3 continents | 12 countries | 35 cities | 1 lifelong love affair with Spain
As hard as it is to believe, today marks 12 full months of living as an expat in Madrid.
*Technically speaking, I moved to Madrid on September 15th, 2013 - but I don't count the two months I lived at home in Seattle this past summer.
Not only is it hard to fathom how fast the time has passed, but it's also surreal to look back on how quickly I built a life here in Spain. At this point, Madrid genuinely feels like home.
Here in Spain, I've developed what I never thought I would: roots.
I have an apartment that feels like home. A job that I look forward to going to everyday. A solid community that I can fall back on, filled with friends who are always up for spontaneous adventures and never fail to make me laugh. I know the streets like the back of my hand, and I can order off a menu without needing to double check my Spanish dictionary first.
I've developed a deeper appreciation and respect for the culture, and I finally have a better command of the language. (Though let's be real, that'll always be a work in progress.) I've even surprised myself by adopting curious Spanish customs, like always wearing slippers inside the house, never eating lunch before 2 pm, sleeping in the middle of the day, and never leaving the house with wet hair and/or flip flops.
Coming home to this colorful plaza makes living in Madrid all the more enchanting.
The weirdest part is how natural it all feels now. Through the trials and tribulations of adjusting to a new country, a new culture and essentially a new life, I've reached a point where I finally feel settled. The culture shock and homesickness have subsided, and as each day passes I feel more and more integrated.
That's not to say that I don't ever have moments that make me feel like a total foreigner, or never witness events that make me think "What is the DEAL with this place?!?" There are still plenty of frustrating moments (most of them dealing with Spanish bureaucracy - I'm looking at you, Aluche) and things that make my blood boil (ahem, racism and machismo...), but I've learned to not let the negatives outweigh the positives. As often as I just have to shake my head and think, "Oh, Spain...", at the end of the day I still love living here - nonsensical Spanish quirks and all.
Moving to Spain has required me to challenge myself and face my biggest fears head on, and because of that I've grown tremendously this past year. It's pretty damn scary to move to a new country where you don't know anybody, build a new community from scratch, submit yourself to the misadventures of love and dating, and test out a new career for the first time - all while trying to communicate in a foreign language. (I guess I can't speak for everybody, but at least it was really, really terrifying for me.) But I survived to tell the tale!
All that said, moving abroad is undoubtedly the best thing I could have done for myself, and I hope to continue to grow as an expat this next year (or maybe even in future years...?) to come.
We make a good team, Madrid. Here's to many more adventures together!