I just got done sending some posts with pics to the 5 friends I went on holiday to Culebra, Puerto Rico with. This was back in April 2010. It reminds me that I wouldn’t be the person I am now or continued my travel lifestyle without them. Everyone I have met along my journey of life sums up in some ways the man I have become. It brings tears to my eyes in sadness as I am not geographically close to them now and at the same time tears of joy that I had the pleasure to meet them. I can only hope that many others feel the same way about their lives and had the opportunities that I did with the people they met. I have learned that holding grudges or reliving bad memories serves no purpose in moving forward but remembering some tough times can remind us that we persevered and are stronger now.
Puerto Rico 2010 – 6 friends camping on Playa Flamenco, Isla de Culebra
Moving and living abroad is not as easy as moving to another city in your country in any way. Sure, you miss family and friends but in your home country you speak the same language and you can figure out most anything else. Another country with a different language is another ball game all together. Sure, going to the market and grabbing bread or mayo is easy. Try ordering from the seafood counter or deli. I have overcame this speed bump though and now greatly enjoy the seafood counter.. The fresh fish is like nothing I have ever seen. 20 different kinds of all shapes and sizes.
The Catalan/Spanish language
In Catalonia, there are 2 languages – Catalan and Spanish. Spanish, like Italian, is derived from Latin. Catalan is the native and original language until Barcelona was overrun and conquered by a combined effort of Dutch, Spaniards and French. The Catalan culture was forbidden and Spanish culture came to be. in 1860 the walls of Barcelona came down and the new centro was built. The Catalan culture slowly returned and now Catalonia – the state that Barcelona resides in – is fighting for independence from Spain. This would drastically change the dynamic of Spanish influence in Barcelona.
For now I only practice the Spanish language. Baby steps. My Spanish thus far is marginal but I get by and I will admit it is not a difficult language to learn. I’m just not as disciplined as I want to be. I know people living here for a few years now that speak English as their native and they don’t speak fluent Spanish at all. So stop bugging me you crazy Spaniards that always make a point to say “you need to learn more Spanish”. And this of course is translated to me by someone. I think to myself, if I did not speak English like them, how would I have ever traveled the world? Nobody in Bali or Dubai or Jamaica speaks Spanish. I just laugh inside as, well, I can. It is hard in our times not to judge others. It’s in our blood. They judge me and I judge them in a small way for making those comments. Maybe not out-loud vocally but we all do it.
My knowledge of the EU vs. Schengen Zone
This has been the most difficult move for me. For one I am starting my own business and two, in a foreign country. Two aspects of my life that are new to me. Starting a business in Spain is fairly easy I found out. It is more difficult to obtain the Visa you need to stay in the Schengen Zone – the 26 country area that is border free in Europe. Most people wanting to stay longer than the 90 days rule must obtain a Visa from their home country if they are from outside of the Schengen Zone. For me this seemed like madness in a way. What if I came to Spain and loved it and didn’t want to return to the processed foods of the USA? There must be a way! There was….
The first few months living here some people had mentioned to me that I should go to Berlin and obtain a Freelance Visa. I wasn’t sure what this was but I had to find out. I did the research and found that I could apply for just the Visa I needed to stay in Spain. On my Tips(coming) page I will rundown the list of docs I needed to secure the Visa. In Berlin, you can acquire this Visa. It seems that the other German cities do not have as easy of a process. Berliners are very much a mixture of arts, culture, music, food and drinks and they welcome all to join this mix of talented people. My writing and photography work had been exactly what I needed to make this happen. Mind you I don’t have years of work under my belt, but they didn’t require me to be a professional, only a freelancer. And so I did it – after 2 trips and a few freezing days in snow, I overcame my biggest hurdle of all.
I will admit the 121 likes on Facebook was nice. It tells me that people do actually read some posts and do respect an against-all-odds accomplishment. This was a make it or leave situation and I had prayed many times for this to work. I can’t to this day believe how simple it was. Each visit to the foreigners office only took a few hours with no headaches. IT WAS EASIER FOR ME TO GET THIS VISA THAN BEING ISSUED A DRIVERS LICENSE IN THE USA. Go figure.
Now this was a formality/technicality or whatever you want to call it but I have to admit it was a quick process(The Visa). Challenges like this do not scare me so much as I have years a traveling experience and street smarts. The really hard part is being alone. I have read that the first 6 months of living abroad is the most difficult and I can agree. Yes, I am quite social and meet new people but it isn’t the same as my friends whom I have even a few years history with – people that you can talk to about old times with and laugh. Friends you have shared many memories with that you will never forget. After 7 months I am now starting to have visitors from the states and other countries and I am more than happy to have them. Life isn’t about your house, your cars, your bank account – I mean hell, most of my trips left me broke when I got back home and I mean I had $25-60 to my name! But no amount of money can trade places with the people and places I have encountered. If I die broke at least I will be smiling thanks to all of you and I hope I have left an imprint on you as well. So I just keep my head up and remain as focused as possible. Having goals keeps me sane.
If Barcelona was just some average place I would have left after 90 days, but it is not.
Part of it being that starting a new tour company takes so much patience. I want to work like a mad man and I will do 3 tours a day once the season really kicks in but for now I wait to get some traction online and people to come. My company – Barcelona Wine and Beer Experience is a new concept of sort. It pairs a small walking tour through the city with either a craft beer tour and tasting at a local brewery or a wine class at a local wine shop with a sommelier. The social media is really where the marketing is at these days. Spending money on flyers doesn’t seem as useful as it once did. From Facebook to Twitter and Pinterest to Instagram, these are the new flyers and marketing avenues. I am talking with other tour companies to pick their brains which is helpful and maybe I will join forces.
As I am writing this, my flatmate is about to have a baby. 🙂 I have been living with a couple for 2 months now and they are due. She is so calm and I can’t understand it. If my wife was in this position, I would be so excited and pack my bags to stay in the hospital. Spanish health care is great as she pays nothing for the pregnancy. They will leave soon for the hospital.
They had baby Lamine. He is healthy and quite cute. He is just starting to look around more develop character. 🙂
Living in Barca
This brings me to another great aspect of living here – the roofs over my head. I have rented a room in 3 separate flats, stayed with friends and 2 hotels. I am now in a permanent location with a nice big room with a window and mucho sunlight. Perfect for writing and just loving life. Every morning when I open the shades the sun is out and the birds are chirping. This is just another of the many amazing qualities of this city. My small garden is really turning out and I must say really delicious.
When I ponder the history of the ground I walk on in Barcelona it really takes me away. Here tens of thousands of Romans marched through here in battles. Also the Byzantines, Moors and other huge empires. The amount of blood, sweat and tears under my feet is astounding and to look at the buildings still standing and I wonder how many people have lived there or even taken refuge there. Those of you that are from Europe may have heard stories from your family about your history and you are truly lucky. Many have told me that in the next 20 years they feel that much of the culture in cities such as this may be lost – that it is not forgotten, just becoming more digital and less physical. I can see how this may be a thought in the minds of the knowing.
Utilities and Food Shopping
So far I have gotten the Visa, registered my address in Spain at the local office, opened a bank account and have a local cell number. The bank account was easy to get as was the cell number. For the Bank account I joined Banco Sabadell which has the best reviews and they are really friendly to work with. Every branch I went to had at least one English speaking person. I have a free account and debit card and the only requirements were proof of address and passport. For the address, you just need a letter from the person you are renting from. I now also setup my Ebay, Amazon and Paypal account for Spain/Europe. For the cell number – my phone is from a US carrier called Verizon Wireless. This company unlocks all 4G LTE phones for international use so I just bought the SIM card here in Spain from Orange and selected my monthly plan at only 12€. People in Europe mostly use Whatsapp as the means to communicate so data is really the only thing you need. Life is good.
You can also go to the cinema here to see movies in the original English version. Most new movies show a few days before they do in the USA. I usually go on Wednesday as that is the cheapo day. 4 Euros per seat.
The food is not expensive here at the markets and there are some additions I was not used to seeing – quail, rabbit and horse meat. These you can find at most markets. I have not tasted any yet and will soon. The curiosity is there. Chicken and pork are amazingly cheap. For beef, you are safer to buy at a butcher shop as the beef in the markets usually have salt and other ingredients. You can also look for the Eco beef that is 100% natural in the markets. As for wine, the word inexpensive doesn’t even come close. I have now been buying my wine by the liter from a local wine shop in Barceloneta. The wine comes in by the barrels from a local winery. at 1-2 Euros per liter and very tasty I will add. I can’t miss! The Penedes/Rioja blend is my go to.
Some of the larger chain markets even sell by the glass to improve your shopping experience.
I’m not sure I have to say much here. The beaches are very European so expect to see plenty of bare boobies and not the 85 year old ones that you see in the US. Beautiful people as far as the eye can see. The water is very buoyant due to the high levels of salt. So floating is not a problem.
There are always volleyball games you join.
This brings me to something I hear quite often – “sometime I will get there” or “maybe next year”. People are not free to just leave when they want. They are slaves to a job or bills. When I look at the world and the societies they are from, I can see the truth – “the less money you have the richer you are”. I have heard this many times in Europe. People are referring to those whom “own” less material items live a more free life. I can honestly say that is true. Assuming that you will be alive in the next 5 years is hopeful. It is not a guarantee. Some will call this pessimistic while others like myself will call that realism. Hopefully some of you will be inspired by my fearless traveling and take off to some part of the globe that you have always dreamt of visiting. The world is changing and for me I hope to visit many places before the changes are too noticeable. Do not watch the news. Instead, read about it online as you have a little more control of the topics you care about. The news is not just news as it expresses the opinions of those whom own the news companies – CNN, BBC, HLN, FOX, etc. If you really want to know more true facts about the world, get out there and see for yourself. The world is a beautiful place. Sure there are always going to be problems no matter where you go or live but at least you will be able to make your own assessment or opinion. I know I have.
Let me know if you have any questions. I will leave you all with a few more pics I took around the city.