This road-weary traveler is home. And though Spain is a wondrous country I yearn to explore in greater detail, there is much to be said for the comfortable familiarity of home. A bed that knows my body, a french press that gets my morning brew right every time, and perhaps most importantly, routine. I spent much of my 20s resisting routine for fear that it made me dull and unadventurous, less of the fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants girl I always and forever aspire to be. My thirties brought the clarity that helped me shed all the unnecessary pretense, and I now know I do much better when life is mostly predictable. (But only in the coolest of senses.)
Because of a work obligation, I arrived in Spain a day later than the rest of the group. Portland to Chicago, Chicago to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Malaga and a taxi ride to Marbella. I traveled alone for the entirety of the 15 hour trek, and found the relative solitude to be refreshing: an opportunity to refocus my brain from life stress to vacation. There was movie watching and embroidery and reading and thoughts of the future. I rather enjoyed the opportunity for reflection; it's not often that I am able to separate myself from the status quo while simultaneously pondering it. (Side note: Mario said a youngish woman doing embroidery on an airplane is akin to wearing a I ♥ Portland t-shirt. Ha!)
From there it was cultural exploration and socializing with Mario's coworkers and clients. We dressed up for fancy dinners, which only happens enough for me to vaguely remember how to put on tights and not break my ankle in heels. I never quite adjusted to the 9 hour time difference, which meant my exhausted bones would lie awake until 2 or 3 in the morning reading. I'm so thankful I hastily snatched The Miniaturist off our bookshelf on my way out the door. I am totally riveted which kept me mostly sane during those late nights.
After a few days in Marbella, we made the trek to Barcelona where Mario taught an international class for a couple days. There were additional social obligations, of course, but the vibe was decidedly more relaxed. I spent those days exploring Barcelona on my own: riding the subway, taking a hop-on/hop-off double-decker bus tour, and wandering the historic streets of the city with camera in hand. I plan to give each city a post (or two or three) of its own in the near future.
Two hours of sleep in 36 hours, jet lag that never resolved itself, and concern about our child's lack of submitted homework during our absence caused a fight of epic proportions in the wee hours of our last night in Barcelona. (In the realm of marital discord, this one ranks in our Top 3 for sure. It turns out chronic lack of sleep + social exhaustion + mother-in-law frustration is the recipe for brutal, unabashed honesty. Hashtag real life.) Then there was an altercation between two cab drivers vying to transport us to the airport at 4a: shouts cast in rapid Español, two hotel employees who watched rather than helping, and a rare glimpse of Mario's anger for the second time in just a few short hours as he tried to help me remove one driver from my personal space. And though the trip was altogether glorious, we departed with little black rain clouds over our heads.
Despite a 10+ hour flight in tight surroundings, we managed to maintain our cool and even shared a laugh or two along the way. (Especially when Husband epically spilled cheese pasta down the front of his shirt and attempted airplane bathroom hand washing.)
We landed in Vancouver, BC and goodness that place turned everything around for us. I'm here to tell you the stereotypes about Canadians being friendly are totally true, as in TSA and customs agents smiling pleasantly and making conversation friendly, and two 30 minute chair massages + two medium Orange Julii later, all was right with our marriage and the world in general. Also, the Vancouver airport has a creek running through it and copious amounts of real foliage and a Victoria's Secret in the event you neglected to pack enough vacation lingerie. I am on the brink of applying to grad school in Canada because I think it might just be my spirit country.
And while I'd love to say my sleeping patterns are peachy-keen and Kiddo's homework is all caught up, I'd be lying. Because life isn't a package that can be wrapped up so succinctly. Overseas travel has a fascinating side effect I often forget: it makes you realize the world is enormous, your problems are small and yada yada yada life is too short to be spent living an inauthentic life. Barcelona has buildings, still very much occupied, that were built centuries before the Puritans settled Boston. There is a cathedral that has been under construction for over 100 years. Our lifespans pale by comparison and yet I'll fret over the 30 minutes it takes to get my tires rotated? The culture is steeped in tradition and belief and it became abundantly clear that I am sorely lacking on both fronts.
This trip made me realize that I want to experience more of what the world has to offer. I want to learn Spanish through immersion, to understand different cultures with real depth. I want to live an authentic life doing whatever it is I'm meant to do, and I'll only find out what that looks like if I start experimenting. After all this time and energy pursuing a singular focus, on any given day I'm no longer 100% sure what my future looks like anymore. I'm less sure than I used to be, that's for sure. But for the first time, I'm not freaked out about it. I realized the only way to know is to shed all those preconceived notions of what my path should look like and start experimenting outside the safety of my self-constructed bubble.
Upon waking the morning after we returned home, I decided to make a genuine attempt at improving my work environment. I composed and constructed a carefully worded email to an antagonistic coworker and cc'd our supervisors. It was bold and decisive and as soon as I pressed "send" I felt relieved and proud as opposed to nervous or anxious. This was a huge leap, though long overdue, and gosh does that feel good. I will complete my requisite 2000 patient care hours in late summer, and I've already starting considering what is next. This essay, which I first read many months ago and have reread many times since, sits in the back of my mind with near constancy. Every time I read it I think, go radical all the way, too, Sarah.
So goes the tale of a woman's trip halfway around the world and how real life managed to find her there. Which didn't rob Spain of its magic or me of my wonder. Life experiences, good and bad, are priceless. And you know what? The unexpected perk of jet lag is the ability to wake naturally at 4a. I'll tell you right now, joining the world at that hour is actually kind of awesome. It gives me 2.5 hours to catch up on my blogroll, make lists, eat a good breakfast, and hang out with my husband before leaving for work. I feel like a superhero at 4a and I like it so much I'm currently brainstorming a plan to make it the norm. Because I'd really like to cross "Become a morning person" off my Bucket List.