Where does time go?
I started my trip to Spain full of trepidation and fear. In April, I spent much of my flight to Europe cowering in my seat, choking back sobs, believing myself in love and willing to jump ship (or bail out of the plane) in order to create the life I thought I wanted.
Seven months later and I’m glad I stuck it out.
As my return flight to Canada looms in the not-so-distant future (count ‘em, 38 days) I notice myself reflecting more on the person I have become over the course of these past few months. I truly believe people are in a perpetual state of change and I feel the subtle nuances of character evolution that have become the norm to me will be a stark difference to those back home. Such is the effect of long-term travel; I’ve lived, loved and lost within this country. Through a traveler’s mentality and a vagabond’s neurotic persistence, I have carved out a life here in ways I truly could not have imagined pre-departure. Through risk, through sacrifice and at times against my better judgement I have allowed myself to experience everything life has to offer.
Having an adventure is sometimes just a matter of going out and allowing things to happen in a strange and amazing new environment – not so much a physical challenge as a psychic one.
// Rolf Potts
Travel changes you in ways that are difficult to articulate. I truly fear returning to Canada and facing the dreaded, “I want to hear your stories!” I don’t have many anecdotes that will please audiences or allow me to paint a vivid image of experience; the most precious moments, the smallest nuances, and the infinitesimal seconds between a good time and a great night cannot be expressed through words alone.
Lucky Number Se7en: Telling Lies, Perpetually Learning & Moving On
This is officially the longest I have ever been traveling. It has come with countless positive experiences but just as many negative events that have led to bittersweet lessons.
Since my last update a lot has happened. August was a whirlwind in all the best and worst ways. I had the entire month off of childcare which I immediately substituted for working extra hours at the bar and spending many nights in the discos in the neighbouring town. The temperatures soared throughout August and I spent many days working in suffocating and sweltering heat. Spain tries to murder you in the summer – there were several days where I was worried I would asphyxiate while lying on the beach. I took a bit of time off and spent a few days bumming around Lisbon and fell head over heels in love with the city and all its crumbling architecture and hidden charm. I hit the main tourist spots but sadly did not make it to a beach. Luckily the hostel I stayed at was not short on travelers and I met up with a group of people who were more than happy to go out and experience Lisbon’s nightlife.
The week following Portugal (and with me barely recuperated) I was on a train from Barca-Sants to Madrid. The three hour train was incredibly easy, and luckily the station is in the city centre. Once again I made it my mission to pound pavement and walk to all the major tourist destinations. While I enjoyed walking through Madrid it didn’t captivate me like Lisbon or Barcelona. I made sure to go to the Museo Nacional del Prado and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, two of the bigger art museums in Madrid, both of which had free admission on the nights I was in town. I decided that I wanted more of a rustic taste of Spain, so on my second day in the city I booked a train to Toledo, a medieval walled city a half-hour train ride from Madrid. I spent my day admiring monuments and tripping over cobblestones, so it was well worth the detour.
Madrid’s eco train station.
After the rapid pace of August I decided I wanted more free time to simply relax and enjoy my time. In mid-September I gave my notice to the bar and reclaimed my weekends. For the past month and a half I have been taking small day-trips to neighbouring cities, spending weekends at my friend’s place and simply enjoying the fact that I have nowhere I need to be and nothing I need to do. I still do childcare throughout the week, but it is less of a hindrance when I have so much spare time.
Once the dust of my summer months settled and I started looking at cash and budgets, the amount of money I burned through while here made me want to gag. Though I could beat myself up about reckless spending, truly I worked hard to save the money to come to this country. I am lucky enough to know that money will come and go but I will not ever truly go wanting. The experiences and memories that have come from my spending will last a lifetime, so I can hardly beat myself up over it. I consider myself lucky to have an ongoing support system back home and an education I can rely on to get me a job, any job. I do not take this luxury for granted.
A Canuck’s Ignorant Promise Versus a Persistent Brit
Upon telling people I was going to Spain for a summer sojourn, all the women in my life swore up and down that I would fall in love. Though I did entertain the image of a Spanish Lothario lisping his way through his c’s and sweeping me off my feet in the process, I was steadfast in assuring people that I was going solely for the experience. After becoming aggressively single a month into my trip, I will admit I dove into the Spanish dating scene with the panache of a spastic whale (read: noticeably and not at all subtly). My tendency to behave impulsively and spontaneously often comes back to bite me in the ass, especially in my romantic endeavors.
Relationships are strange things, whether they are platonic or not. I am always puzzled by the seemingly randomness of connection between different people. When you truly click with someone you should cherish it. I can lust over chiseled babes until I die, but as I get older I realize that being with someone who accepts you, makes you laugh and encourages you to pursue your passions is a rare find indeed – even if they are nothing like the person you expected. That person is special, regardless of how much you try to avoid it.
Against my expectations and arguably my better judgement I ended up sacrificing a bit of my independence. Jaded to the core, I truly believe relationships at my age are a waste of time and more of a hindrance than anything… And yet, I find myself in one.
Those Who Can, Do. Those Who Can’t, Probably Shouldn’t Teach.
I’ve had an eclectic assortment of jobs while here; since April I’ve been an (almost) illegal ticket hawker, a bartender/server, a summer camp counselor, a nanny and an English tutor. Arguably I didn’t intend to fall into any of these jobs, but when you work towards a goal the universe seems to toss curve balls your way.
I’ve agreed to tutor several people in English, mainly because the Spanish school system fails to teach English at a native level so it always sounds stilted. The last person I was referred to was a nine year old who wanted language practice for a few hours a week, so I agreed to bike to a neighbouring town and chat with her in a casual setting so she could get used to hearing the language.
True to form, while trying to find the house I got horribly lost so I arrived late and wet from the surprise rainstorm. The girl’s nanny opened the door, said a brusque “Hola” and then promptly got the hell outta there. Charming! I took over as a tutor/surprise-pseudo-babysitter and prepped to go over some vocabulary with the girl; instead she came into the living room and told me in Spanglish that she was going to have a shower before her mom got home from work so I resigned myself to waiting while she showered. What happened next was a butt-naked nine-year-old dragging me into the bathroom while she showered and insisted I run through English vocabulary so as not to waste time. Pardon? Unfortunately the only words I could muster to teach were “boundaries” and “awkward” so our first and last lesson was short-lived.
Perpetually Planning & Looking Forward
I have many mixed feelings about going back to Canada in December. I could bitch and moan but I know that at the end of the day an eight month break from the real world is more than sufficient so I’ll keep my whining to a minimum. Spain has stolen a bit of my soul and I know I will eventually return and live in this country. I find this country rewarding and captivatingly beautiful like no other – I will always come back for more.
After I booked my ticket to Canada, I was hit with a wave of depression and knew I had to set a timeframe to be in and out of the country. Entering a relationship with a British native may have had something to do with this; it didn’t help when he came over to my place and said, “What are your plans for April? Do you want to come to Thailand with me?”
I said yes.
As it is the Asia dream has hit a few speedbumps but I am trying to accept life’s challenges. Is there ever such a thing as an insurmountable problem? I’ve wanted to go to Southeast Asia for years but never really summoned the willpower to make the dream happen. I am insanely excited and eager for a new cultural experience. Life is meant to be lived and I’m happy to have a new goal to work towards. I think that traveling Southeast Asia will offer me more cultural and spiritual perspective. I have some reservations about certain countries, but I will chalk everything up to a learning experience.
38 Days Later
The pressure is on to mentally prepare myself to re-enter my life in Canada. I have slowly started the arduous task of packing up my vast accumulation of belongings from the summer and whittling out what I will have to leave behind. I am cautiously optimistic that assimilation will be easier this time around as I will be immediately going to work, visiting family and friends and then booking it out of the country a few months later.
A critical flaw of my nature is my tendency to overthink and plan to excess. I like to have complete control, which usually spirals into insane shenanigans where I have no control. Such is life, but during my next trip I want to try and live within the moment. Had I not incessantly planned ahead while in Spain, I easily could have solidified several jobs, a place to live and probably a few plants and a dog to round out the entire experience. By living in the future I robbed myself the joys of the present, as well as the possibility of staying in Spain longer without panicking at the possibility of the unknown. As it is I have solidified my fate for the next few months and I will take it as another lesson learned.