1. We get depressed too. Hard to believe, right? How could someone be depressed when everything is so new and different and you’re traveling meeting new people, and seeing new things? Well that shit becomes normal, and you’re still YOU, so… any baggage or hangups you may have, you’ve packed them neatly along with favorite Old Navy jeans, them Aldo boots and whatever seasonings you couldnt part with from the states.
2. Living the expat life is not easy. Most expats are trying to Rick Ross this motha, boss up and trying ideas and innovative ways to entrepreneur their way to a life they want to have. We’ve given up economic security and the right to work, to start our own businesses, using our expat community to inspire and uplift each other while finding our place in the fabric of our chosen homes.
3. We fail. I’ve come up short on my personal goals. I’ve dropped the ball in some of my personal relationships and I’ve done it all while still finding some moments to appreciate this beautiful country I’m in. Take a picture of said moments and up load them to my IG.
Like a heart circulating blood, people come from every corner of town to flow through their plaza mayor. A Spanish plaza mayor is the major life line of any city or pueblo. If you want to take the vitals of your new destination head straight to the plaza mayor.
While architectural design can reflect both the king who started its construction, and the one who finally finished it 120 years later, what is constant is the role plazas play in Spanish society. It is the heart that connects all the veins. The old, the young. The resident, and the visitor. The lonesome traveler and familial group. Everyone finds themselves there, at one time or another.
For me every exploration in Spain begins at the plaza mayor. Hiding behind shades and anonymity, I peep the town as it is, when nobody’s watching in plain sight. How peaceful it is to share a history and space with everyone who lives in your town. I try to melt into the scene, imagine what it would be like to know just one little thing about every person present at that moment. A city born girl like myself my closest relation is the 2 mile stretch of downtown Chicago. Cold steel buildings reach for the sky driving wedges, disconnecting one part of the city from another. Its no surprise our world are small. North side, south side, this neighborhood, my block, my building, and finally my home. Lacking any sense of connection to the past or present, I hardly give my fellow Chicagoans a glance much less thought. Here in Spain traditions are held more closely and familiar bonds extend father away from the central family unit. Old people having a chat? Plaza Mayor. Impromptu after school football match (without proper goal)? Plaza mayor. Lovely couple out for drinks while their children recklessly play somewhere, safe? Plaza Mayor. For a cafe con leche….pues tu sabes. The Plaza mayor!
Pinxto poppin on a handstand! If you have been sleeping on Páis Vasco, please drop what you doing, get on blablacar and find yourself a quick ticket to Bilbao and go get yo life. Here are my 3 favorite things that will have you heading directamente to Pais Vasco.
Pinxtos. pronounced piencho. I’ve already explained how geek I get when these little morsels of deliciousness are around. The pinxto scene in Bilbao is fierce. From swanky to divy almost every bar offers up gourmet style small bites for consumption with your beverage of choice.
Casco Viejo. Its old and beautiful. Walk around and get dizzy or tipsy in its winding streets.
Tinderonis. Not sure where you are swiping at the moment, but the basque city is very active on this dating app. If you’re feeling adventerous or frisky swipe right and meet up with a local get a free tour or whatever else no judgement here.
Utrecht is a fascinating city and definitely worth a visit if you’ve tired of the tourist gridlock and smoky haze of Amsterdam. Located just 20 miles to the south and a 30 minute train ride, Utrecht can be visited for the day. But, if you dig a slower pace stay for a bit longer.
Finished in 1382, Dom Tower is the symbol of Utrecht. At one time, this Gothic style tower was actually connected to the Cathedral of Saint Martin, but after part of it collapsed in 1674, the tower stands alone. Not only can you walk under the tower itself, but you can also explore the top and get a great view of the city. Every other hour the tower’s 50 bells serenade the city with its beautiful harmonies.
Housed in the former Benedictine abbey of St. Paul the Utrecht Archive is the perfect place to discover the rich history of the city and province of Utrecht. And for my budget travelers….its free! Through historical sources, unique images, film, and documents you can learn about the city’s growth over the last 2000 years.
Walk through the winding streets that have changed very little since the medieval times, and get a sense of how much time has passed in this old city. The canals have an unique wharf-basement structures that create a two-level street along the canals. The street level and then a lower level where you can find restaurants and cafes.
I’m a big city girl by birth, and a small city girl by heart. I took the big leap and left the booming Spanish capital of Madrid for the historic city of León. Nesttled on the southern side of the Cantabrian Mountain range in the North of Spain, León is the capital city of the province of León. It’s not usually on the tourist radar unless you are doing the Camino de Santiago, which passes right through the center of town. I’ve been here just about 4 months, here are some of my favorite places around town.
I try to avoid too much self reflection at the end of the year, but a little bit always seems to creep in. Recent visits from friends and many discussions about what it means to be older. Specifically 32, childless, unmarried, and at the moment not so goal driven. No home, no car, and just enough income to make the few ends I do have, meet. When I talk to friends with plans, roots, and better halves to abuse they seem to possess a greater sense of purpose, admittedly in my weaker times, that I crave. You always want what you don’t have. What do you want to do with your life? When the question was put to me about 5 years ago, I would have answered traveling the world, living in another country. So how have I fared? Am I living the life I wanted? I sat down and looked at where I’ve been in the last year. This has been my year:
January 2015 Barcelona and Tarragona Solo
Just off a traveling high from the holidays, I finally found the courage to start solo traveling again. This was my first solo trip since arriving in Spain and my first trip to Barcelona.
The Catalan capital took my heart away with its big boulevards and astonishing architecture. Three days was not enough. I vowed to return.
February 2015 Valencia and Denía Solo
Spain is broken up into communidades which are like states. There a total of 15 communidades on the Iberian peninsula and I decided to make it my goal to visit them all. So Valencia was the natural next destination on my list. It is most known for paella, beaches, and expats. I spent a night here and headed straight for a small beach town named Denía.
After losing my grandmother in January, I needed to get away. Most of the times I use travel to distance myself from tough times. I hopped on the bike and let the sea nourish me.
March /April 2015 Asturias: Ribadesella, Nueva Llanes, and Llanes Half Time Solo
Spent the time walking trails through tiny mountainous villages of Asturias. Did some biking and relaxing. The most beautiful communidad of Spain, hands down, when its not raining.
May 2015 Nothing…did I need to?
June 2015 Amsterdam, Edam
This was the most anticipated trip for me this year. Life abroad can get lonely and there is nothing like reconnecting with those that know and love you most. This trip was right on time! Holland is one country that I can return to and love every second of. Best of all I got explore it with my best friend and that was priceless.
July 2015 Working at a camp recharging the money source.
August 2015 Freedom and movements. I moved to Leon!
September 2015 Chicago, Colorado, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Dublin, Ireland
I finally made it home. Chilled out with my people and took in the beautiful USA.
October 2015 Asturias
November 2015 Asturias
December 2015 Bilbao (Pais Vasco), Barcelona, Madrid, Amsterdam, Utrecht Solo and with Good Company
Right now I’m traveling more than I ever have. This has been my year. I didn’t realize I was already where I wanted to be. This little self reflection has jilted me out of “there’s something wrong with my life” pattern of thinking. My life is just what I asked for. Its funny how you can get just what you asked for, and still not be happy or thankful. Well I’m thankful to be doing what I said I wanted to do, even though its got me broke and with little to show besides fumbling proficiency of a foreign language and tons of experiences.