Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Living in the Moment

Sometimes, when I'm caught up in my mind, having a less then pleasant day, I tend to get a little carried away and go on a bit of a rant.  That last entry was definitely a form of ventilation.  Today, with a much clearer head, feeling much more organized and productive, I must follow up by giving a little credit to enjoying the moment and dealing with upcoming challenges one step at a time.  Yes, people are leaving, things are changing, and I face new decisions ahead, but in reality, every person is just living from day to day, making the best of things and getting on with it.  There are amazing memories constantly occurring, near future things to look forward to, and even just the simple pleasures of day to day living there to remind all of us how short and sweet life is.  It's easy to make life into this grand production, everything being mapped out like an intricate plot line filled with a perfect balance of love, romance, and suspense.  But, as one of my dear friends here reminds me often, you never know what surprises will come along, for better or worse, so it's best to enjoy and appreciate each moment.  I have an especially hard time with this sometimes, but it's so true that living in the now is massively important.  I've written about it before in this very blog, yet I tend to forget it as life gets a little heavy.  Why sit here spending this time worrying when there is so little time left in this situation, with these friends, this lifestyle, this flat... The time to make decisions is ahead, but I will cross that bridge as it comes, as they say.  It’s a beautiful summer day in Madrid, so I think I’ll go enjoy it.  :)

Monday, June 20, 2011


As I spend my final week of relative normalcy here in Madrid, a rush of pressures is beginning to hit me like a sudden tall wave on a calm beach. Here I am, moseying through life, when suddenly reality rears its ugly head. Well, I suppose reality isn't such a terrible thing, but I need to make sure my feet are braced so I can handle the inevitable impact.

There are good things, very good things that lie ahead in the upcoming months. Nonstop travel begins this week, and from there a constant stream of visitors will be gracing my presence and giving me not one moment to digest. That means that while it will surely be a memorable adventure, it will also leave me very little time to reflect and absorb this experience before dashing back to the United States in September. Many new contemplations have entered my spectrum of possibilities that I cannot ignore. I am now quite certain that I will return here for another year of teaching and improving my Spanish, pending the proper paperwork successfully goes through. This is one loose plan that must stick because in my oh so indecisive fashion, I needed to make a choice and this one was it. Beyond coming back to teach for the season, I have not a clue where to point myself. I have so many endless options about the where, what, and when, yet I can't seem to make a decision, even after spending so much time on the road. Now there is a new factor, a new person that is also applying the pressure and complicating the issue. It was challenging enough to be feeling my way through life and carving my path, but now when other people begin to walk on that path, a new sense of anxiety about my life decisions are weighing down on me heavily.

These are all good problems, I suppose, but as I continue to drift farther from a life that was, all of my friends back in the States, my lifestyle, possessions, career, I can't help but grasp on to the final strings with an unexplainable desperation. I feel a massive gap between a life that was and my life that is in such a short period of time and fear losing all that was familiar in exchange for an unknown that could turn out to be quite temporary. I wish I had more time, or better yet, I wish my path wasn't considered to be so rebellious to the upbringing I come from. As I traveled through Europe, one thing that grabbed me was utter freedom that other people from other countries seemed to have. My NZ friend could jump on a yacht doing grunt work for a year and think nothing of it; an Aussie I met decided to pick up and set roots for a year with no plan at all; my Canadian friend thinks it's bizarre that my move to be here was considered to be radical at all. But this vagabond lifestyle was not one I planned on and I am having a hard time feeling relatively useless as I float through my adventures. I'm ready for more. I'm ready to grow up a little and begin once again to have an impact. I'm so torn between so many things: my deep values that encourage me to break away from conformity, my relationship here with an amazing guy, the strong bonds with other expats on their journey, the dread of taking a number and standing in line as another unemployed American, the overwhelming decision of where to live if the US will be home again, my desire to see every corner of this planet... I don't know what home even is anymore and I just hope that even with the maddening travel schedule of this summer, I will be able to keep a clear head, gain some perspective, and further decide what is truly important to me and my future.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Making way for summer

As the days of the school year wind down, my schedule has been widdled to merely one class a day, with next week being the final week for me. As June flies by, my mixed feelings of excitement and sadness are coming to a head. While I am absolutely thrilled to begin a summer of travels with friends from home and my bro, I can't help but feel a twinge of loss with the knowledge that this incredible whirlwind of a year is coming to a close. I'll return to this life once again next year, but it will take a much different form as only a small hand full of this incredible group of friends will be in Madrid once again.

I've kept myself plenty busy with goodness to distract from the reality of more changes to come. Next weekend I'll be having an early birthday celebration that will double as a grand goodbye party for all those folks heading out in June and July. Then the following weekend I'll revisit destination number two of my epic backpacking trip over a year ago and spend my actual birthday in an Amsterdam haze. Only days after I return from that trip, it's off to Barcelona for a weekend of good times before my brother arrives for two weeks of adventure. More friends from the states have chosen this time to visit as well so the entire month of July is going to be a whirl wind of travel. August will be my final month here and I plan to spend it with my special someone down in his home of the Canary Islands. In September its back to the good ole US of A to see my lovely people and tie up loose ends before returning back to my new home, here in Madrid, for another year that I can only imagine will be just as exciting and wondrous as this one has been.

Taking this path less traveled, departing from the comfort of a schedule and a planned future that is at least partially predictable, can be massively nerve racking, yet beautifully liberating. Looking ahead to my loose plan for the next six months, I sometimes wonder, is this actually a feasible way to live my life? What am I missing? But there's hardly time to think about that and when I look back on the time I've spend here thus far, I couldn't imagine doing anything else. Who knows what the future will hold and whether this path has some detrimental missteps that I am blind to right now. I'll take them as I come and in the mean time, keep planning based on these whims and what feels right for right now.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Mediterranean Does it Again

Last year, as I made my treck through Europe, I discovered many beautiful locations that left me awe struck and impressed.  I found that the most picturesque of locations that I truely fell in love with were those along the Mediterranean coast, with Cinque Terre, Italy being my favorite.  Nice, Capri, the Almafi Coast, and Barcelona all had a special charm and the blue waters of the warm sea never failed.  Once again I've discovered a beautiful oasis situated out in the middle of this vast ocean and I can confidently say that it is a contender for one of the most beautiful locations I've visited thus far. 

Mallorca is a small island off the east coast of Spain that is know for it's German and English travel resorts and the infamous party island of Ibiza just south.  A friend and I ventured out on a cheap flight we managed to snatch for a long weekend of beach and sun.  Little did we expect to be blown away by the cliffside views and natural reserves we discovered.  Our hostel was situated right in the midst of the German party scene.  The pretty beach was littered with hoards of inebriated tourists and pink fleshed families.  We managed to find a spot to soak in the rays, but I couldn't help feeling how remarkably reminiscent of Myrtle Beach this was (the hectic underaged Spring Break version).  We endulged in the action for our first night, finding plenty of people to enjoy a night out with and ending up at the atrosious "Mega Park", a bastard child of the beer halls in Germany and fully equipt with shnitzle stands outside of the massive club. 

The next day, with our heads pounding and in desperate need of a change in scenery, we made our way to Las Palmas to get a taste for the city, have a real Spanish meal, and catch the match, Barcelona vs. Manchester.  The city was just as I expected, with the old city backing up to the massive port and plenty of places to duck in for a snack and a beer.  We discovered a crafty jewelry market to do a bit of browsing then popped into a local pub to see the game.  We went from being in Germany, to reentering Spain, and then to England as we entered the pub filled to the brim with English travelers.  We were among the very few happy patrons that night as Barca pulled out a win, but entering the streets we discovered that Mallorca is stuffed with supporters of the famous Spanish team.  People in their jerseys and waving their flags barreled down the streets, all heading for the central fountain to celebrate the victory.  Suddenly the town was filled with honking horns, chanting, and the colors of the team dashing by.  The festive spirit of the Spanish people never seeks to impress me.

Despite the victory festivities, we managed to make it an early morning the next day and rented a car with ease and for next to nothing.  I took the wheel and we began our ascent up into the mountains along the east coast of the island.  With each bend in the road, we became more and more awestruck by the breathtaking views dropping down dramatically from the thin windy roads I traversed.  The plentiful sun sparkled on the water as we marveled at the perfectly clear blue Mediterranean Sea.  We made our way through the first village, Validernossa, having a meal on the terrace and strolling though the quaint streets.  We stumbled over an inviting sign for Mallorca's special wine for a steal and couldn't pass it up.  This enchanting little nook was more than we bargained for with the most beautiful view out the large open window on the back terrace and the sweet, delicious red wine filled to the brim. We left content and continued up the coast, tripping over the next town, Deia, built quite literally on the side of a mountain.  It's hard for me to even capture the beauty of this tiny village in words.  Finally, we ended up by a famous port in Soller to have an ice cream, watch the sunset, and head back into town to meet an old good friend of mine before making our way once again to German town.

The next day, our final day, we dragged ourselves out of bed even earlier than the prior day to make good of the sun and our car.  We head southwest this time toward a natural reserve that was known to have one of the most beautiful beaches in Spain. As the roads became more secluded and we twisted through country roads, I doubted the direction we were headed.  We saw signs for this apparent beach, parked the car, and walked down a short, sandy trail.  As I turned the corner, my skepticism vanished as the crystal blue water and white sand took my breath away.  Not a building in sight and very few people lying on the sand, we could hardly believe that this was the same island as the hectic German scene we've been experiencing.  We found a spot to get comfortable and laid in the warm sun for hours.  As the clouds began to roll in, we decided it was a perfect time to have a bite and a drink and strolled up to the little beach cabana for some sangria and a bocodilla.  The clouds darkened as the day grew later, so we said goodbye to our special little discovery, packed our bags, and said goodbye.

Once again I've managed to be blown away by the beauty of the sea along the Mediterranean.  The more time I spend getting to know new places, the more I feel almost instinctually drawn to the warm climate and the ocean.  How is it possible to have such beauty be so accessible?  It's so great to know that not every pretty spot has been absorbed by holiday seekers and filthy rich spenders.  Next up:  The northern coast of Spain and then the Canary Islands.