This weekend I got to see an old and very good friend. We were talking about the places where we live and the places we’ve been to or want to go, and I commented that I wish I were back in Spain instead of in the US at least once a day. Every single day. Because despite the challenges of studying abroad, I found genuine happiness there, more than I had experienced in quite some time. But my friend’s response really resonated with me:
“That’s a terrible way to live,” he said. “You just have to find what it was that made you happy–not the place or the people, but how you lived, what you did with your life–and do that here.”
I really admired his wisdom in that statement. First, because although the city of Sevilla is my heart and soul, it is far from perfect. Timeliness and efficiency aren’t exactly strengths there, I may still be recovering from the volume of bread we consumed, and sometimes your favorite café is randomly closed with no notice/explanation. (Yes, Café del Valle, I am still bitter that you closed for the Corpus Cristi festival on my last day in Europe). Second, because although our TCU Spain group is familia and I can’t imagine going through my study abroad experiences with anyone else, I also missed some crucial people in my life while I was Spain.
What I really miss about Sevilla is the way I lived. I’ve written before about missing the art and the food (Okay, the sangria. But the food too.) and the travel…but it’s more than that. My entire approach to life was different while I studied abroad. Priorities changed. My first thought waking up in the morning was not, What’s on my long to-do list that I have to accomplish today before I’m allowed to crash and fall asleep? It was, What new adventure am I going to have today? Where can I explore? Where can I marvel at something beautiful? What will I learn about the world, about someone else, or about myself today? I knew my time in Spain was limited, so I tried to live every moment purposefully.
What would happen if we woke up with those questions at home, living our everyday lives, and not just when we’re traveling? Pretty radical idea, isn’t it? What if we lived with an energy for the life we’re in right now, regardless of the specific circumstances?One of my professors seems to have a good grasp on this idea. I mean, this guy gets excited about ordering a pizza after work on a Friday night. And he brightens the day of everyone around him because his zest for life just overflows. I’m still trying to figure out his secret.
Our Spain group has dubbed Sundays to be #sevillasunday, which basically means masochistic Instagramming. But this weekend, I’m happy to be in Texas. I cheered my Horned Frogs to victory at my final home football game as an undergrad, I spent time with a dearly-missed friend, and I enjoyed a Model UN dinner with the best group of political science nerds that I know. Since I leave for the Czech Republic on Friday (ahh!!!), my schedule/to-do list before the trip is daunting. But instead of viewing those tasks as obligations to check off a list, my goal this week is to see them as opportunities to learn about the issues that drive my passions for international relations and foreign language.
I can’t travel constantly (though if somehow I could make a career out of that, I wouldn’t complain). But purposeful living doesn’t have to be confined to travel. Because ultimately, adventure isn’t a place. It’s a way of life.
However, since it’s late and I have a lot of papers to work on, I wouldn’t mind trading my American coffee for some good Spanish café con leche right about now.