A month ago today I arrived. A month! That seems impossible to me; truly it does.
I sit here looking out my window, listening to the soft sound my cafetera perking my afternoon boost while realizing there is much to write, but I’m not sure of what and how… How many times have I already sat in this chair, looked out my window and thought the exact same thing. So many moments of having countless words and realizations that my hands cannot keep up with my racing mind, but just as many moments where I have been on overload, sitting blank faced with no words at all, lost in the process of trying to absorb all that I can.
Lots of moments… Lots of thoughts…
I’m left realizing just how fast my time in Madrid will pass. I’m realizing how if I truly am not set and focused on the things I would like to do while I’m here- even if it’s simply outlining the fun or silly things- I run the terrible risk of having regrets if/when I move beyond Madrid. I geared up for this move for months. And here, in the blink of an eye, it’s not only come to pass, but I find myself beyond the initial few weeks in my new place. Here I am more than a month in of learning and growing and changing.
Could I have possibly already learned that much? Absolutely. You would be amazed. I’ll explain.
In my opinion, the first month of a traveler’s journey is the time you notice the most. No matter how many times you holiday, to move to a new place and specifically a new country the first month is the time of crucial realizations. Why? Because you’re closest to your home culture, which, for me, is America. Despite having lived abroad previously and visiting numerous times, the first month is the time when I am rampant with adjustments. It’s the time when I am most American and so I have the most shock to overcome. It’s the time when I find myself inherently missing things for the sheer reality that I have yet to adjust to their lack of availability in my new country.
These are the weeks- again in my opinion- that are most vital to document or journal or process in your media of choice. Because you find, especially the more traveled you are, that you quickly forget the things that were difficult or that you missed in your first days. You quickly put out of mind that sounds or gestures that of the new language which raised your eyebrows. You forget the time(s) you almost got hit by the car (or vespa) that “came out of nowhere” because you didn’t know the unspoken rules of when to cross the street or when jaywalking was permitted; and you hadn’t yet learned that of all days you must have food for Sundays because nothing is open and lazy days aren’t nearly as enjoyable when you’re starving the whole time.
So to any/all first time travelers that may be reading this if I could give you any little tidbit it would be this: for the first 30 or so days of a new adventure, try to write down one thing a day that surprised you, frustrated you or something you found just completely insane. Even if it is short or you feel completely stupid for noting it, write it down. In retrospect, you’ll be happy you have it – and if nothing else, you’ll get a good laugh out of it in a few months time.