Stay put in one place long enough and you’ll eventually grow weary of anywhere. From the 5am roosters in Nepal, the diarrhea in India, the snakes in Mongolia, the egg fried rice in China, the mosquitos in Thailand, the haggling in Vietnam, and dare I say, the rain in Donegal.
The inner-swallow has surfaced once again. It may be human nature, but that in-built genetic need to wander, explore and discover shouldn’t be ignored, our survival once depended on it and, like the swallows, our ancestors were no doubt on to something.
It’s been 3 and a half years since I set foot on Spanish soil and I recently found myself passing through the capital Madrid once again. Little did I think I’d ever return here once it became clear I’d leave. When the realisation I’d be leaving hit me on that San Sebastian beach, I was terrified about what the future would bring, but sure of one thing, that I’d probably never return.
But here I am again, back on a familiar early morning commuter train on the outskirts of Madrid as I begin a journey anew. The early morning sun shining through a carriage window glistening over a mixture of scorched and cracked now Autumn fields, the charred vegetation the sole survivor of the constant burn of the summer sun over the previous months. It’s all so entirely different from where I’ve come, but uniquely familiar at the same time.
One thing that never dampens upon undertaking this migration of sorts is that unique period after arrival to a new pasture where moments of intense fleeting creativity and curiosity overwhelm. They are provoked almost certainly by the transformation of the mundane into the novel. When the opposite transpires, which it inevitably will, it’ll be high time to move on, let’s hope I can heed the signs as I begin anew.
Strangely the ability to communicate in this foreign tongue thankfully hasn’t deserted me. It has somehow resurrected itself from the hippocampus, and what a difference it makes. The tragedy of the chance encounters and experiences missed out on due to shyness and introversion are no more as I wander the streets of Spanish towns on some kind of Oxytocin high, greeting old friends and making new ones, experiencing a culture in its intricacies so very different from my own.
Two years of wandering around Asia was not healthy, physically, but it does no doubt nurture the ability within anyone who subjects themselves to it, to really open themselves up to a given culture and experience it through the eyes of those who live there. There’s no other way to survive with your sanity intact. There’s only a certain amount of sightseeing you can do, a certain number of museums, palaces, castles and landmarks that you can visit before you ask yourself what the hell you’re really doing. Seeking fulfillment from travel becomes infinitely easier when you really experience a place through its cultural intricacies thus leading to pleasure in the subtle differences in the mannerisms and the culturally sanctioned emotional freedom that those belonging to a certain region possess.
From Madrid to Andalucía via the moon-like landscapes of La Mancha, to sitting cross-legged on a rooftop terrace at midnight in Granada, the music of Paco de Lucia streaming as I gaze of into the barren Andalusian foothills under the weak moonlight. Dirt tracks meandering off into the high Sierra Nevada, against the backdrop of a dark night sky. It still remains one of my favorite places in Spain, authentic and unspoilt.
The smokers, the 11am cañas, the walking naked down the street (yes I’ve seen that twice), and the general not giving a f!@k in southern Spain. It’s a underrated experience of sorts, that of being without anxiety about the imperfections in a country with the current social, political and economic issues.
Further south and high up in La Alpujarra at Oseling Monestary for the biannual reset. Since the awakening of sorts in that small town in the Himalayan foothills of northern India all that time ago, meditation has been more or less a daily practice ever since, and how much it has given me.
Whether it’s the company you frequent in these spots, their influence, the environment, the setting, or indeed the ability of them all to tap into some deeper level and feel those almost liberating levels of empathy, gratitude and compassion, it keeps me somewhat on the straight and narrow. As fleeting as these emotions oftentimes prove to be, the chase is my most positive addiction no doubt.
After a couple of weeks of travel in my old home from home, and I’ve arrived to a small seemingly insignificant village in Extremadura near the Portuguese border. It’s here I’ll be until early next summer, teaching English to while the time away. It seems a nice place, not one of those hippie hangouts with book lovers and coffee lovers that I oftentimes reminisce about, but a nice place all the same. People are wonderful. I’ve rarely had a meaningful interaction with someone where I haven’t been invited to lunch or dinner. Bars and cafes are heaving each weekend, cycling is big and the climate is super. There’s not a lot more an introvert like me needs.
So no complaints thus far as I live out quite a fulfilling life in a place I never imagined I’d ever end up. All going well I’ll write and photograph a little more than I have been and document life in this little quiet corner of the Iberian Peninsula.
Stay tuned….Hasta la proxima!