Oh, the wisdom of Roald Dahl

Oh, the wisdom of Roald Dahl

(via statravelus-deactivated20140618)

A Shift: La Vida Gitana

     As you may or may not remember (I’m not overly optimistic as to how many people read this), my blog was formerly titled “La Vida Sevillana” and was created for the sole purpose of documenting my travels during a semester abroad in Seville, Spain. Turns out that Spain was somewhat of my gateway drug when it came to traveling: it only made me want more. Due to recent events and the fact that I have a flight leaving at 10 am tomorrow for Havana, Cuba, I’ve changed the title of my blog to La Vida Gitana (the gypsy life).

     Why La Vida Gitana you may ask? While yes, it is true that my address has been entirely permanent and not gypsy-like at all the past year, that’s not to say that my mind hasn’t been wandering the globe. I’ve been devouring travel books like they’re oxygen and thoughts of an unknown and foreign city are never far from my mind. My thoughts have been simple: I want to go somewhere new. Many may accuse passionate travelers of running away from something or not wanting to face “real life.” My question: what is this “real life” that you speak of and why can’t my life take me to every place that I’ve ever dreamed of going? This bring me to tomorrow and tomorrow brings me to Cuba…     

     I cannot say that Cuba was one of the places I’ve dreamed of going. Why? I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s because I always thought it to be completely off limits to Americans, which it mostly is unless you are traveling with a church group or school (bingo!). Or maybe, maybe Cuba scared me. Maybe thoughts of traveling somewhere that is ruled by a combination of communism and socialism and formerly led by Fidel Castro, scared me. Either way, when the opportunity to travel to Cuba arose, I couldn’t say no. I’ll be taking a history class called Inside the Revolution: Life in Socialist Cuba. Instead of a home stay, which has been my means of accommodation in both Mexico and Spain, I’ll be living in a hotel for a month…a new experience in itself.

     My suitcase is packed, my camera is charged and I’m ready for this. I can’t think of a better way to start 2013 than getting on a plane and seeing one more piece of this beautiful world.

Next adventure: Cuba!

Next adventure: Cuba!

Doing It While I Can

"Do it while you can."  It seems like every piece of advice that I’ve ever received, every motivational speech I’ve ever heard and many of the talks that I’ve had with older people all include this phrase in one form or another. Everyone tells you to take advantage of your youth while it’s here and to do everything that you want to, while you still can. Being told to believe in the power of our dreams and more so, to chase those dreams is something that is incredibly overdone in society today. I completely agree that we must believe in our dreams with all that we are and that we must work incredibly hard to achieve our dreams, however, I wonder how many people that preach this actually believe it. Dreams are accepted in society as long as they don’t defer too much from the “norm.” History goes to show that if someone has a dream that deviates from society’s definition of normal and possible, that person is labeled as crazy. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with being a little crazy. After all, what is one step below crazy? Passionate.

Where is all of this coming from? Well, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately and I think that after graduation next spring, it’s time for me to follow one of my dreams and my true passion so far in my life. I want to travel. I don’t want to just “travel”… I want to see things. I want to meet people. I want to go places. I want to learn things. I want to do things I’ve never done. I want to be far, far away from anything familiar. I want to be so removed from my comfort zone that I have no choice but to discover things about myself that I never knew before. Since spending a semester abroad, I’ve realized that the U.S. may not be the place for me. Or, maybe it is… I just know that there are so many things that I need to see before I’m prepared to make the decision of where I want to spend the rest of my life and what I want to spend it doing.

In the past, I’ve been so afraid of committing to this plan of traveling the world after graduation, mostly because I was afraid of what other people would think. People see travel as frivolous and wasteful, and to them I would say “have you ever done it?” If someone has spent an extended period of time outside of their own country, I don’t think it would be possible for them to come back the same person and not to realize that the world is so much bigger than you ever thought it was. Other people might see this as running away. To some, traveling is simply avoiding reality and running away from something bigger. To me, staying here is running away. My future isn’t here, so every day that I stay here is just another day that I’m not doing what I know I should be… seeing the world. The planet that we live on is huge: there are billions of people to meet, billions of strange and exotic places to see, and billions of new things to try. If I stay where I am for the rest of my life, just think about how much will be left unknown. 

So… I’m doing it while I can.

Two Months Later…

For some reason, today has been one of those days where I absolutely cannot stop thinking about Spain. It sounds like such a simple thing and perhaps something that can just as easily be put out of one’s mind. If only it were that simple. After spending countless hours replaying memory after memory, I finally looked at a calendar and realized that exactly 2 months ago, I left Spain and came home… coincidence? Probably not.

I see pictures of people who spent this semester in Seville and I wonder what the city must be like this time of year. I look through my old pictures and see the places I went, the people I met, the things I did and mostly… I see the person who I used to be. I see the girl who thought she knew everything but who really knew nothing. But through the four months that I spent abroad, I gradually was able to learn more about myself and more importantly, about the world that I live in. While all of these things make me happy because it reminds me of the time that I spent in Spain, it can also wear on you because it reminds me of a time that I sometimes wish had never ended…

If I could drop everything right now and go back to spend Spring semester in Seville, I know that the impulsive side of me would leap at the opportunity. However, sometimes I think that we just have to take things as they are and be grateful for the time that we were given and not try to make more of something than it should be. Things come to an end for a reason and if there were no endings, then we could have no new beginnings. My time in Spain was absolutely amazing, but I know that if I went back now and tried to do it all again, it wouldn’t be the same. I had the perfect situation: my roommate was one of my friends from home, we lived with a perfect family and perhaps best of all… we had a group of friends that made our trip as phenomenal as it was and without them, I know that nothing would have been the same. Because of all of this, if I packed my bags and flew back to Sevilla tomorrow, nothing would be what I expected nor what I hoped for. That’s not to say that things couldn’t work out and be just as wonderful as they were before, but for right now… they just wouldn’t measure up to the experience that I’d had. Everyone was right when they kept telling me that the time will fly by, because it absolutely does. I am thankful everyday for every moment that I was able to spend in Spain and I hope that someday I’ll be able to pay the world back for how it opened my eyes and showed be what it really feels like to live. 

Little Moments

At first we had months. We had almost 4 months which seemed like an infinite amount of time to do everything that we wanted to. Then those months dwindled down to weeks and we were beginning to realize that what we had here wasn’t going to last forever. Now, we’re down to days. I have 9 more days in Seville and I’m sitting here asking myself where the time went. How did my 4 months turn into 9 days? All of the weekend trips we took, the numerous amount of tapas we’ve eaten and tinto de veranos that we’ve drank, the hours we spent pouring over homework, countless miles that we’ve walked around this city, the things that we saw that made us ask ourselves “how on earth do I deserve to be here?”, the things we’ve bought and the things we’ve lost, the times we saw the sun setting and watched it rise, the food that we cooked just to remind us of home, people we’ve met that we’ll never forget and things that we’ve done that we’ll never do again. All of this…this is where my time went. This semester has been made up of moments; one moment after another strung together to make the best experience of my life.

Instead of trying to go back and “recap” some of what has happened, the best way that I can explain these moments that I’m talking about is to show you the pictures that captured a small part of these moments. Decades from now when these memories slowly begin to fade, these photographs will still remain and they will serve as a constant reminder of the things we did, the places we went, the people we met, and the people we became during the Fall of 2011.  <3 

Eiffel Tower.

Paris, France

Canary Islands, Spain

Mallorca, Spain

Alejandro with all of this “daughters”

Sevilla, Spain

Thanksgiving dinner

Seville, Spain

A touch of Christmas on Avenida de la Constitución.

Seville, Spain

Oh the Places You’ll Go…

I think that I finally have an answer for when people ask me, “what do you want to do after you graduate?” I normally despise that question, because, even as a junior in college, I still don’t know exactly what I’m going to do with the rest of my life. I envy the people who have known what they wanted to ‘be’ since they were young. For me, I went from wanting to be a teacher, to a writer, a news anchor, a lawyer, then there was that very brief period (better known as a lapse in good judgement) where I thought I wanted to be a vet… and then I remembered that needles make me faint, blood makes me queasy, and I don’t handle injuries well. So needless to say, I have never known exactly what I wanted to do. When I started my college career at St. Thomas two and a half years ago, I hoped that taking a variety of classes would help me to find something that I was really passionate about. I found my niche in the communications and journalism department, but that still didn’t give me the answers that I was looking for. 

When I didn’t find exactly what I wanted at UST, I decided that maybe I needed to go further away from home to discover what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. As a freshman, I did a J-Term (about a month) in Cuernacava, Mexico. Haven’t heard of that city? Don’t worry… no one has. At the time, I thought that Cuernavaca was the most amazing place in the world. I had freedom that I’d never had before and I was seeing things that I could never see at home. After being there for a month, I knew that I needed to do that again. As a sophomore, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and spend a month in Europe. I picked Spain mostly just because I could speak the language and also because I’ve always wanted to see Spain. I had no idea what to expect when I got to Seville, and I certainly didn’t expect to fall completely in love with this city. The whole time that I was here in January, I was still constantly looking for what I wanted to do with my life once I graduated…

It seems like the biggest and most important decisions that I make always come to me at the oddest times. When I decided to study abroad for the semester, I was sitting at a table in Starbucks with some people from my program and one of my friends was talking about how she was considering coming back for the semester. Up until that point, I had never thought about doing a semester abroad. I’m more or less a homebody, so putting my life in Minnesota on hold for 4 months was not something that I thought I could do. Saying goodbye to friends that know me better than anyone else and to family that is my support system was not necessarily something that appealed to me. But the more that this girl talked about it, the more that I kept thinking to myself, “hey… I could do this too.” It really was that simple. For the remainder of the trip, I kept weighing the advantages and disadvantages of studying abroad, and when I was at the airport in Seville getting ready to fly home… I knew that I had to come back. I knew that it would be sad to leave the people that I’d met here, but I had no idea that I would be so upset just to leave this city and this culture behind. As I got on the plane, I promised myself that I would be back.

So here I am. I’ve been here for almost two months and I have exactly two months left as of today. To some people, two months somewhere might seem like an eternity… but here, the days fly by. Before you know it, the days turn into weeks, and those weeks become months. Here I am again, trying to figure out how I can come back. Then once again, it hit me:  this is what I’m passionate about; this is what I want to do with my life. I tried to make it work so that I could stay here for the year instead of just the semester, but I wouldn’t be able to graduate on time. So instead, after I graduate, I’m going to move back to Spain for awhile. Maybe for a few months, maybe for a few years, but I know that I have to come back. Even though Spain’s economy is currently struggling, there are many opportunities for native English speakers. In my program alone there are dozens of families that pay for students to come and speak English to their kids to help them improve their language skills, there are opportunities in schools, or even after-school programs to help children with their English. I envy the kids here that were born speaking Spanish, because they have a level of fluidity that I don’t think I’ll ever have. But I also know that being born speaking English is incredibly valuable in today’s world, and if I can somehow help other people to speak the language the comes second nature to me… why wouldn’t I do it?

So, that’s the plan. I know that these next two months are going to fly by, and I can’t wait to see where they will take me. But now I know that in the future, I’ll be back again.

En La Plaza de España

En La Plaza de España

No photoshop. No edits. Just perfection.

No photoshop. No edits. Just perfection.

~ Sunset in Seville ~

~ Sunset in Seville ~