the epic settle of 2014

Bye San Francisco! I miss you!

Bye San Francisco! I miss you!

If you’ve been reading this blog for any period of time, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I’m a pretty terrible planner. In fact, in the last 6 months, my departure from the states was the only thing that I actually planned ahead of time, and that was purely out of shame- after broadcasting my emigration from the states to everyone I know, I was going to look like a real idiot if I didn’t go through with it.

So naturally it is safe to assume that my recent move to Barcelona was a bit out of the blue as well. Here’s a little backstory- my first trip to Barcelona was back in 2011, a magical four-day stopover (on my way to celebrate my grandfather’s 90th birthday in Mallorca) in which I spent days wandering the streets and nights feasting on tapas and vino. Then, I was lucky enough to stay with my friend Marta, a native Mallorquina who I met when the gods brought her to UC San Diego to study, surf and snowboard with us for a year.

this beautiful lady standing next to me is Marta

this beautiful lady standing next to me is Marta

A few weeks ago, in between mopping floors, making beds and cleaning bathrooms at my Workaway position in Portugal, I found myself glued to my computer, frantically scouring the webs for an apartment in Barcelona. After a couple of days of cleaning fumes and out of control hostel guests yelling until all hours of the morning, I think I subconsciously decided I had had enough of the impermanence of hostels for a while. In keeping with the theme of the last few months, the universe responded in the form of my good friend Marta. Being the badass that she is, she literally kicked out the two guys subletting her apartment for the summer so I could move in for the month of August. I know, I’m so not nice enough to deserve friends like that.

not to mention Sagrada Familia was a block away from Marta's apartment!

not to mention Sagrada Familia was a block away from Marta’s apartment!

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oh you know, just tagging along to ‘work’ with Marta

A month later, I have an apartment, a job (and a half), and actually have a couple of friends to call my own. I set an intention for every week I was here- the first week was to decide if I wanted to stay, the second, to find a job, 3rd, an apartment, and finally, last week, I intentionally set out to make some new friends.

not one of my new friends, unfortunately

not one of my new friends, unfortunately

So how’d that work out?  I just so happened to stumble into the home base of a company that runs gastronomic tours through Barcelona’s old city during my ‘work’ week. Somehow, I managed to charm them into giving me a tryout, and am now running 3 hour long tours in which I try super hard not to bore people to death. Mostly I succeed, and the promise of food every 30 minutes or so definitely helps.

Next, after visiting what seemed like 842 apartments, I found a cute little place with 2 other girls in the newer part of Barcelona, a district called “Eixample” (pronounced eye-shamp-lah). Again, with my winning smile and sometimes awkward Spanish, I managed to convince the girls to accept me as one of their own.. and THEYRE NEVER GETTING RID OF ME. Just kidding.. they might, eventually.

The friends part is slightly trickier, but definitely looking good- here’s a few tips on how you might force strangers to be your friend in a new city:

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new friends, old friends, and dead friends at the Fiestas de Gracia

1. Couchsurfing.org: Despite having recently gained infamy as ‘couchsexing.org’ (I may or may not have totally made that name up), Couchsurfing events actually seem to have great attendance with a mix of travelers, locals, expats and random unsuspecting people who are just trying to have a quiet drink in their local bar. So far I’ve been to 3 events, and although no new best friends on the horizon, its been an overall good experience.

2. Meetup.com: Good idea in theory, but the only time I’ve tried to attend an event, I couldn’t find the group and ended up making random friends with a completely unrelated group of people and stumbled back to my apartment at almost 4 am. I call that a successful evening, although the “meet-up’ portion may have ended up a bit misdirected.

3. Facebook: there are Facebook groups for everything these days. Want to run with fellow expats every week? Group for that. Do you enjoy painting your face and blowing bubbles in the park? They meet on Sunday mornings. Have a gerbil and want to teach it to fly a kite? There’s a group for that. Seriously though, Facebook is full of weirdos and there is a niche for all of them, even me.

Moral of the story- set an intention, don’t be a lazy-ass, and force yourself out of your comfort zone- in doing so, you may just find a whole new ‘comfy space’ to enjoy! Big changes are only scary if you are scared of them- you can only be disappointed if you have expectations to begin with!

 

 

 

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sometimes traveling doesn’t cost an arm and a leg

Just a bit of dignity and some elbow grease.

Seriously though, gone are the days of overpriced hotel rooms and tours that make you sign over your first born child before you even leave your home country. I mean, all of those things still exist, and I know there are still subscribers to the world of “Europe on $200 a day,”  but I’ve found that the scrappier and cheaper it gets, the more fun I have.

nothing screams luxury like a blow up swimming pool

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wouldn’t you consider sleeping here over a hostel bunk bed?

This time, that meant delving into the world of hitchhiking and work trade-  yeah, I know, hitchhiking is dangerous, you never know who is going to pick you up, you might get kidnapped, stranded… I KNOW. However, I could also be robbed at gunpoint in the middle of San Francisco while minding my own business, or hit by a car while crossing the street in middle of nowhere, safe-as-hell Ojai… both of which have actually happened. (ok to be fair in the first instance the gun was fake, but still). The work trade portion of my adventures were actually probably more damaging to my health and safety than the hitchhiking was.. mostly due to a lack of sleep and lots of cleaning product fumes.

Anyways, you can all breathe easy (especially you, Grandma, I know your heart probably stopped for a second) because I made it to Spain and won’t be trying my luck in this country.. at least with hitchhiking and cleaning products. Everything else, I can’t make any promises.

 

Would I recommend using Workaway for someone who is looking to save a bit of money while still hanging out in a rad country? Hell yeah. Since my room and food was covered, the only money I spent was basically on watermelon and sangria ingredients. What would NOT recommend however, is going into the workaway experience without fully understanding the terms of your work trade. Lets just say I was not prepared for over night shifts or cleaning multiple bathrooms a day.

mad art skillz

mad art skillz

Hitchhiking, unlike Workaway, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend to everyone looking to travel cheaply. If you don’t feel like standing on the side of the road for an undetermined period of time holding a sign or your thumb in the air, feel free to rule out this method of transportation. (or, you know, you’re in a country in which hitchhiking is illegal). For me (and my lovely Australian friend on whom we can pin this newfound addiction) it became a game- we would try to make eye contact with as many passing cars as possible, and for those that didn’t stop, try to figure out the weird hand signals that drivers would give us to indicate that they were not headed where we were trying to go (“Wait does that mean you’re staying here? you’re turning around? I don’t get it.”)

off we go

i swear im not high in this photo, i was just running on 3 hours of sleep.

I met a lot of interesting characters over the last couple of weeks- an older woman and her mother from Mozambique that drove us 20km out of their way while blasting 70’s tunes, a baker in the process of developing sweet potato, bean and nut based baked goods who raced me to 3 different bus stops before we found the right one, and the guy in the amazing VW van filled with baby wipes and toilet paper- to name just a few.

other favorite: THIS GUY.

other favorite: THIS GUY.

Though I’ll miss my new favorite game, word on the street is that hitchhiking in Spain isn’t quite as fun, so I’m planning on trying Bla Bla Car (a ride sharing weebsite) for my trip to Barcelona on Monday or Tuesday.

 

My (tentative and highly subject to change) future

Officially count this in the books as my first emigrated post. I am now a resident of the UK, with the bank account to prove it. Never mind that the bank account is currently completely empty, just the fact that I have it is a point of pride.

After leaving New York shrouded in clouds and heavy rain (apparently summer in NY is just like summer in the UK.. sometimes there’s a chance of rain all the time), Cole (the brother) and I made our way slowly across the Atlantic to the place of heritage- jolly old Liverpool. Now, Liverpool often gets a bad rap- it’s an industrial port city that up until recently (last 10 years or so) didn’t offer much by way of culture. In the last few years, however, things have really turned around. Great museums (all free!), beautiful parks, and a completely refurbished downtown area have turned Liverpool into a highly regarded tourist destination, although in a duel of wits, charm and overall good looks, London would (of course) win hands down. In a rap battle, London would still own it, especially on style and delivery, but to be fair no one would have any idea what Liverpool was saying in the first place.

So far it’s been a combination of solid family time (dotted with a few screaming matches here and there, but really thats just the way families are meant to communicate, right?), exploring, and reconnecting with old friends. Although I am having a great time, I did have a moment or two over the last week of  “what the hell am I doing?,” but I think that is to be expected, considering I have no idea of the next time I’ll see a lot of the places and people that have become precious to me over the last 27 years. However, I’m pretty damn excited to strengthen some bonds I already have on this side of the world as well as create a whole bunch of new ones!

So what’s on the agenda for the next few months?

I am generally pretty averse to doing a lot of planning, as I strongly believe that you never know whats around the next corner. Case in point- Buying a 1 month long round trip ticket to/from Colombia last December. Honestly, did I really think a month was going to be enough for me to get in all of the things I wanted to do, not to mention a ton of stuff I had no idea was even possible? 

That said, here’s whats on the horizon so far:

(The rest of) JUNE:

-Heading back to Liverpool to help my cousin Lindsey (Kosher Roast) and her friend Amy with what I have dubbed ‘an orthodox bachelor party.’ Which from what I understand is basically a luncheon. Either way, its been a while since I’ve worked a catered event, and I’m pretty excited to make some money, see how the event plays out, and eat some delicious food.

Africa Oye! music festival in Liverpool- I’m learning that, like San Francisco, a lot of events during the summer are weather dependent. If its sunny, it’ll be a fantastic weekend. If not, I should probably buy myself a pair of wellies and a good umbrella. Maybe a poncho?

good look for me huh?

good look for me huh? 

-Another week- ish (potentially) in London. Hopefully, I’ll get some more good weather (its been mid 70s every day so far!).

 

JULY:

-As of right now, I am planning on spending all of July in Spain. First off, landing in Madrid to spend some time with Patricia, my host sister from the year I lived in Spain in 2002-2003. Its been almost 12 years since I’ve seen her and her family, and I am so excited to catch up with them! Patricia is finishing up a law degree in Madrid, and the plan is to head out to see the whole family by car in early July. They still live in O Rosal, the teeny town I spent my sophomore year of high school in! I imagine I will hang out with them until maybe mid July, then thats where it starts to get interesting. I might head to Barcelona for a Workaway position in a cafe doing some waitressing/kitchen work, or I might rent a car and explore some more of Spain, I could go to Benicassim festival near Barcelona, or who knows, maybe from Galicia I’ll head to Portugal and see what happens from there. Any recommendations?!?!

AUGUST:

-This is where it starts to get even more nebulous. I’ll lay out what I am considering so far. (Obviously subject to drastic or minor change.)

  • spend a week in Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival 
  • stay in Spain and work in Barcelona
  • Find a place to stay in London for a month or two and find some sort of income source
  • Rent a car in the UK and drive up to Wales to visit some family friends, continue exploring UK by car.

Past that, I’ve got about a million ideas and zero desire to commit to anything. The idea of England in winter doesn’t sound that appealing, so chasing summer might become my fall/winter agenda.

I’ll leave you with this: