After the Camino finished, I had grand plans: visit my friend in Madrid and take in all the art and theater I could while there, then move to Sevilla and live like a Sevillana, glamorous, putting on makeup and flat-ironing my hair every morning; taking leisurely, long, loud lunches surrounded by amigos, followed by a languid siesta; clapping discretely to flamenco in dimly-lit underground haunts. Between all this I’d study Spanish, teach an odd English class here and there, and learn to sing or dance.
I forgot to take into account that the person who’d actually be doing all this would still be ME. Hence, reality didn’t turn out quite the same.
Once I got to Madrid, after 34 days of unpacking and repacking my backpack, 34 different rooms and 34 different beds and 34 different opportunities to catch another bedbug infestation, all I wanted to do was STAY IN ONE PLACE. My room was a cave with little light, looking out onto an air shaft, but the bed was cozy, the TV worked, there was a private bathroom and it was ALL MINE!
Factor in seven days of rain and, in place of the boho art chick I imagined I’d become, instead I spent an inordinate amount of time in that room, reading and relaxing and recuperating from the long nights of partying with my friend.
I also ate a LOT of Chinese food, the first “American” food I’d seen in 2 months!
Sevilla turned out to be equally rainy and non-productive. It turns out I may be too city-girl for the country, but I’m way too nature-girl for the city.
San Francisco is surrounded by lemon trees and avocado trees and flowers that bloom all year long. I spend countless hours in my hammock or sewing outside in our courtyard, hidden away from the traffic. So despite living in the city, I never feel oppressed by it.
Sevilla, for all the beauty of its central area, has got a LOT of cement going on. With the drizzly weather and lack of nature, the city felt dreary.
I turned out to be too advanced in Spanish for the classes I’d signed up for, and I was finding it hard to get the motivation to do much else. The Couchsurfing and language exchange events were fun, but they tended to end at 4am in discos full of 22-year-olds and after 3 weeks of that it had kind of gotten old. I was feeling a bit adrift, wavering between having tons of fun and feeling extremely unfocused and lonely.
Time for reevaluation! What, exactly, was I hoping to accomplish by living in Sevilla?
My original goals in coming to Spain were: 1) to walk the Camino on the Ruta de la Plata, from Sevilla; and 2) to improve my Spanish.
I realized that, while my Spanish is definitely a little better than when I got here, I’d never actually walked the Plata.
As amazing an experience as the Camino Frances was, as warm and comforted I feel when I think of the friendships I made and lessons I learned, as much as I enjoy texting with Veronica and Jordi and Juanjo, seeing the Facebook messages from Serafin and Jorge and Paolo, despite all this, I still yearned for the Camino experience I originally set out to have: a solitary, meditative walk, with time to contemplate in nature and in privacy.
And so I strapped on my boots once again, said goodbye to Sevilla, left through the front door, and started walking…