Thursday, March 25, 2010

#13 - Springtime Update

Hello everyone!

It’s been a while since I have written a post, perhaps a month or so.  The truth is that a lot of things have happened since I went to Cadiz for Carnival – I’ve landed an internship writing for a travel website, made some tentative plans for my future, and been suspected by Arévalo’s local police of being a terrorist.  But let me start at the beginning. 

Getting the travel writing internship was the best piece of news I’d received in months.  I was ripe for some good news after so many months of fruitless effort, for a break of any kind.  One of my Canadian friends, Maria, read my blog and suggested I try writing for a new website called Off Track Planet.  I liked what I read on the website, so I contacted them and soon enough I had an internship.  That was a month ago, and I’ve been writing for the website ever since. 

Each week I have to write an article on different travel-related topics.  I’ve written one on how to find cheap flights in Europe, Top 10 Things to Do in Madrid, the best places to get a tattoo in Madrid and how to ride a motorbike across Vietnam.  More are in the works…

I don’t know where the experience will lead, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.   After over a year of trying to break into writing I finally got my first break.  Now I have an editor who helps me develop my style and pushes me to do better each week.  Furthermore, having to research and write articles on a diverse range of topics will continually expose me to new aspects of traveling.  

Definitely check out the website.  It is oriented towards young American backpackers and its full of inspiring articles, tips, advice on working abroad, and practical information on planning the trip of a lifetime.  I just got my first article published, but you should see more of my work appear on the site soon. I hope the articles will inspire you to embark on your own journeys.  Of course, feel free to contact me with any travel-related questions you might have. 

I will continue writing for Off Track Planet as I wrap up my English teaching job in Arévalo.  God knows I need something to occupy my time in the pueblo.  Though I originally shared my apartment with four other roommates, now only one remains.  He is leaving tomorrow.  Writing for the website is the only thing keeping me sane. 

I am considering moving to nearby Ávila, a small medieval city that serves as the capital of our province.  I have a few American friends there and they have offered for me to move in with them for the last month to avoid being stranded alone in Arévalo

I have other plans as well, dreams that keep me going as I shuffle from my crumbling apartment to the high school where I work – moving to Paris this summer.  I have discovered a writing program there that lasts the entire month of July and I am in the process of applying for it.  If I am accepted into the program I’ll pass the summer in my favorite city while I practice my writing under the guidance of leading writers.  I could learn French, soak up the culture of Paris and simply enjoy life. 

As important to me as the writing program is, I am most looking forward to the latter element – joie de vivre.  After a spending a dark, lonely winter in small-town Spain, I am dying to live closer to the action.  When I originally arrived in Arévalo I assumed that I could use the town as a base to explore the rest of Spain.  The town was boring but, like a dorm bed in a hostel, it was just a place to sleep.  I was quite close to Madrid, Salamanca and northern Spain and I could easily travel across Spain quite easily. 

But after six months of traveling almost every weekend I am completely exhausted.  I have discovered that where a person lives is one of the most important things in life.  Where you live and who you live with defines your experience in many ways.  In Arévalo I have lacked all the things I took for granted in California – being close to friends, to other young people, to places where things happen.  I am a nomad, setting up camp across the globe as I wander through my youth.  But I’ve learned my lesson – next time, I’m going to pitch my tent closer to the action. 

Paris is first, then the Basque Country, (or, Euskal Herria in the Basque language).   I have re-applied to my English teaching program for a second year, but this time I’m hoping to be place in or around a big city in the Basque Country.  The seaside city of Bilbao would be ideal, as would San Sebastián

I have a few reasons for continuing the program next year.  Primarily, I have realized the importance of being patient and taking one’s time in life.  My thirst for knowledge has driven me here to study Spanish, to learn the Spanish guitar, and to become a writer.  I have progressed drastically on all fronts, but not to my satisfaction.  I need more time.  Another year here will cement my knowledge of Spanish and give me more time to work on my writing and traveling.  Also, I want to begin studying French next year, and from the Basque Country I can travel to both Spain and France with equal ease. 

Obviously, this means that I won’t be spending much time in California during 2010.  I miss my friends and family, but I feel that right now it is important for me to continue down this path.  Fortunately my brother has applied for the same English-teaching program and if all goes to plan we will be sharing a flat together in Bilbao and exploring the world-class surf breaks of the Basque Country on the weekends. 

So to summarize, that means I will be in Arévalo until the end of May, then Paris for all of August, then to the Basque Country starting in October.  I plan to fill in the gaps between those experiences as follows: in June I will walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela, a pilgrimage walk from France to Galicia in the northwestern corner of Spain.  The journey in its entirety takes six weeks, but I only have three.  I will have to pick a section and do as much as I can, then return to finish it at another time.  I’ll walk from when I finish my job until I have to move to Paris.

After Paris, I will probably to a bit of traveling out here before returning home to SD to enjoy the waning summer sun.  Mellowing with my friends, lounging at the beach, going to Padres games, and eating burritos are in order.  Then in late September I would return to Spain to get settled in Bilbao and prepare for the upcoming year. 

All this, of course, assumes that I will actually be accepted into these various programs.  I could easily be rejected from the Paris program or be assigned to teach English in some small town again.  That would change things quite a bit.  But let’s hope that doesn’t happen…

That leaves one last tidbit to mention – how I became suspected of being a terrorist.  It all happened last Thursday…

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