Monday, March 28, 2011

"Sometime's you wanna go, where everybody knows your name..."

I woke up this morning with images of Boston and the sound track to "Cheer's" running on loop in my head.  It comes to little supirse because when I fell asleep I had that pesky urge for comfort that is peering up more and more day by day.  There was a time where I followed my dreams as literally as I could.  It's how I got to this point in many ways.  When I was tossing and turning for months, struggling through my IBM job, I continued to ask myself what I should do: stay or go.  The message was clear from my work nightmares and I took it as a strong message that something needed to change. 

So now, with this tune playing in my mind and that warm feeling of being surrounded by a community where I am truly a part of it, I can't help but question if this is where I need to be.  Damn it!  Just when I think I've got it all figured out.  Timing is really everything and I know this city of more stability and familiarity, whether it be Boston, New York, Portland... who knows.. doesn't need to happen right this second.  But sooner than later?  Another year abroad or not?  The problem is, if I go back to the states and try to lay down foundation for a more long term stay where I can actually have this community, I need to make other decisions that go way beyond location.  I need to find a... real job.  Ah!  I don't have any problem working a real job, but the real question is what kind.  That's the part I'm not ready to decide, but at least I am giving myself more motivation as the desire to be in a more stabilized lifestyle where English is the language and I can go about things a bit more naturally is there.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Plans are Shaping Up

Last night I couldn't sleep. I figured since my parents are coming at the break of dawn tomorrow morning, I might as well wear myself out today so I can sleep soundly tonight. That was my justification for hopping on my computer and digging into all kinds of crazy plans instead of lying in bed, staring up at the ceiling in the dead of the night, mind racing but trying to force sleep. It was a great decision, because now my plans are shaping up and my mind is swirling with an exciting next several months.

I lost sight momentarily of why I came all the way out here. It was not a meaningful goal of mine to become an experienced teacher, or even to learn Spanish. There are beneficial perks, but I came here to soak up all of the goodness that Spain and Europe have to offer while I have the freedom and flexibility to be here. As my fellow expats and I have numerous chats about our mysterious futures, the end of this experience is beginning to feel as though it is rapidly approaching. So now, I have made it my mission to maximize my time here by seeing and doing all of those things I've dreamt about doing, that seem amazing but that I've only considered in passing. There are so many famous festivals here in Spain and around Europe that I feel almost an obligation to see. Going back to Amsterdam has been tempting me since the last time I visited a year ago (a year ago today, actually!) and Queen's Day at the end of April seems like an ideal time to get back. Denmark is one country I am still yet to visit, so what better way to check it out than with one of Europe's most epic music festivals? Rockslide takes place at the end of June and seems like a perfect way to celebrate the end of the teaching season and my belated birthday. A week later is the kick off of Running with the Bulls in Pamplona. With friends coming in from the States already, this is one festival I will definitely not be missing. Other small festivals will be springing up all throughout the summer months in Spain, Italy, and Greece, just to name a few I intend to get to. Suddenly I realize that there is so much to see and so little time!

Beyond festival hopping, there are certain cities I needed to omit during my trudge through Europe last year. Six stick out in my mind the most: Lisbon, Berlin, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Istanbul, and the Greek islands. I wouldn't mind revisiting Prague and Florence as well because they were spoiled by unfortunate weather. So I have quite the itinerary lined up for the next several months to make it out to the sunny islands in Greece, stopping through Italy on the way, and heading north for a pricy, yet pleasant visit in Northern Germany, Denmark, and Sweden (maybe even Norway and Finland if it's possible). Now it's just a matter of timing and budgeting it out to make it as economical as possible, but with Ryanair and couchsurfing, I don't see that being too big of a problem.

Beyond hopping from one city to the next in search of a good time, sites, and festivals, there is one other thing I must do before I leave that is increasing in importance to me: The Camino de Santiago. This four week "pilgrimage" attracts people from around the world who are searching for peace, a sense of accomplishment, an outdoor adventure, and many other motivations, I'm sure. Much like the Appalachian Trail, hikers with backpacks make their way through the mountains and towns, living off the land, their pack, and the humble offerings in the small villages, in an effort to complete a famous walk that stretches the length of Northern Spain. After reading through information on planning, it appears that October would be the ideal month.

So my dates are coming together: For the next three months, I will commit to teaching my students, taking Spanish courses, and popping around Spain for weekend excursions. Then July will be divided between exciting festivals and big trips to finally see the countries I missed. In August and September the heat is unbearable, so I have big hopes to find a cheap little place by the sea, hopefully finding some laidback bar or tourism work. I'll be sure to make my way to more festivals (especially Oktoberfest) and then in October, I'll hand my bags over to a friend in Madrid to hang on to as I walk the Camino. I'll at last head home in the fall to be with family and visit loved ones around the states. I can't imagine I'll be sitting still long with a South Pacific adventure seeming more and more possible and calling my name. Life is an adventure...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Balance: It always comes back to that...

These days I've got more time on my hands then I know what to do with. When I'm not bouncing from city to city or teaching my few lessons a week, I am given the great gift, but sometimes the curse, of plenty of free time. Today it is cold and rainy, Madrid once again showing it's not so pleasant side with this ugly weather, but it gives me a good excuse to day dream, write, and plan. So as I sit here today, thinking of the vast future, knowing that nothing is decided and I can take so many different paths, I realize that I need some kind of meter to make sure I'm not making any abrupt decisions based on emotions or outside influence. As I wrote it came to me: the meter is balance. Balance and moderation. Dad always tells me that from his college experience, the one thing that truly hit home for him the most was a philosophy his professor told him about Greek civilization: the key to a good life is moderation. And low and behold, the more life I live, the more this inevitably is the case. Whenever things seem simply off and life is a bit out of whack, it always turns out that there was a lack of balance; that one thing was overwhelming my focus and I was failing to see the big picture.

Lately images of home keep engulfing my thoughts, leaving me with a warm, reminiscent feeling of all those familiar faces that know me well. I can't help but get caught up in that longing for home. If I am lacking anything here, above all it is the comfort of home. A familiar song from high school reminds me of silly moments riding around in a cram packed Jeep with nothing better to do than waste time between school and home. I think of college a lot, those perfect sunny days in Boone when everyone poured out of their dorm rooms to lounge the grassy quad, surrounded by the beauty of the valleys and mountains that we couldn't help but take for granted. My screen saver scrolls through old photos and I see a shot of our ridiculous costumes from our epic Halloween party with all my Atlanta folks. I'm making new irreplaceable memories here in Spain, but there is something to be said for an unspoken understanding that is so much more challenging to find here, thousands of miles from the US and all the people I miss there.

This is one way where it is a real challenge to have the balance. I love living out here, everything being new and exciting and building relationships with my friends aboard, but I do miss home and there must be a time for that too. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by these feelings of home, with a sensation that I need to change all my plans, pack up and go now. Other times I couldn't imagine being there. Today I feel a sense of appreciation for both. Mom and Dad will be here very soon for a visit and I hope this gives me that refill of home I've been dreaming of. Sometimes we all just need to be the most honest, raw versions of ourselves and that is very tough to do with people that are new. For all the adventure and excitement, it's time for my balance. It's time for comfort and unconditional love and people who know me better than anyone else.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Las Fallas: Anything Goes in Spain




The sounds that greeted us as we arrived in Valencia were a direct contraction to the beautiful scenery of Spain's third largest city. Las Fallas, a celebration that occurs once a year and closely resembles a city wide fair, is known for the burning event that occurs on Saturday evening, of magnificent statue-like constructions that are tediously built for a year prior. Upon arrival we were immediately struck by the distinctive similarities between the ear-splitting pyrotechnics and the noise you would expect from a war zone. Loud bangs and pops filled the city streets as people of all ages and from all around the world tossed their firecrackers about the streets and set off a wide variety of armature fireworks, right there on the busy sidewalks. As the night toiled on, the madness increased and we too had to join in on the festivities. Suddenly we were children again, thrilled with deafening crack of each flammable toy. There is something so off about this tradition, but the senselessness seemed to fade as we witnessed countless people roaming the streets, completely unphased, some even with strollers or walking canes. We spent the entire night simply roaming the streets, stumbling over the occasional tented dance party, the tantalizing smell of deep fried churros coming from various street carts, and the main attraction of the competing "fallas", so immaculately created and soon to be a fiery spectacle.




Saturday was kicked up several notches as the streets were packed with herds of people in for the main event. I found my friend who was joined by many of her hostel guests, once again transporting me back to backpacking mode. We wandered through the city in order to take in at least some of what Valencia had to offer outside of the festivities. As we neared the odd, yet beautiful Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias complex, a modern art marvel and architectural wonder, I somehow stumbled over my friends who joined the herd. The day slinked on as we roamed about the giant complex and a surprisingly peaceful park. When night set in, the group depleted, but some of us were fortunate to trip over the most fantastic show of fireworks I've ever witnessed. The magnitude of the show was nothing compared to costly productions I've seen in the past, but the randomness and sheer proximity to the crowd had me completely taken. We stood at the base of an iconic arc monument, sipping beers and chatting, when suddenly fiery blasts of color shot from the top of the arc. Then, as we assumed the short burst was over, a full display of fireworks proceeded to explode directly over our heads as we craned up to see them. While the danger of these little bombs was obvious to me, the crowd so vulnerable to one of these rockets exploding a moment too late, it was well worth the impressive show.



This wet our appetite for the highly anticipated burning of the fallas. At the beginning of the weekend, I admittedly failed to see the thrill in lighting some floats on fire. But after spending the last two days gawking at the marvelous art and how insanely meticulous these spectacles were, I had to see them to the very end. We made our way to the runner up, the Aztec, which was an extremely elaborate scene of Eve with her apple, an Aztec woman whose head was nearing the same height as the adjacent apartment buildings, and a giant, sad Indian man. We all agreed that our favorite element was the group of "half animals", including elephant-giraffe and porky pine-monkey. I must also note the oddly placed Obama wearing a Snow White dress. We stood for almost two hours, watching the firemen set up the show and feeling the heat from the other fallas burning ceremonially in the distance. At last, at close to 2 AM, it was time for our show. The fireworks began to spin, and rockets blasted from out of the statue. Then all at once, the incredible work of art burst into flames. Rapidly the blaze raced up the Aztecs bare chest and engulfed her face. The sad Indian quickly withered away, and a thick, black smoke plume filled the air. Eve was still pensively lounging, her intricately formed body untouched, until at last, the trail of fire crept through her hair, engulfed her face, and at last as the structure weakened, her giant body dramatically toppled to the ground. Our favorite half animal, the elephant giraffe, was the last to burn as the firemen pushed over the little friend to be eaten by the flames.



We walked away from the show as the structure was reduced to simply a burning wood structure. As we mosied through the streets, we stumbled over burning rubble from the other fallas that were once so amazing, now merely ash. The scene now transformed into a wild street party of countless people drinking themselves silly and acting completely insane. As much fun as everyone seemed to be having, I couldn't part myself from the prior experience. An onlooker and I noted, as we watched the last of the fallas burn away, how sad this all was in a way. Another member of the crowd chimed in that this was all part of the tradition and now we make room for the new. But for some reason I still couldn't grasp this completely. How could something so beautiful and built with such tremendous care, be brought down in a moment and celebrated by people getting lost into an alcohol and drug induced oblivion? Something seemed slightly depressing about the whole thing, but also absolutely fascinating.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Strange Day... But Aren't They All?

I would like to say that yesterday was a strange day, but truth be told, everyday is a strange day here in Madrid.  Nothing is normal and that can have it's highs and lows.  As a result, life is exciting and an adventure, but at the same time, overwhelming and frustrating.  While I inspire some, I annoy the crap out of others.  While I am open to jumping on a new opportuntiny that sounds amazing, I disappoint those who expect more of a commitment. Case in point, yesterday. 

The day began by fulfilling a duty I've been dreading for weeks.  I finally told my boss I needed to quit.  For me, there was no way around it.  Getting paid 16 euro per hour seems like a good rate, but factor in the hour and a half round trip commute, two hours of planning, and the trips to the office for materials, that leaves me with scraps.  Teaching is new to me, so on days with classes (everyday but Friday), I feel frantic and stressed, trying to pull together as much as I can to teach a good lesson, while desperately brushing up on my long forgotten English grammer rules.  I can't help but wonder, what the hell am I doing this for?  Now with an opportunity to run more mini camps, getting paid in one week what I get paid in a month with teaching, it is impossible to keep my commitment to this one random academy that pays me less than minimum wage would be at home.  So I made the necessary move and confronted my boss in person to break the news.  This women has proven to be both laid back and friendly, and massively impatient and disgruntled.  The older woman from north England has a no frills attidude and a seemingly distainful perspective on life.  I knew it was going to be a painful converstation, but I couldn't put it off any longer.  When I broke the news, it went suprisingly well.  With the exception of a few f-bombs and passive insults about selfish teachers (like me of course), she accepted the news and granted me my two final weeks. 

Where one thing ends another is picking up.  When I returned home I was baraded with messages pertaining to this upcoming weekend's festival in Valencia, Las Fallas, and Monoloco, a new tour company I have joined with great potential, but desperately in need of help.  Tom, the owner, appointed me to be "COO", responsible for organizing the company and helping the efforts.  We basically hire a coach, buy a ton of booze, and reserve a block of hotel rooms on weeks of big festivals in Spain.  The idea is to haul 50 or 60 young expats off to these crazy scenes at a packaged group rate through Monoloco.  With the anticipated trip departing tomorrow, we are eagerly scrambling to get the final bookings in.  This is a whole different beast than teaching English, so I quickly switched gears to eek out a few more people to join the trip.

I then darted out the door for my only class of the day.  It went quite well and I left with a feeling of guilt for leaving the poor kid.  What was liberating excitement earlier in the day, was now a feeling of responsibility that I was abandoning.  On my long walk to the metro from class, I momentarily considered passing up the camps and continuing on with teaching for the sake of this one, cute kid.  In the end I deemed it unrealistic, but still unfair for him regardless.

No time to ponder this, though, as I dove in to yet another dynamic of my life here in Madrid-- to actually be immersed in Spain.  My roomate and his friend scooped me up and we went off to see the highly anticiapated match between Real Madrid in Lyon.  We perched up in a traditional Spanish tapas bar and I shifted my mind to focus on the Spanish converstation, straining to understand the words and derive some kind of meaning from what they were saying.  I spoke only in Spanish all night, dinning on olives and boccadillo, drinking Mahou cervaza, and cheering for my new favorite team.  A great night and a lovely reminder of why I am actually here.

That uplifted feeling lasted less than 30 minutes.  Upon arrival back to the flat, my other roommate, the painfully particular one, was steaming about a culmination of issues he had with me.  All truely misunderstandings and differences in perspectives, the build up was released into a direct slam to my charactor and a shocking outburst that I never saw coming.  Good feelings of my spot here in the this new apartment turned into dread as that terrible hot feeling rushed over me (probably even more intensely because of the beers that were making me feel so lovely just moments ago).  He dished out his feelings as I instinctively defended myself.  At last I swallowed the critisism and after several minutes of debate, we resolved our issues.  Still, I felt confused and low and unsure how to digest all of this.  I knew that he was mistaken, but I still couldn't let go of some of the terrible things he said about my disregard for the apartment and how we are absolutely not friends.  A roommate fight, bottom line.  Different people, with different expections living under the same roof and trying to make eachother happy while, at the same time, trying to have their world be somewhat normalized.  I can't help but note how distinctively different this situation is from the last- before I was dumstruck by how unfair my other roomates were in their complete lack of respect for others and now I am being lectured about that very thing from my new roommate?  Just goes to show you how different people can be, especially in living situations. This is one benefit of living alone, I am quickly realizing.

So as it was 12:30 AM, I assumed my night was closing, but sure enough, I was contacted by an old freind from home, a guy I rarely have spoken to in the last four years since college but has suddenly contacted me for advice on joining the small group of us that ditch there old conformed life to live abroad and do what I am doing.  It was like I was talking to the male version of myself, and by the end of the chat, I had somehow inspired someone else for simply sharing how I feel about life and my current situation.  Now I was beaming as I said goodnight to him, and closed my night with a quick late night conversation with two good friends here that are also part of this crazy life abroad. 

So after this long story of my crazy day filled with ups and downs and a gallary of emotions, I see how living a life like this is an immense learning experience.  For all the frustration and confustion, there is a great sense of living that comes with it.  This is what life is all about.  Learning about the tough decisions, testing out different waters, taking risks.  So now, another crazy day.  Las Fallas departure is less than 24 hours away and before that I must plan a class, teach it, and celebrate St. Patrick's day, Spanish style.  Crazy life, but a good one, needless to say.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

And just like that, my mind is made up and I will stay in Madrid, at least for now.  Yesterday as I reviewed my options and talked it over with my voice of reason, Dad, one big question came to the for front: Am I running away from Madrid or towards Sevilla?  This decision of one Spainish city or another for the next several months seems somewhat arbitrary on the whole, but as I contemplate this important question for my next move, I can't help but ask it to myself about life in general.  All of us who have that desire for change, that love of the road and moving about as I do, have to have that honest moment when they face the fact that everytime roots are dug up and we start over in a new location, we are saying goodbye and avoiding commitment to the people we meet and routine we find.  I was feeling the draw to the warm climate and kind people in Sevilla as I day dreamed about it the last couple of weeks, but the compelling reason to pack my bags and go south was more linked to my less than pleasing situation in Madrid.  This weekend, as I finalized my move action items, I realized that I actually have so many wonderful things I've built for myself here in Madrid and so much potential for more.  I don't want to run, I want to embrace.  Starting over, yet again, seems foolish and unnecessary.  Since Spain is not my perminant destination, I know another move will come soon, so for now I will embrace what I have and stop chasing a fantasy. 

No matter where I live or what I am doing, there will be good days and bad days, great friends and cruel people, sun and rain, laughter and tears.  That all important question Dad asked me yesterday is one that should frequently be asked as I continue my trek around the world.  Before I go home, find a job and a husband and establish my community, there are so many things I want to do and see.  I want to experience eastern culture on an island in southeast Asia, mingle with the aussies and learn to surf in Australia, do service work in poor communities in Africa, and put my Spanish to use in Central and South America.  The road has such an incredible pull, towards these amazing things I am yet to experience and see.  But I am not running from home, from the reality that many of my friends back in the States are living.  I want that too, very badly.  So for now I do this crazy life, moving about, taking it in.  There is a time for both and when settling calls my name, I will go towards that too, always checking myself to make sure that fear, frustration, or being generally unsatisfied is never my reason to pack my bags and try something new.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Do I Stay or Do I Go Now?

This decision to stay in Madrid or try a different city is killing me.  I thought my mind was made up and Sevilla was my next stop, but now, as I've made the moves to go, suddenly I am feeling very divided.

What reasons do I truely have to pick up and go again?  Maybe this city is not ideal, but I have realized that the friends I have made here in the past six months are actually quite special to me and now making another fresh start seems absurd.  On the other hand, I left behind my friends and family back home to have this adventure and really soak up the goodness of being on the road in amazing places.  If I stay, I am bound to be frustrated with the many elements of this city that bother me and still feel that ancy, unsettled feeling of being in the metropolitain life.  With that said, the weather is improving and there are so many things, travel wise, to look forward to in the upcoming months.  Why not keep my base here and embrace the trips?  Now suddenly, just when I thought my mind was made up, I feel compelled to stay and enjoy my growing social life, lovely flat, and familiarity with the big city.  So now I'm not going to Sevilla?  I'm so confused...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Plans are Taking Shape

With the occurrences of the last several days, I have made my decision to leave Madrid and head for sunny Sevilla to live out the rest of my stay in Spain. Now that I have made this decision, filling in the gaps and sorting out a new plan is filling my thoughts.  This month is packed with activity, including ski camp this week up in Leon, Las Fallas festival with Monoloco next weekend, and my parents arriving here at the end of the month.  In that time I need to replace myself in my flat, find a new place to live in Sevilla, and decide on all kinds of logistics.  This may seem overwhelming at first, but I seem to be quite familiar with this lifestyle.  I am one with the road and switching apartments and cities has become frighteningly normal.  I'm excited about what lies ahead in Sevilla and finally getting the chance to see the country as the weather warms and I'm freed from a schedule.  Why not embrace it?

The next several months will be a whirl wind, I'm sure, of road trips, visitors, festivals, and the hot Spain sun, but then what?  After a candid conversation with my family this weekend, I was reminded of all the awaits me back home.  I have people that love me there and the potential to start building a pleasant life there too.  I need to truly evaluate what it is about living so far from all that that is pulling me in opposing directions.  As much as being back home for the fall sounds like a huge relief and more and more appealing everyday, there is still so much I want to see in the world and experience.  I have a dream to visit and live in the east for some time, teaching in Bali and traveling the South Pacific becoming more and more real.  But that means distancing my self from the comforts of home and my loved ones yet again.  Time is the crucial factor in it all as I face the tough choice of sacrificing the road or being with the people that love me.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Signs Are Clear

It's time to say goodbye to Madrid.  I have been thrown so many signs over the last four days that it is almost commical.  Over drinks Wednesday night, I casually mentioned how the metros have never done me wrong here in Madrid.  The following day it costed me my job and tortured me as I spent five arguous hours on and off of train cars.  The day was a catastrophy from beginning to end and this city really chewed me up and spit me out.  I felt completely defeated, beat down by the harsh people and unforgiving nature of big city life.  I'm not cut out for it and I'm not interested in developing the thick outter shell to condition myself for this.  Besides, I'm not here to become a Madridian, I'm in Spain to immerse myself in a new culture, try out life abroad. 

If this past Thursday wasn't a big enough kick in the head, the weekend sealed the deal.  Two nights of high expectations for nights out turned into two let downs that costed me a hand full of my possesions and a lot of aggrivation.  If having my jacket stollen (with my comfortable shoes in them) as I tried to escape an onslaught of gropy men in the crowded bar wasn't enough, some nice person thought it would be a perfect way to add to my evening by stealling my camera and phone out of my purse as I stood jacketless in the cold.  Oddly enough I had a converstation about this very thing not happening to me earlier in the day.  Knocking on wood does not work...

These things happen and are unfortunate, costing me a lot of aggrivation and some money, but what it really told me was that this is not where I need to be.  I could be angry, or see it as a sign.  I choose the latter.  So I now know what I need to do.  April will be filled with Spain travel as I visit various friends in the north and hopefuly embark on a mind clearing adventure walking the Camino de Santiago.  Spending a full week simply walking through villiages seems absolutely perfect.  For one month I will have no home, only my backpack.  When I return to Madrid, I'll proptly leave again for a road trip through southern Spain, then enjoy the beaches in Portugal for the long Easter break. It feels good to have a plan and one that includes excitement and travel.  I don't need these crappy teaching jobs and the harsh city.  I need my backpack and the road.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

My Head is Spinning

There is so much change and possibility rushing into my life all at once.  Just as I decide to make this change, that Madrid doesn't satisfy me, the company my friend started and that I have taken a huge role in, is finally starting to take off.  Monoloco is our touring company that I was merely providing some business and marketing tips to, and now suddenly I have a crucial role in the business-- and it's really taking off!  So then all the reasons to stay in Madrid start rushing in and I find myself questioning everything yet again.  I love my friends here, I have steady work and a great apartment.  Why not stick it out and see if the big city life grows on me?  But just as I make that decision, my friend in Sevilla digs up the most perfect, beautiful flat that is much cheaper than the one I have here and in the most perfect part of the city, reminding me of how this lovely place is calling my name too!

Is it possible to have both?  Can I find a way to go back and forth, satisfying my hungry business drive and feeding off the adrenaline I get from Madrid life, while embracing the serenity and beauty that gives me a clear head and the ability to relax when in a smaller, laid back city like Sevilla?  It's too much to contemplate right now during this hectic month.  Next week at this time, I'll be ankle deep in "campamento loco" as I subject myself to another round of English mini camp for the sake of earning a chunk of money in a short time frame.  Between now and then I'll be cramming in all my classes, burying myself in lesson plans, while still trying to drive business for Monoloco.  After the festival trips, a full work schedule, and my parents coming at the end of the month to boot, when will I actually get the chance to make my decision to ditch all of this and head south?  Maybe I should just drop it all now before this month drives me completely mad...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Long Time, No Write

I've neglected my blog long enough.  My writing came to an abrupt halt as I felt my life feeling less like an adventure and more life hum drum life.  That's okay, I suppose, but if I'm going to live thousands of miles from my loved ones, I would much prefer life to be exciting and inspiring.  For so many months, practically the entirety of 2010, life was just that, and now it feels weighed down and frustrating.  I have managed to wedge myself into a job that feels like an uphill battle and a bland day to day with only bursts of excitement and wonder to remind me I'm in Spain.  I've concluded that this needs to change.  No more arduous days running around the city and sitting on the metro.  No more stressing over lesson plans, fighting the crowd at the gym, waking up to the alarm clock and having no time or energy to get away.  It's time to get back on the road.

I knew this day was coming. Since the last time I wrote in November, I've completed my course to receive my "official" teaching certification, traveled extensively, made a few extra euro busting my ass in English camps, and begrudgingly begun to teach classes.  It's only been in the last month that I've actually settled into my routine life here in Madrid and every day of it has seem like an ill fit, but I'm not sure why.  Moving into a new apartment with new, great roommates and being hired to do exactly what I came here to do was supposed to light a fire under me and be satisfying.  But what I discovered was quite the opposite.  By making the commitment to these jobs and this flat, I felt like my adventure was coming to an abrupt halt.  Panic was all I could sense as I received my weekly schedule.  This isn't why I am here! I am not in Spain to be tied down, am I?  But all of my friends here seem to be getting on with it just fine, so why am I kicking and screaming inside?

All of those coincidences and fateful signs that I'd been so tuned into were feeling zapped from my life.  I needed to get away.  I needed to clear my head and taste the road again, if even for a few short days.  So I headed down to Seville to see a friend and experience a different part of Spain.  The weather was absolutely beautiful, a welcome change from the rain and cold in the big city.  I fell in love with this place on contact.  All the smiling people, cruising the town on their bikes, strolling around in their sandals and shades, cafes littering the sidewalks with tables full of tinto and conversation.  Has this little paradise been here the whole time, hidden from view by all the distractions of hustling, bustling Madrid?  I'm in love with this place.  My demeanor changed instantly and for the entire weekend I was swept up by it's charm, from the kitchy shops lining the curving ally streets to the artsy cafes with live music filling the air.

When I left the answer was clear: move to Seville!  Start fresh here.  But I'm plagued by the travel bug.  Am I just destined to pick up and change locations, constantly unsatisfied by the present situation, itching for something more, something different?  Is this fear of commitment something I should address by biting the bullet and making the best of life here in Madrid?  Or is it simply that I am playing a game of trial and error with life right now.  Trying different lifestyles, cities, careers to find that perfect fit that makes me feel whole.  I don't know if I'll ever find the "fit" but if I could at least be in a place that makes me feel comfortable enough to clear my mind and remember who I am, maybe then I will know better what path to take that will be more permanent.

The road is still taunting me, beyond choosing a city in Spain as temporary residence.  August seems to have a giant time stamp on it as the terminating point of Europe (at least for now) and the potential start of the next leg of my quest to see the world.  Asia and the South Pacific is calling my name the loudest.  New Zealand, Thailand, Indonesia, Fiji... I'm dying to feel the fresh ocean air from the beaches, be surrounded by such natural beauty, taste the tradition and culture of the eastern world... I just can't sit still and even as I try to convince myself to conform and call it quits, the justifications are not nearly compelling enough.  I have to keep moving and experiencing and growing.  One day I will have to stop. The money will run out or I'll finally have someone or something offering me an even greater happiness than the road.  But for now, I can't do this commitment thing.  I can't stop doing what I feel destined to do.