I have to give a very special shout out to Andalusia, especially Granada, and more specifically, the Alpujarra.
This place is special. The landscape and history is as magnificent as it is beautiful. The people are straightforward and honest, generous and open. The culture, scenery, and regional specialties are plentiful.
Everyday I meet a cornucopia of interesting people, as the area attracts all walks of life; tourists, travelers, students, and foreigners. Every pueblo, villa, or ciudad seems similar at first glance and simultaneously has its own unique character that could keep you discovering new places for months!
There are so many things to do! So many interesting sights to see, beautiful streets to get lost on, scenic hikes and trails to be discovered (in Granada's own backyard), bars to cram into, tiny villages to discover...the list does not end.
There is something in the air that is contagious, because the longer you are here the more relaxed about everything you feel...whether it is being muy tranquilo about things like people running late or plans changing last minute, or being open to spontaneity and making the best out of what you have, and definitely not wasting too much time worrying. My favorite and most used word here is disfrutar - to enjoy. That has become my bottom line on many matters, and people seem to be attracted to the region for the same reason.
Something as simple as walking to the store can be such a delicious part of your day, for which you feel inspired afterwards. Sure, life is simple here and you may not make as much money as you could elsewhere...because it is worth the sacrifice to be in a place that is so stimulating.
If I were to write a love story about Granada, this would barely cover the outlines. I am constantly discovering new things and am persistently reminded why this place is special...so I will try not to go on too much more, though this may be 'to be continued...'
Lastly for today, there are two major takeaways that I can already share about my time here.
Why not enjoy life? Sometimes I find myself feeling a bit guilty for thinking this way. Does Western culture seem to interpret serving your own happiness as a selfish act, or is it just me? Isn't it okay to just be happy? I mean genuinely happy...in your right place in this moment, surrounding yourself with loving and inspiring individuals, spending your time doing something stimulating, challenging and fulfilling? Because living an inspired life as fully as you possibly can does not just benefit you...it benefits the people who touch your life and the people you work with, and I have no reason to think those effects stop there.
I know that all of this sounds really ideal when your reality is a job and a family and whatever else is going on in your life. The reason I share this is because I have spent so much time doing things because I felt pressure or responsibility to something for someone else in my life, and there were many times when i wasted mine and everyone else's time as a result. So maybe forgive yourself or allow yourself to do something for the simple sake of your own happiness sometimes, and see how it feels.
There are countless moments during my travels so far which have reminded me of the importance of being present. Developing a more tranquilo mindset and learning to slow down is a constant and highly beneficial tool, for which I am constantly finding reasons to use. When I look back, I have spent most of my life making decisions based on the future, which is really strange as I have never been able to predict the future, Nostradamus. It is nice to stay present, if not for the mere fact that when you spend most of your thought and energy thinking about the future, your are both sensitive and / or listening to what is happening right now. Sometimes you spend your whole day worrying about something and wishing life would throw you a bone, and you don't realize that life has been throwing biscuits at your face the whole time.
My second interpretation of this word is that everything is / will be okay. My friend Eszter is a great example of this. She left her high powered successful life in Budapest to make her own, completely different way of life in Granada. She has made slow (and yet astonishing) progress over six months of hard work and constant creative and bold endeavors. Her life is not glamorous; it is her attitude. Her response when people comment on how her life seems like an ideal dream void of problems is that she has certainly had her share of struggles, except that she didn't see them as being 'problems' so nothing ever got out of control. Being overwhelmed by that which cannot be controlled is the moment when you surrender your power in the situation.
Okay...third: Stimulate your brain.
Over the past months I had many first time experiences, discoveries, and moments of great learning and inspiration, mostly in fairly isolated installments. Can I just share, from recent experience, how big it has been to be in a place where I feel so positively stimulated from all directions? This could means many things for different types of people, and I will share what it means for me: substituting your daily crossword puzzle for learning a foreign language (good for the brain and more productive, no?), doing something new whenever the opportunity presents itself, going into nature as often as possible, mixing socializing with positive habits like exercise and hiking, discovering nature, being surrounded by good people (buena gente!) who inspire you, are genuine and down to earth, and who make you want to step up to the next level, putting yourself in challenging and new situation whenever possible, and the one that seems so different from the Indiana version of myself...meeting new people!!! I have really begun to think that whether or not you like or agree with someone, even if you meet someone very briefly, you just might share something about life with each other and learn something.
Wow, i have to force myself to stop here. My challenge of writing a bit everyday? He triunfado hoy! Lo siento por el libro, tias y tios!
(Photo note: this beautiful storefront sign was taken in Capileira, an adorable mountain village in the Alpujarra with all of the regular amenities...tons of hiking, beautiful winding streets, fountains upon fountains, elegant local businesses that have adapted to partial cave dwellings, etc! I highly recommend a visit)
Luz, sabiduría, y amor.