When constantly hopping from place to place, it's easy to quickly move onto the next location without taking the time to reflect on where you've just been and what you've learned from that new culture. So, I'm taking a pledge to write down the top things I've learned from each location where I'm spending at least a month. After all, the whole point of this adventure is to learn as much as possible and push my small little worldview. I hope to look back on these regularly to remind myself of the different ways to live life, and maybe they'll give you a little insight too. What's the point of learning if it's not shared? So here we go- installment numero uno is my spirit country: Spain.
1. Slow down
Ahh, yes, this is a giant stereotype of Spain, but let me tell you- it's true. Everything takes a little longer. Ordering and paying at restaurants can take so long that I sometimes feel like waiters are just trying to ignore me! :P But in all seriousness, almost always, I'm not actually in any kind of rush, so why feel the need to move quickly? I learned to better enjoy the moments where I'm waiting and use that time to take in where I am - those sweet older ladies in the corner laughing over a glass of wine or the beautiful wooden carvings that adorn the walls - instead of being stressed that things aren't happening immediately. Why does it even matter?
2. Stand up
A lot of restaurants and bars in Spain don't have many tables, if any at all. Rather, they have long counter tops where you order and stand to eat and drink. The first couple of weeks, I found myself standing more than ever even after walking miles, and to be honest, my feet and ankles were HURTING! At the end of the day, I wanted to just soak my feet and get a massage. However, by the end, I've gained much more stamina, and I've found my shoulders and neck feel a million times better without me being slumped over all the time. My legs are stronger and more toned and feel better equipped to carry me onward through my adventures. Also, when you stand up like this, you take up less room. You're touching shoulders with others instead of putting an immediate barrier around you like at a table. It's easier to meet people, and you enjoy small laughs together as someone drops a glass or has a misunderstanding with the waiter. These moments make you feel more connected and less alone.
3. Don't talk about your job so much
Gosh, if you've read my blog post about leaving San Francisco, you'll know that this was a huge pet peeve of mine! I've loved that in Spain when someone asks "how are you?" or for you to tell them about yourself, they don't mean your job. Sure, that might come up, but for the most part, I end up having more conversations about my true passions that are the undercurrent of what I currently do for my profession and will guide me into what's next. I'm no longer defined by my job and can truly tell people how I'm doing - I'm giddy, I'm exhausted, I'm hurt, I'm excited, I'm lonely. I greatly appreciate the acknowledgment that life is about so much more than your job title.
4. Appreciate good food and drink
Oh man, if I had a nickel for every Spanish lady I saw drinking white wine at 10am. You go, chicas!!! And hell, why not have a glass of wine at 10am if you want one? Like actually, if it makes you happy and isn't hurting others or yourself, enjoy it! Spaniards appreciate simple, high quality ingredients and don't need added sugar or salt to bring out flavors. Even though I feel like I'm eating so much in Spain (the food is all so good!!), I've actually lost 10 lbs. A lot of that is from walking (and standing!), but also, foods just aren't processed here like there are in the States. They're full of nutrients that nourish your body and fill you up more quickly so that you're not just loading yourself up with a bunch of crap and never feeling full. Another thing? I've had no problems with gluten!!!! Back in the States, my fingers become arthritic, I have bad psoriasis, and terrible IBS problems. Here? None! It goes to show you- non-processed, REAL food makes all the difference.
5. Do something fun every day
Spain is always celebrating something. There was hardly a day where I couldn't find some kind of parade, street performers, festivals, etc. Even though Spaniards get off of work rather late (many don't get off until 7 or 8), there are always people at bars grabbing a drink and bite to eat with friends late at night. It's hard to tell a difference between weekdays and weekends (things do wrap up a little earlier but still late!!), as people are always out doing something. I never felt myself longing for the weekend, as weekdays were also a blast! All it takes is stepping outside of your apartment and turning the corner to find some kind of celebration.
6. Love your body
The #1 place you'll notice this is the beach. Half the women are topless, and women of all shapes and sizes are wearing whatever swimsuit they want. Instead of using clothes/swimsuits to try to augment/change/hide the shapes of their bodies, women don't seem to have the shame that we have in the U.S. of not looking a certain way. It's so freeing to not feel like you have to hide!!!
7. Use terms of endearment more
So many people say hello with "hola, guapa," which means "hello, beautiful," and I just love that. They're not hitting on you or anything, just friends or even strangers being kind to one another. This little addition makes you feel special, and I want to do that to others more, whether that's dear, sweetie, love, or anything else that makes you feel a little more special.
You know when you just feel like you're in tune with something? That's how I feel in Spain. Slow, always celebrating, enjoying good company- YES! Life has honestly been really dang easy here. Over the next year, I'll be roaming around different places that are harder and teach me more, but it has been a breath of fresh air to feel like I'm in a place that just clicks with me- a place I would love to someday make home. Te amo mucho, España.