Mindful Travel: Málaga, Spain Companions & New Experiences

Sometimes we need to push past our comfort zones…

A spot caught my eye as I headed back to the hotel one evening: an actual beer pub with a sign in the window for local brews. As was the case in Lisbon, beer is not Spain’s strong suit, wine is. Although I certainly enjoy both, I am a wine novice with an uneducated palate…but beer–well. The pub was closed on my first pass-by, so I merely stood like a child with nose pressed to the window and read their postings regarding what was on tap that week. I carefully noted my location (brooding statue in intersection) so I could find my way back. The following evening, I strode forth after my regular late afternoon freshen up back at the hotel, full of anticipation and high hopes. I tipped my head to the Brooder and made my turn back onto the designated street. I wanted to get a “flight” with samples of all that was on tap that night, but upon arrival discovered that most were IPAs and porters–not my preference. I ordered a wit beer and headed outside to one of the bistro tables on the sidewalk to savor. Another solo sipper sat at the table next to me. We raised our glasses in amiable cheer to each other. After a few minutes I asked him what kind of beer he was drinking. He smirked and shrugged and I took on a teasing tone, “What? You don’t want to tell me?” He blushed and admitted, “I was going to point it out to you on the menu…but I don’t have my reading glasses!” We both laughed and I invited him to my table to borrow my readers. I asked him to teach me the word for glasses, and he did, but it would not stick in my head and eventually it became a joke between us as I asked him for the word over and over again during our days spent together.

As an introvert, I don’t have the compelling need to seek out companionship and surround myself with conversation. It is, however, pleasurable when it happens organically (and when I am brave enough to reach out!). He and I continued our conversation into the evening and at some point his friend joined us at the table. These strangers welcomed me into their city and were gracious and fun and generous with their schedules, taking time out of their daily lives to escort me to places I might not find as a tourist. I went with each of them on separate days to beach towns outside of Málaga. Juan took me by city bus to a quaint restaurant for a divine seafood lunch where he educated me about typical southern Spain tastes and encouraged me to brave my hesitation and try everything. We met up with a group of his friends at a nearby bar where I suffered through the worst mojito I’ve ever had and drowned in my grossly insufficient language skills.

The next night I drove with José in his car (and yes I was a bit nervous but it was a calculated risk I decided to proceed with) to the seaside town that his parents live in. We shared a romantic candlelit dinner with wine and sea bass and fried sardines which I swore I would hate and instead ended up loving. A moonlit walk followed with extraordinary sand sculptures on one side from a contest held that day and cliffs rising on our other side. He held my hand and said that from his parents’ seventh floor apartment  one could look across the water to the lights of Africa and this amazed me.

Some risk has to be taken sometimes in order to savor the full offering–new foods, lack of confidence in the language, unfamiliarity with customs–I’m glad I ventured out.

With or Without Me

Last week I headed down to Wilmington with my youngest daughter–I’d had such a hankering to go down and finally we had a day warm enough to allow for walking around. Every time I cross the bridge over the Cape Fear River and see Wilmy glistening and beckoning in the sun, my soul heaves a sigh–it is such a beautiful little city and my love for it has never diminished.

First on our agenda was to return to my former neighborhood and poke around. The railings on the front porch of my house had been changed, but I was happy to see the house well-cared for and tended. We walked over to my favorite cemetery and enjoyed the history and headstone names and Spanish moss dripping before heading downtown.

How much changes in a mere nine months! We drove by what had been an empty lot on one of the sketchier streets I used to pass along on the nineteen block walk from my house to the riverfront; now a gas station was under construction. I was pleased by that, but dismayed to discover that one of my favorite downtown eateries had shut down. I have fond memories of appetizers and fine beer while perched out on their miniature two-person balconies overlooking the water, the sun beating down on us as we ate. Today the water is being chopped by the still brisk spring wind. I’m watching the small boats fight it, the passengers’ heads damn near snapped off their bobble necks as the boats slam down off of each crest.

I’m melancholy that the restaurant is gone and ponder how life moves on with or without us. Even as I sit here and write, the world exists in Málaga, in Lisbon, in Panama City without my eyes to witness. Each world that I inhabited for a brief time continues in my absence.

Sacrifice to Travel

I’m living in what you might call voluntary poverty. Perhaps since I am never worried about losing the roof over my head a more appropriate term would be voluntarily low income. During my time in Wilmington I held two jobs back to back that entailed such high levels of stress that my health was suffering and my soul withering. I contemplated the platitude that I was working all day to afford the house and car that I could barely enjoy because I was constantly working; my soul was utterly exhausted by the daily struggle to spend the bulk of each week in a situation I hated. I eventually walked away from every bit: the job titles and the house in Wilmington and the Lexus that they afforded. Now I reside in a small apartment on the “wrong” side of town, drive a pretty darn old 4Runner and cherish the hours I am now in control of. It is certainly not a choice without consequences nor always happy and easy…but I can never go back after tasting this new, simpler, more profound way of living.

Travel is not impossible on a slender budget, just a bit difficult to orchestrate, at least for me. There are many sites about budget travel and I am no guru on the subject. I am, however, an advocate of deciding to prioritize what has meaning in my life and committing to making it happen one way or another, come hell or high water. I am still amazed and impressed that I forced through to Málaga, it was not easy at all and Cam and I ate a bit of ramen following my return until I could get another paycheck in. I came very close to calling it off a month or two before I left, but I knew I would never forgive myself if I caved. It did end up being a life-altering trip whose memories will forever enrich me. The ramen memories will fade.

I am currently in the planning stages for a trip to Mexico City in June and the path is no easier this time around. Refraining from eating out, buying cost effective groceries, planning my driving to avoid unnecessary gas usage…all factoring in to force this trip to happen. If I can view it as simple living, as a form of mindfulness, as working towards a goal, it makes the sacrifices along the way easier to bear. Life is to be lived as fully as we can manage, and for me, that is always travel.


My REALLY SHITTY box wine with decent bread & cheese…because I could not eat out every meal in Málaga!

Writing prompt: “imagine a scenario for your life in the future”

I feel like a flake when “pondering scenarios for my life” since seemingly moment to moment they flip and they flop, they vacillate and shimmer upon the road ahead. Maybe not because I don’t know what I want but because I want everything, I am greedy for life. I want to live all the lives, be all the incarnations of myself. I don’t want to deny any facet of my authenticity but instead want to embrace and cherish each crazy version. After throwing  off the yoke of censorship and falseness from my life, I feel compelled to avoid shutting off dreams and skirting paths, even though in reality they perhaps conflict or deviate wildly. One self cries out for the isolation and seclusion of the countryside, skies full to bursting with nighttime stars. Another self longs to return to living in a historic district, full of neighborhood coffee shops and jasmine walks. In other moments all I want in life is loft living with the never-ceasing buzz and thrum of being smack dab in the middle of it all. Each one in turn is shoved aside by the gal who doesn’t want to be troubled with moving yet again and who adores the perfect tiny apartment and the screen porch looking out upon the pines.


Loving the Loft Life