“There’s a sign on the wall
But she wants to be sure
‘Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings
In a tree by the brook
There’s a songbird who sings
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiving
Ooh, it makes me wonder
Ooh, it makes me wonder”
I guess most people post these kinds of quick thoughts to social media… but I’m going to do it here. I think I might start doing a regular series of these random thoughts so let me know what you think. Without further ado, here are the things I think for March, 2018:
#1: Run! Don’t Walk!
In Spain, crossing signals for pedestrians don’t mess around. You get plenty of time to walk but then once it starts flashing, you better hustle!!
#2: Living in Valencia
Despite the pedestrian-related challenges, Valencia is definitely the kind of place I could live. If you came here as a tourist, you might be disappointed that there isn’t more to see besides the beach, a few building with some historical significance, and a nice museum of contemporary art. You could see all there is to see in the city center in a couple of days and while the beach looks terrific, I don’t think you need to come to Spain if all you want to do is sit on the beach. However, Valencia is one of the most livable cities I’ve visited in Europe. The third largest city in Spain, Valencia is home to close to a million people so it offers every amenity in terms of entertainment and lifestyle that you could possibly want. Factor in the beach access and you have a city that has it all. Barcelona has long been one of my favorite cities to visit but feels more like a tourist destination. I don’t necessarily need to go sightseeing in Valencia again, but I’d be happy to rent an apartment here for the summer and just hang out.
#3: New socks!
I probably should’ve noticed this while I was packing but all but two pairs of socks that I’ve worn in two weeks since I arrived here have at least one hole in them. My suitcase is already pretty packed so I’m limited in the amount of shopping I can do over 4+ months of travel but it’s exciting to get to buy fresh pairs of socks. For years I’ve said that if I ever got rich, I’d never wear the same pair of socks twice. There’s something special about putting on a pair for the first time!
#4: Becoming a regular at the lobby bar… sort of
My favorite way to explore a new place is on foot. So when I travel, I log thousands upon thousands of steps. Except now I’m closing in on 40, I have a herniated disc in my back, and I’m pretty sure I have 2 arthritic hips… so 15,000+ steps per day just isn’t a great idea. Getting old sucks!
Anyway, I’ve become great friends with the bartender at the lobby bar of my hotel because he’s been kind enough to hook me up with bags of ice at the end of each day so I can ice my back/hips. He probably thinks I’m crazy… but he does it with a smile on his face. I’ve always thought it’d be cool to be a regular at a bar where you could walk in and the bartender would immediately pour you a glass. It’s slightly less cool when instead of pouring you a drink, the bartender fills up a plastic bag with ice cubes.
#5: Hotel beds and getting old
On a separate but related note, I wish hotel beds were more standardized. I’ve used points to stay in 3 different hotels so far and the bed in each place has been completely different… as has the variety of pillow softness and thickness. My neck is killing me!! Did I mention that getting old sucks? Don’t even get me started on the gray hairs that are starting to show…
Cappuccino is seriously underappreciated in the States. I feel like 90% of the time, people order some variation of the latte (myself included). But the cappuccino is so delicious when served properly. It’s like a sweet afternoon pick-me-up (it’s often served with a sprinkle of chocolate in Europe). Once I get back, I’m committing to the cappuccino!
#7: Show me the meaning of being lonely
Solo travel is great even in countries where you don’t speak the local language. However, the one thing I miss when I travel alone in countries where English isn’t the primary language is meaningful conversation. I speak enough Spanish to order a drink and ask for directions but what I miss is sitting down with friends and talking about something more impactful than bathroom locations. In other words, the cure for loneliness isn’t surrounding yourself with people. Instead, it’s actually surrounding yourself with people with whom you can share something meaningful.
#8: New Year’s Resolution: Take 10!
Related to my previous thought is that every American should learn Spanish. There’s really no excuse. I’m not talking about 10th grade Spanish class. I’m talking about being fluent in Spanish. I took Spanish through high school and have visited Mexico and Spain a few times over the last several years so I think my Spanish is passable. However, in the same way Americans expect all Europeans to speak English, Spaniards, Mexicans, and Central/South Americans should expect Americans to speak Spanish. I just downloaded a Spanish book and though “learning Spanish” has been my New Year’s Resolution for probably the last 10 years of my life, I’m committing to it now. Cappuccinos and Spanish in 2018!
#9: Dogs and spreadsheets
I’ve decided that when I get back home in a few months, I’m going to get a dog. I’m not completely sure this is a great idea given my love of travel, but maybe this just means that I’ll take more frequent road trips instead of flying across the world. It’s a good thing I’ve got a few months to overthink this. Pro-con lists and/or spreadsheets will most definitely be involved!
#10: The Spanish lifestyle
The daily Spanish routine is far superior to any other in the world, especially if you’re a night person. If you like waking up at 6am, I don’t really understand how you live here. I had dinner at 11:30 tonight and it felt completely normal… in fact, the restaurant was packed. I’ll wake up tired in the morning but then get rewarded with a little afternoon siesta. Typically, I’m not a napper when I’m home but it’s really the best. In fact, my love of Spain may be 80%-90% based on its compatibility with my preference for late nights and not-so-early mornings.
#11: The Spanish diet
I think smaller portion sizes kept Spain thin for many years but I’m not surprised to learn that obesity is rapidly becoming a huge problem in this country (pun intended). While the portion sizes are still small, their diet consists of pastries and coffee for breakfast, a big lunch, and then various presentations of bread, meat, and cheese (and beer or wine) later in the evening. I’ve walked through a few of the markets here and they have beautiful, fresh produce but most restaurants serve very few fruit/vegetable-based dishes. That being said, the Spanish are still beautiful people!
#12: Airport pet peeves
My biggest airport pet peeve is when people stand right up against the baggage carousel so no one else can squeeze in to grab their bag. If everyone just stood back 3 feet and stepped forward when their bag came by, this would be a much easier process. Can we paint a line or something?
(Honorable mention for biggest pet peeve: when people wear their expensive noise-cancelling headphones backwards. I’m not sure why this bothers me so much… but it does.)