We surrender Spain! Now can we have some fun?

I made my own meme. It was ridiculously easy to do and took about three minutes. No wonder these things are all over the Internet. (Dear Tree….#ImaMillenial #BAE!)

Anyhow, this pretty much sums up my pearl of wisdom after living in Spain for a couple of weeks.

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Here’s how it came about. I arrived to Spain with a huge to-do list: 

  1. Get phone chip/plan
  2. Empadronamiento (register with municipality)
  3. Complete residency visa by getting TIE (Foreigner residency card)
  4. Book next apartment…where?
  5. Buy car
  6. Mobile high-speed Internet solution with unlimited gigs and no contract 

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I really wanted to get most of it done in a day–13 days max. In fact, that’s all the time we allotted ourselves in Barcelona to check off this list. (See first video to get update) Despite my most ardent efforts, however, I quickly realized I was no match for Spanish bureaucracy nor their love for a three hour midday siesta. In short, Spaniards take a longview in life. 

To give you an example, as instructed by the Spanish consulate in San Francisco, I went to my local police station to get my TIE. They instructed me to go to police headquarters clear across town. A dozen metro stops later, I get past security without an appointment only to be told I needed to go a special office for foreigners on the other side of town, but they were closed for siesta. It was 2pm. The next morning I showed up when they opened because you can’t make an appointment, with papers in hand and a beaming let’s-get-it-done smile on my face. When I finally made it to the front of the line, the nice old woman handed me a tiny piece of paper with a preprinted address, the same one I’d just come from the day before. When I explained headquarters wanted nothing to do with me, she shrugged, as if to say, “so it goes.”

Some  version of that story applies to every item on my list. 

It would be easy to get angry and say “why don’t they do it the way we do things in the States,” but that’s not why I moved to Spain. The truth is I moved to Spain precisely to get my goal-oriented, overachieving, always-in-a-hurry American ass handed to me. I think on a deep soul level, I know I need to balance my will with commensurate humility, and there’s no better way to do that than foreign travel. 

My biggest lament is how often I have to learn this lesson. I’ve been traveling abroad for over 10 years–27 countries and counting–yet I still have to learn to check my American expectations at the border every time. It’s hard to do because they’re such a part of me that I forget I have them. In fact, I think of myself as easy-going and open-minded–untethered by cultural attachments–but the truth, for better or worse, is that so many of my wants, desires, and perceptions are rooted in where I come from. I’m American, through and through. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I like being driven, intense, and high-energy. But the problem is, to travel well, you can’t impose your vision of “what should be” on the world around you.  You have to surrender and simply acccept what is. And if you do find humility (read: get beaten down), if you let go of your ego’s desire to control people, places, and things and realize you’re just a speck in a vast universe, you fit in much nicer. In fact, you might even have some fun.

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Here’s a new video of three interesting places in Spain–1) a beautiful, Moorish styled, bullring repurposed as a mall; 2) a famous park with a special twist for parents, and 3) Plaza del Espana, one of the most famous and beautiful ones in Barcelona. Enjoy! 

Some photo outtakes: 

Who knew bullfighting rings were so damn big! 

img_0181img_0193img_0136 img_0183img_0195I love this shot. 
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Kids at home, do not try this. 
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Amazon is taking over the world. You heard it here first. 

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Comments

  1. Love your write about American customs and “values” while traveling…such a great lesson to keep learning and sharing. I’m going on 15 years down here in Central Mexico out in the countryside and watching and hearing the new influx of retirees coming down each year. I am embarrassed with hopes that I wasn’t that way when I moved down…thanks again for your perceptions..

    Peggy

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