Spanish things I used to miss when traveling during my gap year
Years ago, I decided to take a break of my professional career and started traveling as far as I could. I am from Spain, so the further I could go during my gap year was New Zealand. After living and working in NZ, I moved to Australia, and finally to South East Asia.
I love all these countries. The experiences, cultures, people in each country were cool. Beautiful landscapes, food and music. I didn’t miss Spain a lot. Just from time to time. Like 1st January 2011, when I was alone in Queenstown and I missed my family. But I was lucky and, by casualty, I met a friend that I previously made in Wellington. She just cheered me up while having a nice meal and encouraged me to keep traveling. That’s one of the good things about traveling. You meet marvelous people along the way.
But apart from this tiny episode, I was happy traveling my own journey. I felt I was again discovering new things and becoming a better person.
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]Nowadays Spain is collapsed into a serious financial crisis. Experts say things will improve during 2014. But just in case things don’t get better, I just want to share with you some thoughts that I used to have while travelling. Even if things are not working properly talking about economy, I am still feeling so happy that I was born in Spain and Europe. I think sharing some optimism is a great thing to do when starting a new year![/quote]
These are few of the things about Spain I used to miss while traveling (or things I was awared I’m very lucky for having them):
1. I have a European passport: it’s amazing the freedom that a passport gives you. I remember meeting travelers from different countries who had to do lots of bureaucracy for getting a visa to have an access to Australia or New Zealand. And, in the other hand, autochthons from Asia who didn’t have a chance to travel because they even didn’t have a passport (and no money enough for booking a ticket and fly to another country). It’s amazing how you can really change your life thanks to that tiny little book piece of paper!
2. Public transport: I now live in Barcelona. Here people complain about how expensive public transport is and that it is never on time. Yes, they are right. Considering Spanish salaries, some of these public services are far expensive. But how I really missed having good public transport while living in Australia! I was always depending on someone who could give me a drive to the center or to the nearest train station. Plus as you may know, in Australia distances are not short at all. It is true I used to live in a nice house with a nice garden located in a nice area. We had beautiful barbeques and life was nice there. And I really appreciate that. Having said this, I think for ane European, living so far from the center town with no access to public transport was a bit annoying.
3. Long sobremesas: Spaniards are pretty good on that. As I think other Latin cultures are too. We really like chatting while having a coffee or finishing our glass of wine after having our lunch. It’s funny how shocking it was to me when people started to eat a sandwich or any other quick meal, without waiting for everyone sitting in the table ready for start eating. And how they stood up quickly back to work when they finished their last bite. I used to think it was a quite productive way to make your working day efficient, but how I really missed those long sobremesas.
4. Talking about meals… Why Kiwis and Aussies don’t use serviettes when having a meal? That was a thing I really missed!!
5. Have you ever been in a party, cocktail or in a social meeting in Spain? Did you realize how long it takes to say goodbye to everybody? A funny sentence that Spaniards say to their couple of friends before leaving a party is “should we start to say good bye to everybody?” Reply “Yes… because this is going to take a while… at least 30 minutes…” And it is true! When we want to leave a party we have to start a new chat with everybody. The thing goes something like this:
– “Hey Rob, we are leaving!”
– Really? Already? It is too early!
– Yep, we know it. But tomorrow kids will wake up early and we want to go to visit my parents.
– Oh, sure. How are your parents, by the way?
Bla, bla, bla… at that point a new conversation about parents starts.
I used to feel bad when people left a party in Australia or New Zealand. At the beginning I felt I did something wrong when people said: “hey Maria, we’re leaving. Bye” No chat, no two kisses… nothing. So cold. But, after a couple of times, I realized it was a normal behavior. And some of the Aussies and Kiwis who I met and told me they had had the opportunity to live in Spain (or Italy or France) said it was so boring for them to start all those ‘end-party chats’ before going back home.
6. No huge cockroaches, snakes or spiders. And no tiny little mosquitoes that could really put you in trouble. I was in Australia working in a yoga retreat terrified about the possibility that a brown snake could bite me. I asked the owner doing just indoor work instead of working in the bushes as, apart from the snakes, I was aware of the existence of leeches in the area. OMG! And what about the huge cockroaches that I had to sleep with in the north island in New Zealand? I didn’t sleep at all and after 2 days I decided to leave that place.
Yes, you may think that I am a scary cat, and you’re probably right, but I had never seen those ‘monsters’ before and I was not feeling comfortable. Although I have to say after living those experiences more than once, I started to stop paying attention to those nice animals and just did my job and tried to make the most of it of that experience.
What about mosquitoes? During my first week in Malaysia: 37 bites in my right foot. And I didn’t count the ones in my left foot because I started to feel sick before doing it. I had paranoia during the next 4 weeks. I thought the probabilities of having dengue or malaria where high. But luckly nothing bad happened to me. I learned in Asia you cannot trust all those homemade repellents. I thought using one of those would be enough to avoid bites during an outdoors dinner, but it didn’t work at all. I decided to use, from that moment, the one chemical product that I bought in a pharmacy in Sydney before leaving Australia.
7. No earthquakes or flooding: First night in Wellington, New Zealand. I was staying in a nice place. The lady, owner of the place and my boss, had to leave the city for a couple of days for attending a work shop. I wasn’t able to sleep because of the strong wind that was blowing in the kiwi capital. I was alone there. And started to feel a bit overwhelmed about the possibility of living and earthquake. A couple of months ago, a huge earthquake destroyed Christchurch. And I started to think “this could happen in Wellington too”.
Big earthquakes don’t occur in Spain. And when you are invited to someone’s place which is facing the sea, people don’t say “if there’s a tsunami, I guess we’ll be ok because… bla, bla, bla…” which is something I was told when I first went to a friend’s place in Mt. Manganui in North Island of New Zealand.
We are really very lucky that we don’t have to suffer too many natural incidences. And we are lucky too that we live in a country with good sewer system. I remember walking along the streets in Thailand with my flip-flops. It was raining and the streets were completely flooding. This was just normal in Thailand.
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]I am saying all these things with all my respects. I don’t mean Spain is better than any of the countries I visited. Malaysia, Thailand, NZ or Australia are great countries and I would enjoy living there for a while. I just would like to notice that we don’t choose where to be born: in a country with earthquakes or were big rains and flooding are normal or maybe where volcanoes are exploiting or where a tiny mosquito can kill you. We cannot control these things. And we have, somehow, to be grateful for the good things that have been given to us.[/quote]
8. Cafeterias, bars, stores next to my place. I like the fact that in Europe we are so used to have so many facilities close to our place. Generally speaking, we don’t need to get the car and drive to a supermarket or a commercial center for getting some nice breakfast, a cup of coffee or buying basic stuff for home. I like the feeling of waking up in the morning, and going to a nice small café next to my place to have a nice coffee and a sandwich while reading the newspaper. After that, I love going back home, after buying something in the butchery and some nice fresh bread in the bakery. Lovely!
9. Bars with free wifi!! It’s amazing how many bars are in Spanish cities and towns with free wifi. I love going there and work on my things while having a cup of tea.
10. Ten minutes more sleeping because it is well accepted to arrive ten minutes late to work. I was always the last one to start working and after a couple of days, I started to feel guilty. I realized that was no good. I changed my mind early in the morning and avoided staying 10 minutes more in bed… That was tough!
11. Cheap good quality wine and cheese. I love cheese. And I love finishing my day with a little pleasure: having a glass of wine and some cheese. How disappointed I was when I saw cheese was so expensive in Australia and New Zealand! And wine too! As a low budget traveler I was not able to afford buying wine and cheese as much as I used to do it in Spain (I am sure my body appreciated this) and I missed those shops with lots of cheese that we have Europe, in Spain, France or Holland.
It was good though, that people in places I stayed, loved having some wine and cheese while cooking dinner as a nice snack. They knew I loved too, and they were always happy to share that pleasure with me. Thank you guys! :- )
Of course there are many other nice things that I missed about Spain, like enjoying a few slices of good ‘jamón’, my family, having a beer or going out for dinner with friends, having a knife for eating instead of a fork and a spoon like some Malaysians and other people of Asian countries do, or the different way Spaniards wash the dishes compared to Aussies (they never rinse the dishes after putting soap on it). But as you can guess, it was worth living all those experiences abroad.
Again, these are just funny experiences and there are lots of things that I really liked in all the countries that I traveled. What about you? What did you miss about your own country when traveling abroad? Did you have any cultural shock? I’ll be happy if you could share those with all of us!
Happy New Year to all of you and Happy Travels!