Traveling Mindfully

Today marks the start of my Spring Break, also known as Semana Santa (Holy Week) here in Seville. I’ll fly to Prague tonight, spend five days there, then head over to Bucharest for a couple of days. Then I’ll come back to Seville and hopefully catch the tail end of the festivities here.

While I always enjoy traveling to new places, I have a tendency to get a little flustered during my trips. Sometimes I worry too much about my travel budget or whether I packed enough clothes. Other times I find myself rushing from sight to sight, not taking the time to appreciate everything I’m seeing. So one thing I want to focus on during this trip is living each day intentionally and mindfully.

That means not abandoning some of my morning routines like meditation and journaling. Those simple habits help keep me grounded throughout my day, and I think being grounded is extremely beneficial while traveling. It allows me to slow down, make better decisions during potentially stressful situations, and enjoy each new experience more fully.

That last part is what traveling is all about, right? It’s so easy to get caught up in a kind of tourism-induced frenzy, rushing from monument to monument, focused more on snapping the perfect selfie than actually enjoying the beautiful sights and sounds around you. But what’s the point of visiting somewhere new if you don’t take the time to really appreciate the experience?

 

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My 3 Big Goals for a Year Abroad

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“Begin with the end in mind.” 

-Stephen Covey

After reading Stephen Covey’s “First Things First” a few months ago, keeping track of my goals has been at the top of my mind. I’m happy to say that, since then, I’ve made more progress towards the life I want than in the past 3 years combined. But still, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t lost a little bit of that focus in the transition from California to Spain.

Now that I’m pretty much settled in Sevilla, it’s time for me to refocus on my major goals for this year abroad. And I could think of no better way to do that than putting them out there for the world to see.

So here are the three main things I want to accomplish/work towards this year:

  1. Building this blog and my Youtube channel:  In late June, it occurred to me that blogging is something I could happily spend the rest of my life doing. While it may be a lofty goal, I would eventually like to make a career out of it. Outside of the next two goals, writing and making videos are what I plan on spending the bulk of my time on for the foreseeable future.
  2. Visit 3 new countries: Traveling is something I’m deeply passionate about, so this is a really important goal for me. I already have a couple destinations in mind (Prague and Amsterdam), but the real challenge will be making these trips happen on a super tight budget.
  3. Creating a great social life: I didn’t have much of a social life while teaching in San Sebastian last year. Outside of going to a few language meetups and dating a really awesome Basque girl, I spent most of my time alone. While this isn’t really an issue for me – I’ve always had a tendency to spend a lot of time alone – I’d like to make a change this year. Fortunately, Sevilla is a city with a lively social scene, so I don’t see this being a huge challenge.

I’m already very motivated to accomplish these goals, but I hope that making them public will give me an added sense of accountability this year.

What are some goals you would like to accomplish this year? How do you plan on staying motivated?

 

¡Hola Sevilla!

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After 12 hours of flying, two nights in Madrid, a missed bus, and a seven-hour train ride, I finally made it to Sevilla last Saturday. While my journey was long, I knew it was worth it as soon as I caught a taxi towards my hostel.

It was around nine in the evening, and every street we drove down was full of people – families, couples, and groups of all ages – enjoying the perfect weather. As we passed by the beautifully lit river that runs through the city, I thought to myself, “This is a city I can call home.”

Exploring the Night Life

A major reason I enjoy traveling so much is the opportunity to stay in hostels. Not only are they super cheap (I’m always on a budget), they’re also one of the best ways to meet awesome people from around the world. I’ve probably stayed in about 10 or 15 hostels, and pretty much every stay has left me with some great memories.

As soon as I checked into the Black Swan Hostel that night, any jet lag or exhaustion I was feeling immediately disappeared. I was ready to experience what nightlife Sevilla had to offer. Fortunately (though not for my health), my hostel hosted free nightly pub crawls, so I signed up, ate some tuna and half a baguette, and started socializing.

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First night out. I’m the tall one, by the way.

Overall I was really impressed with the night life in Sevilla. The drinks are cheap, the people are nice, and it seemed like something was going on every night we went out, which is pretty impressive considering Sevilla isn’t a huge city like Madrid or Barcelona. While out I met a variety of people, including a ton of local Spaniards, several people from around Europe, and probably a few too many fellow Americans. I was even fortunate enough to meet quite a few people from my teaching program.

The Apartment Hunt

My first week in Sevilla wasn’t all fun and games, though. One of the conditions of the teaching program I’m in is that we have to find our own housing. This proved to be a considerable challenge.

When I did the program last year in San Sebastian, I was extremely lucky and found an apartment with very little effort. One of my students happened to have a friend with an available room literally two minutes from my school.

Things weren’t so easy this time around. Starting that Sunday, I called every ‘anuncio’ I could find, each one coming back ‘ocupado’. Apparently, apartments fill up quick down south, and it didn’t help that this was the start of a new school year; there was a huge influx of foreign students studying abroad, plus all of my fellow teaching assistants who were looking for places.

After turning down a place on Wednesday that was in a decent location but would have cost more than half my monthly paycheck, I started to feel the panic set in. “What if it takes weeks for me to find a place? I can’t afford to stay in a hostel that long.” “What if I run out of money???” “What if I have to go back to the states?” These worries and more began settling in my mind. So I did what any mature adult would do in that situation: I went out and got really drunk that night.

As luck would have it, this strategy paid off and I found a room after only two calls the next day. The room was small and the apartment had pretty old appliances, but it had everything I needed, was only five minutes from the bus station I would have to commute to work from, and was decently priced as well. I said “si!”, paid a 300-euro deposit, and moved in the next day.

What did I learn from this experience? Sometimes you just get lucky. Also, very little sleep combined with lots of drinking for six days means you’re definitely getting sick.

My new digs.
My new digs. Please excuse the mess.

As soon as I moved into my new place, the jet lag and six nights of going out caught up to me. As I write this I’m recovering from a chest cold that’s kept me inside for the past few days. However, things are looking up and I’m very excited for the weeks to come.

The view from my rooftop. I could get used to this.
The view from my rooftop. I could get used to this.