When I tell people I have a passion – nay, obsession – for traveling, they always ask me why I chose Spain over other countries. “Turkey is beautiful!” proclaims my mother. “Dubai’s where the money is!” others say. “Korea’s where everyone goes!” claims anyone who’s sort of looked into teaching abroad. “I looked into JET. You should too.” rings from those once interested in Japan.
My answer is, why not Spain?
A lot of people view Spain as a country that has absolutely no money. Whether that’s true or not, it’s not really about the money. I didn’t base my decision on money, otherwise I’m sure I would have declined the offer. While Spain offers a good (enough) salary for native English teachers, there are other factors that play into.
Firstly, it’s a beautiful country. That isn’t an understatement – it really is. As someone who grew up in a country with many of the world’s best natural wonders, I appreciate the outdoors. Madrid, the city I resided in, doesn’t strike people as the most outdoorsy place, but it’s surprisingly nature-friendly. It’s a major city, but there’s a lot of green space within the center and around its borders. Take a one hour trek outside of the city via train, and you’ll find lots of mountains to hike (and sometimes ski down). The funny thing, though? Despite what it offers, Madrid’s natural beauty pales in comparison to other places in Spain. The islands are an obvious one, but did you know Valencia is stunning? Barcelona is, too, with its mountains, parks, and beach. San Sebastian is utterly ridiculous, with its too-pretty-to-bear bay and coastline. Granada has an old school beauty to it, with La Alhambra being one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been. And don’t even get me started on Cadiz – it’s so mesmerizing that you’ll never want to leave!
Secondly, it’s easy going. While you may find this frustrating in some ways – especially when it comes to the legal things – you’ll come to appreciate it. One thing I absolutely adore about Spain is that people value their time with friends, and if a night goes on a little too late, they’re usually cool about it. People don’t place an unhealthy emphasis on what you do for a living, because they’re generally more relaxed and want to enjoy their lives. While I’m in Spain, I’m actually on the “busy” side of easy going – constantly doing something, keeping busy, even more so than at home in North America – but I appreciate that I’m able to do so because I choose to, not because the culture I’m surrounded by wants me to work myself to death (even though I do)!
Thirdly, it teaches you new things. Before I moved to Spain, I could barely speak Spanish. I liked to think I could, but living there was a major reality check. As I had the reading and writing part down already, I had room to grow in the verbal department and made it my goal to gain some level of competence in talking. By the time I left, I was able to express myself in Spanish with ease.
The language isn’t the only thing you learn, though. As the lifestyle is completely different for us North Americans, I learned how to adapt to something very different. Spanish culture does share similarities with my parents’ culture (and my heritage), so in that sense, it was strangely foreign and familiar. I balanced it out and got used to the parts that were new to me, which taught me to be more open.
Fourthly, it’s sunny and happy. Yes, this deserves its own point. Trust me when I say that there being a consistent amount of sun can really change your mood. As a Canadian, I’ve dealt with the winter blues. It should be noted that in some parts of Spain, there isn’t much sun (the north was gloomy when I went in June), but Madrid gets lots of sunshine during the year.
Fifthly, it was my childhood crush. As strange as that may sound, it’s true. I had a very, very big crush on Spain. I was so obsessed with Spain that my flamenco-ish dress was my favourite item of clothing for several years. Keep in mind that I was a tomboy, so for that to be the case is a very strange thing indeed.
I loved the language, the culture (well, the old school culture), the actors, the history, and everything else. I loved Spain so much it forced me to take this opportunity as an adult, even after my love affair with it dwindled.
Spain was my weakness – the thing I was attracted to – and I couldn’t say no to it. Although I know I’ll never fully assimilate in Spain, it’s mostly because I don’t want to. I love observing it as an “outsider”, taking in the things I appreciate and not adopting the things I can do without. It’s been the perfect compromise.
So, I guess I’m going back very soon. Will I be there for more than a year? Who knows. At this point, I’m just excited to get back, and to start round 2.
Are you going abroad this fall? If so, where to? If not, where would you go?