The Intentional Expat

Living Your Best Life Abroad

Getting Bit by the Travel Bug

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Back in March 2005, I travled abroad for the first time. For 12 weeks I traveled through Spain, France, Austria and Germany along with 30 students from my university and 2 professors. I hadn´t been in Madrid for more than a week when I wrote this email home to family and friends. I was already learning that travel was going to gift me with awkward moments that would turn out to be great stories to write home about (I would later say that they were ¨blogworthy¨). I´m still not sure when and why my initial dream of going abroad was born, but once I got a taste of travel…I was hooked!

 Hola my familia and amigos!

I am so excited to finally have a chance to write to everyone and tell you about my adventures so far here in Spain. I only have 8 min left on my timecard at the internet café so this must be quick. I arrived safely in Madrid last Wednesday after 9.5 and 2.5 hour flights. My flight was good, I was pretty much knocked out the entire time. Jetlag sucks, I´m still feeling it. Plus it doesn´t help that we stayed out until 630 am yesterday. There are guys that stand on the street corners and take you to bars for free shots, which are really watered down, but sometimes they buy you drinks. It’s a great way to practice your Spanish skills, but it’s exhausting too. Don’t worry, I never go out on my own so I am very safe and everyone is very friendly, except the lady at the grocery store who yelled at me for touching the fruit. It turns out you´re supposed to point to what you want, then they weigh it and then you take it up to the register.

I am here with 30 other students from SPU and one of our professors. We have been so busy every day, they have so much stuff lined up for us to do. Time is flying by, but I am having a blast and experiencing so much. We have only had class twice so far, both times only for 2 hours. Our professor is pretty laid back and expects that most of our learning will take place outside of the classroom. We have had about 25 minutes total of Spanish lessons, but every day I am learning more and more of the language through my attempts to converse with the locals. Somehow I manage to get by with my limited Spanish and creative use of English and hand gestures. However, I have definitely made some funny mistakes so far. One night I accidentally told our waiter at a cafe ¨”buenos dias” and last night I accidentally ordered an entire bottle of wine. I really expected that more people would know English, but it is more exciting this way and I feel really motivated to continue to learn Spanish when I return home.

Yesterday for breakfast I ate an omelet with ham and cheese, which are pretty much the 2 main food groups here. I didn’t feel sick at all though which made me happy. Our hostel is fabulous, I´m sharing a room with my best friend Tina, and two other girls from SPU. We have our own bathroom, but the door doesn’t shut all the way. Yesterday we fell asleep at 4 pm and didn’t wake up until 830 because we were all so tired. Then we got a complimentary dinner called paella which is saffron rice, whole shrimp with shells and antennas, whole crabs with shells, fried calamari and chicken. It was surprisingly really good and we had whisky ice cream cake too which was so-so. I haven’t had a chance to go shopping yet which makes me sad but on Sunday we´re going to a flea market (El Rastro) which is the biggest one in Spain.

Overall, life is pretty laid back here, and siestas are very popular, you know what they say…when in Rome!

Tomorrow we go to Segovia and then Sunday is a bullfight, they have so much stuff planned for us, next week is Toledo and flamenco dancing!! Tonight we enjoyed a pitcher of sangria outdoors, except they brought us bread and charged us for it. I’m off to take a nap and then go out at 2am! VIP at Club Joy tonight! Write more later.

Discovering a love for Spanish ¨cafe con leche¨helped me approach jam-packed days of sight seeing with lots of energy. I hadn´t yet learned that the vending machine coffee wasn´t the best quality stuff. I also hadn´t realized that all the guidebooks that said ¨Europeans don´t wear jeans¨ were misinformed...

Discovering a love for Spanish ¨cafe con leche¨helped me approach jam-packed days of sight seeing with lots of energy. I hadn´t yet learned that the vending machine coffee wasn´t the best quality stuff. I also hadn´t realized that all the guidebooks that had said ¨Europeans don´t wear jeans¨ were misinformed…


When did you catch the travel bug? How much have you grown and changed since the first time you traveled and/or lived outside of your home country? What blogworthy stories have you experienced firsthand? 



Author: Melissa

Born in the rainy, green Northwestern corner of the United States, Melissa relocated to the almost-always-sunny city of Madrid, Spain five years ago. After getting her master's degree, traveling to places her friends at home drooled about, falling in love with a Spaniard, and having her heart broken by said Spaniard, it's safe to say that she's learned firsthand about the less than glamorous side of living abroad. Thankfully, she gets to use this experience, along with her professional expertise, in her work as a mental health therapist in Madrid where she helps other expats learn to deal with the inevitable ups and downs of living abroad. This blog is designed to be informative and is in no way intended to serve as a substitute for therapy.

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