Did you know that if you were to stick a pin through the Earth from New Zealand, it would come out in Spain?
As much as I don’t believe in fate, this kinda makes me believe in fate.
You see, Spain was home for me for 3 years, long before I moved to New Zealand, and no two countries in the world hold such a strong tie to my heart.
Excuse me while I reminisce for a hot minute.
Here is my little Spain story.
I first went to Spain with my high school Spanish class over a decade ago.
It was the first time my passport was stamped and I took all my photos on a disposable Kodak. I can still remember how proud I was the first time I ordered a paella in Spanish without help, and I will never forget staring at Las Meninas in the Prado in Madrid for the first time or walking around Don Quijotes windmills in La Mancha.
That was the first time I fell in love with travel. If my parents only knew the can of worms they were opening when they let me sign up for that trip! Suckers!
I moved back to Salamanca, Spain for a year in college when I was 19 to study at the university. That was when I learned that there is a big difference between studying Spanish in a classroom and trying to make friends with the locals in your dorm. I learned how to actually have a conversation in Spanish over calimocho drinks in the bars and how to travel totally and completely alone for the first time.
That was the year I learned to come out of my shell. I learned the hard way there is no way you can learn to really speak Spanish if you don’t actually talk. So I decided to fuck it, make mistakes and practice as much as I could. Everyone knew I was a guiri (foreigner) anyway, so there was no point in pretending otherwise.
Every free weekend I traveled. Whether I was taking cheap overnight buses around Spain and Portugal to discover new spots or catching a budget flight around the continent to some new capital for 48 hours, I wanted to see and experience everything.
By the time I graduated university with a degree in Spanish, writing and defending a 200 page thesis about medieval queens and power in Spain IN Spanish to boot, I was ready for round 3. This time I moved back to Córdoba in the south in Andalucía to teach English for a year.
But before I got on that one-way flight to Madrid, I started a blog.
While I was there with a teaching program called the auxiliares de conversación through the Spanish government, it was definitely a big experience on my own, with no one holding my hand or helping me. That was probably the hardest year of my life to date. I can’t remember ever being so poor, or having so many things go wrong or questioning so often if I was on the right path.
But between my stubborn optimism that things will be alright and having my blog as my solace and consolation, things perked up.
I decided to give Spain another year, and moved up to the north in a tiny city called Logroño in La Rioja and had the absolute best year of my life!
And that was the year that I fell in love with blogging, sharing my stories and photos from Spain with the world. It was the end of that year that I decided I wanted to become a full-time blogger, and decided to make that commitment and it was also when I decided I wanted to move to New Zealand.
New Zealand had always been in the back of my mind, ever since my high school Lord of the Rings fan days when I first started to hear whispers of this amazing land at the end of the world.
But I loved Spain and I really loved La Rioja, even though I didn’t want to be an English teacher forever. By the time my Spanish visa ran out, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Spain, even though it seemed she was done with me. I put it off as long as possible but eventually decided to move home for a year, work and save, build my blog and then quit my job to travel and write full time.
Leaving Spain in 2012 was very bittersweet. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye just yet but at the same time leaving opened amazing doors for me in other places.
In some ways Spain never felt 100% like home to me in the way New Zealand does, and I still dreamed of living in other places. If I had been given a visa for another year, I would have probably stayed but I don’t know if I would have really been pushed to take that leap of faith into blogging professionally.
I actually haven’t been back to Spain since I left in September 2012. I wasn’t ready to go back and face everything, and I’ve been caught up with my adventures in other places, discovering new sites, and falling in love with New Zealand.
You guys might remember but I have talked before about nostalgia and how I have trouble going back to places I’ve lived before.
My blog started as a Spain blog – those are my roots. I built my community first and foremost talking about Spain, where to go, what to eat, what not to do and how to move there as an expat. Anything and everything.
But my journey changed and evolved, and it’s been a long long time since I’ve written about Spain.
But that will change soon.
As I am writing this I am about to board a plane back to Spain for the first time in almost 3 years! And I’m freaking out!
When I left Spain three years ago my future was uncertain – I’m both terrified and excited to come back now more established, with a career I built myself doing work that I love. In conjunction with return, I will also be relaunching the Spain section of my blog.
Over the past year behind the scenes my team and I have been quietly updating and fixing 2 years worth of articles on my blog about Spain. But it’s time to freshen things up.
I’ll be writing a lot more stories and features about Spain on here AND I am looking for contributing writers too (and I pay too). If you are a blogger or writer and a Spain expert or have some serious Spanish-related adventures, tips, guides, ect to share, please get in contact with me – [email protected].
The rest of my blog is going to stay the same, no worries, but I will have a new Spain section that hopefully will continue to be up to date and helpful for all of you interested in traveling there.
It’s time for me to go back! I really can’t believe I put it off for so long.
And in typical “me” fashion, I am totally unprepared and have absolutely nothing planned. I don’t even have a ticket leaving Spain, though I plan to head back to New Zealand at the end of June.
It’s been a busy couple of months for me, and I just want to enjoy Spain for what it is without too much pressure to see and do everything. Know what I mean?
I am planning to go back and visit places I’ve lived like Salamanca, Córdoba, and Logroño, but also visit friends all over Spain too. I am really keen to do a road-trip around the north and check out Asturias and some of the smaller towns I’ve not visited before, and maybe check out the Costa Brava, but besides that, I’m open-ended.
Where should I go? Tell me!
I have an AirBnb place lined up in Madrid through this weekend, and if anyone is around, particularly auxiliares, and would like to meet up, please let me know! If enough people respond, I can try to organize a meet-up of some sort in Madrid this week or around Spain in June.
I am also collaborating with Busbud which is an online bus ticket site as one of the ways I’ll be getting around.
To be perfectly honest, I am pretty nervous to go back. Will I have forgotten all my Spanish? What have I missed out on? What are the trends? How has Spain changed? Will I fit in?
You know, the usual crap that clouds minds like mine.
But I am also really excited! Wish me luck!