so many ways and I am happier than I have ever been in my life. I’ve realized that money, material items, and resume builders don’t matter as much to me as they did before. I have decided that I would rather have a job that supports me to where I can live comfortably and still travel because it has become something that I don’t ever want to give up and I refuse to let the “working 24/7” lifestyle that we have in the U.S. stop me. The truth is that I always thought I knew what I wanted. I wanted to move to Spain for a year to relax after getting a degree, then head back to attend graduate school…but that all has changed. I’ve re-applied to live in Spain for the next year because I am not ready to go back because I don’t know what my next step would be. I would like to go to graduate school someday but I have yet to figure out where. I don’t know if I would rather go into the workforce for a few years before. There are many things that I am still unsure of and I hope within the next year the answers will come to me.
23. It may appear like I am living in luxury, but I am really just living.
- I hear all the time from people back home “oh you’re so lucky that you get to do that and you never work and always get to travel.” This is honestly far from the truth. Yes, I am very very lucky. I am aware of that. However, many days really are just regular. I go to work in the mornings, eat lunch, go to private classes, then spend time at home. I know the Facebook and Instagram posts really seem like I am traveling all the time, but I’m really not. In fact most days, the people I know back home are probably having a more exciting day than I am. I take maybe one bigger trip each month. Don’t be fooled, going to Barcelona or Lisbon was about the same expense wise as it is for a girls weekend or shopping trip in Wichita or Kansas City. The point is that don’t think that what I am doing here is impossible and that I just got “lucky.” The truth is that I took a chance on a program that hires native-English speakers to come assistant teach English and they hire basically anyone and everyone. I came with little money and I make little money compared to what I made in the U.S., but I have learned how to change my lifestyle to adjust. If anything, I hope that while I am here I can inspire my friends and even people from my small town to not let anything stand in their way. I had to do a lot and give up a lot to get here, but every step has been worth it.