I was encouraged to start this blog by an 80-year-old Luxembourgian gentleman during a Christmas day lunch in Melbourne, Australia. While we were feasting on a traditional British luncheon (the roast turkey and the inflamed Christmas pudding as always at odds with the Australian Summer sunshine), our European guest quizzed me on my intentions for the next year.
– What will you do in Spain for the year?
I had been wrangling over this question since my husband had recently returned home from work with the news that his position had been moved to Madrid for the next 12 months.
For an Australian, Spain seems so exotic.
Aussies who take a year or so abroad traditionally head to the United Kingdom. Apart from the abysmal weather, it’s is not difficult to see why – a common language, similar employment, many, many other Australians, particularly in London, to share the experience and reflect on home. Judging by our Christmas day feast we have inherited English traditions and would find comfort in the similarities of the country that shipped a lot of us out here back in the 1700’s.
I had images of flamenco dancers, handsome men with olive skin and dark features, delicious food, wine, fields of olives……
In my mind, exotic Spain is glorious.
Now with a table full of happy Christmas diners I was confronted by the question aloud.
– What will you do in Spain for the year?
Honestly, I had no idea. As an Australian it is difficult if not impossible to obtain a working visa in Spain. The unemployment levels are particularly high there at the moment and so the working restrictions on foreigners have been necessarily heightened.
And so the Spanish recession has essentially left me to do whatever I want.
For a whole year.
So what is it that I want to do…
I frantically reviewed the list in my mind.
First and foremost I would need to get a firm grasp of the Spanish language. Like most of the Australian population, I only have English. It always embarrasses me when I travel that most around me have two, three or more languages and I only have one; our lunch guests could fluently converse in at least three! Don’t get me wrong, I adore the English language – poetry and literature especially, but there is nothing like fellow travellers engaging in conversation that you do not understand, to make you feel utterly stupid.
I want to speak the local language; no I want to read it. I want to function effectively in Spain and grasping the language is a must.
Secondly, or admittedly equally first, I wanted to travel. Around Spain, around Europe and anywhere else ‘nearby’.
To give you some perspective, from Australia, Spain and its European neighbours take at least 24 hours by plane to reach. That’s an entire day, on a bus, in the air, always with a transit point in Asia or the Middle East for the plane to refuel. Australia is so far away from the rest of the world that we cannot travel to Europe without stopping for gas!
For those who love to explore the world, this trip and its subsequent jet lag is absolutely worth the sacrifice. Not to mention the few thousand Aussie dollars it usually costs for the plane ticket off the island. Now, at my fingertips, I have 12 months to explore this section of the northern hemisphere without the sacrifice. What’s more, I have the time to do it!
I responded to the waiting table:
– I don’t really have a plan. I will take Spanish lessons and plan some travel….
Our friend smiled warmly, his eyes crinkling at the corners.
– You should write a blog about your time abroad.
When I recovered from my initial shock that our Luxembourgish guest, at the age of 80, actually knew what a blog is, I considered his suggestion.
And then I scolded myself for my narrow mindedness in thinking that our guest’s age would prevent him from using the internet.
The easiest way in the digital age to have your own work published. For everyone to see.
This is not necessarily a good thing; there is some absolute rubbish out there…. And I really do not want to contribute to it.
So, without hope or agenda to write a masterpiece, or to amass a large amount of readers, I will endeavor to write this blog as my way of documenting the small and hopefully interesting adventures that come my way on my year abroad.
(I must remember to send our 80 year old friend the link!).