Adios Spain. Thank You for Teaching Me These Lifelong Lessons.

It all began three summers ago. A fresh college graduate, I was going to move to a tiny 5,000 person village in rural Spain, without speaking the language or knowing a single soul. I promised my family I’d only be gone for a year, and that I’d come back to New York next summer, ready to get a traditional job and accept a “normal”  lifestyle.

HELLO

. . . OOPS.

Three years later, what was meant to be a one-year adventure in Spain has turned into something much, much deeper. This country has turned into my home. I have lived in three different cities of Spain; from tiny Fregenal de la Sierra, to bustling and boisterous Madrid, to the enchanting city of Granada. I have learned the culture, lifestyle, quirks and ‘isms’ of three different Spanish cities, all unique and equally wacky. I have eaten enough tortilla and jamòn to feed the entire Real Madrid soccer team for 10 years, drunk enough cañas to form a second Mediterranean Sea, and formed friendships that will last a lifetime.

As I leave Spain, this time without a return ticket back, I sit here again thinking about the life lessons this country has taught me. Of course, my experiences were polar opposites in the 3 million person capital vs. the tiny sheep-infested pueblo. Sure, those Spanish city people rush to work and plow down anyone in their way, pass their neighbors without saying hello, and they might not even give you dos besos and a huge smile when they first meet you.

However, this country is full of “pueblo people” at heart.

No matter where I’ve lived, whether in Fregenal, Madrid or Granada, certain values have remained a thread throughout the culture and the lifestyle. What’s more, each city has taught me something bigger about life, and how I want to live it:

1. Money doesn’t make you happy. It really doesn’t.

HELLO (1)

Mom and dad could tell you time and time again that money doesn’t buy you happiness, but you don’t believe it until you see it. And here in Spain, you see it every day. Spain has one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe, with some of the lowest wages. On top of that, Extremadura is the poorest region in Spain, and Andalucia comes in at a close second. Talented young people with Masters degrees are unemployed or working as low-wage waiters until they find something better, which ain’t easy. But you know what? Somehow, they always find time to tomar algo with friends, and are filled with good humor, smiles and a lust for life. You’ll see a wealthy, well-dressed lawyer at the same tapas bar as a blue collar worker, drinking the same beer and eating the same tapas. ‘Cause it’s not about the fancy bar, nor the decadent 18€ cocktail you can afford, but the simple things; a caña and some good laughs.

2. The good things in life are better when shared.

HELLO (3)

In fact, my neighbors refer to our group of friends as “la comunidad!” Yes, that literally means “the community.” My friends who are sometimes unemployed and always underpaid, are without fail always ready to offer me a glass of wine from their pueblo, a bit of cheese, a chair and a few minutes to sit and chat. I used to follow their generous offers up with a big “muchas gracias tio, next time I got you!” but quickly learned that if I said that, I get yelled at to shut up, chill out, and just enjoy.

The first time I shared one plate and two forks with seven people I was horrified… Now it’s just my everyday life.

I’m constantly amazed at the generosity in which people share their lives, their time, their things and their food. They’ve taught me what it means to share without expecting something back in return; just company.

3. Enjoying Life is #1. Work Comes Second.

HELLO (2)

When I promised my parents I’d come back to New York after my year in Spain, I thought what I wanted was a high-powered job in an NYC-based communications agency. That job would entail working endless hours in the office, paying constant attention to your e-mail when you’re not in the office, and basically, well, giving up your personal life. I mean, that’s the thing to do if you’re a young, intelligent, driven person, right? WRONG! All wrong.

If there’s one overarching theme I’ve noticed in Fregenal, Madrid, Granada and well, all over Spain; it’s that there’s ALWAYS time to enjoy life. Whether it means spending all Sunday having a BBQ in el campo without a thought for Monday, finding time to take an after-work evening stroll through the barrio, or getting some tapas with your roommate on a Tuesday night…

You work to live. You DON’T live to work.

That doesn’t make you a bad employee, nor lazy, nor unmotivated. It just means you value your life, your happiness, your friends and family.

Spain. I leave you with these final words:

Well, first off: I’m 100% going to be suffering from jamón withdrawal. If any of you amigos Españoles out there want to ship me packets of jamón to my home in NYC…I’ll love you forever. Like really. Para siempre. 

HELLO (4)

Now, Spain, on a more serious note. You’ve given me more than I could’ve ever dreamed of three years ago. It’s time to go, but you’ve taught me life lessons I’ll keep with me for the rest of my life, wherever that path takes me! I know I’ll always have a casa here, and lifelong friends that I can call familia. But right now, there’s a new adventure knocking on my door, and I’ve gotta open it. To my home away from home:

This ain’t goodbye. It’s hasta luego.

__

Stay tuned to find out my next international adventure, to be revealed in a few weeks 😉 –Besazos, AWC

Adios Spain

34 thoughts on “Adios Spain. Thank You for Teaching Me These Lifelong Lessons.

  1. This is really sweet. It’s been almost four years since I called Spain home (where does time go?), but I like to think I took these parts of Spain with me. Good luck with your next steps!

  2. Casie – so wonderfully said – put it all out there!!! Not only are you learning about living – you’re passing it along to others which is more important that you may realize!!!! You are discovering your”bliss” and living it!!!! You’re taking risks and finding out that it’s O.K.!!!! I could go on and on – but for now, just keep on being true to yourself! Can’t wait to find out about the next chapter – but in the meantime I’m really glad you’re nearer to me. xoxoxox

  3. Muchas gracias por tus comentarios!! Me alegro mucho que hayas disfrutado tanto de mi país y sobre todo que nuestra cultura te haya llegado tan adentro. Estoy segura que volverás! Que tengas mucha suerte en tu nuevo camino.

  4. Soy brasileña y llevo casi seis años en Madrid. También llegué pensando que me quedaría sólo un año y aquí estoy… hay una clase de magia en el estilo de vida español que nos conquista a todos. Mucho éxito en tu nuevo desafío! (Yo también lo pasaría bastante mal sin jamón, jajaj)

    1. It’s hard to imagine myself as well…but that’s all part of the adventure! I’ll be going somewhere COMPLETELY different in September, so we’ll see what takes the place of my caña 😉 Cheers!!!

  5. Es emocionante leer lo mucho que te ha llegado nuestro pais a tu alma. El unico “pero” que te pondría es leer que as estado en Granada, Sevilla y málaga y no en Cördoba¡¡ Que sepas eso e sun pecado jajaj. Bueno ya tienes un motivo para venir a Córdoba y tomarte una caña…. o dos

  6. Great post and blog–but may I respectfully disagree with your first point? I think the employment situation of young people here is much more complex than just “But you know what? Somehow, they always find time to tomar algo with friends, and are filled with good humor, smiles and a lust for life…” People are leaving in droves, working long hours for nearly nothing; those waiter jobs you speak of? They’re often working from 4 pm to anywhere from 1 to 2 am for pennies… The phrase makes me wonder if you’ve ever had to deal with any serious financial insecurity or adversity? I find that it’s always people who have always had money that make the statements like these. Now, I don’t know you and would hate to make any gross assumptions, but this statement from young, relatively comfortable American travelers is so common. I suppose that with this you chose to see the positive side of things as opposed to harping on the negatives and for this I salute you.

    1. Hi Nicole, Yes, I am aware of the terribly underpaid and long conditions that many people must work, and it is terrible. That being said, the people I have personally met who are forced to work under these conditions have an incredibly positive outlook on life despite their horrible conditions, and that I must applaud them. Thank you for sharing your opinion, I really do appreciate hearing your take on this topic. All the best! -Awc

  7. Hola, leí tu post, me gustó mucho. Yo también tuve la oportunidad de vivir casi dos años en España, en Salamanca. Y de verdad que deja huella. Hace un mes, después de casi 8 años, tuve oportunidad de volver, de estar en Madrid, Salamanca, Barcelona, Valencia, Palencia…ir por los pinchos, cañas, paella valenciana, de marcha..ufff parafraseando a Hemingway “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Spain as a young person, you know it stays with u, for Spain is a moveable feast”! Saludos

  8. Enhorabuena Cassie, sin lugar a dudas te has empapado de la esencia española. Ahora sigue compartiendo tus vivencias y mostrando al mundo lo mucho que se aprende viajando.
    Hasta siempre.
    Tu país también dejó en mi un recuerdo maravilloso de una gente entrañable y contagioso patriotismo. Mucha suerte.

  9. No te conozco, pero muchas gracias por haber querido durante estos años a mi país, que espero que también lo sientas tuyo. Feliz nueva etapa de tu vida. Hasta luego!

  10. Soy un Rondeño afincado en Málaga, y la verdad que he leido tu carta en Verne (El Pais) y me gustado leer lo que piensas, pero llevas toda la razón. Alguna que otra vez caigo en eso, y digo, pues sí que sabemos vivir, trabajamos para vivir no al revés. Y también es cierto que en general somos de compatir un plato con amigo o conocido que esté con nosotros. Gracias por tus palabras, y espero que conozcas Ronda y Málaga.

  11. Después de leer tu escrito dime donde quieres que te mande el jamón.
    Fernando de Peralta Ortega, Notario de Castelldefels (Barcelona), natural de Extremadura

  12. We really enjoy life and it’s nice to see you got the Spanish way and made it yours. Carry it with you for the rest of your life and be happy. Vuelve cuando quieras! Un Spaniard feliz de Tenerife 😉

  13. So funny!! All the things you know “for granted” of your own birth city and country seen through sorprised and funny eyes. Highly recommended :)

  14. What a wonderful text. Its been 4 years since I last visited my family and friends in South Spain. This post in the Spanish newspaper brought me back to my hometown, my culture, my identity. Thank you for sharing it, thank you for remind us the good things we have forgotten of our own traditions

  15. So long AWC. I’ve been a reader all this time and also been living abroad for 3 years. It’s my time to come back to Madrid and, believe me, your guide is a must!
    Returning is not that bad. It just takes a couple of weeks to get used again to the same old stuff.

    I’m also glad that you have enjoyed my wonderful country and city. And it’s a bit of fresh air read all the good things you have to say about Spain. We spaniards, tend to talk bad about our place just because of politics, corruption and [insert BS here].

    Take care and keep posting. I will be waiting to have a laugh with your next posts!

  16. Awesome! We are from Europe, living in the Caribbean for 12 years and hunting for place to move. I thought of Bangkok, being an Asian, but the language and moving conditions are not that friendly. We started to talk about Spain, as we both love Spain, specially Andalucia. I think we will go there next year to check out some small village to live. Language is not a problem, so after I read your blog, I really want to go and explore!
    Enjoy NYC. We fly there twice a year. I love it there too. Reminds me of Tokyo.

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