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.

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!

Inspirational Quote: The Art of Pilgrimage

I’ll be sharing frequently from this book as I read it…it’s everything I hoped it would be! So many fantastic excerpts…this one really spoke to me today.

The Art of Pilgrimage, Phil Cousineau

Imagine lighting an old brass lantern. Visualize the light that pours forth over the road in front of you. Can you say, as Isak Dinesen did of her home in Africa, that “This is where I ought to be”? Do you feel a longing to be somewhere else?

Think of the ways that questions illuminate the world around us. Questions tune the soul. The purpose behind questions is to initiate the quest.

Recall the words of Alan Jones, dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, who writes, “We are impoverished in our longing and devoid of imagination when it comes to our reaching out to others…We need to be introduced to our longings, because they guard our mystery.”

Ask yourself what mystery is being guarded by your longing. Are you taking the time to find out? The time for this never appears, it is discovered.


Daily Mindfulness: Learning to dine alone

We’ll cover this subject more than once…make it part of your practice to dine alone in your own town on a regular basis. You WILL feel awkward at times, but learn to sit through that and move beyond it. This will be your homework to progress towards solitary, mindful travel.

Order an alcoholic beverage–spend slightly too much on it and make it something glorious. Order your meal and do not hesitate to have an appetizer as your meal–the portions are usually more logical. Resist the urge to immerse yourself in an alternative universe: leave your phone completely stowed, not even on the table. Do not read a book, lovely as that is. Be completely and utterly present in your own life. Let the nibble of ahi delight your palate; allow the velvety wine to slip down and soothe your soul. Chuckle silently at the juicy tidbits of overheard conversation. Eat very slowly, deliberately, linger at the table beyond American standards. Glory and revel in your own company.


Inspirational Quote: Vagabonding, Rolf Potts

Happy to see that my first read-through of Vagabonding actually sunk into my noggin and I applied the lessons!  I am reading it a second time right now and enjoying it still–awesome book….I’m so ready to leave again!

“The secret to staying intrigued on the road–the secret to truly being different from the frustrated masses–is this: Don’t set limits.

Don’t set limits on what you can or can’t do. Don’t set limits on what is or isn’t worthy of your time. Dare yourself to ‘play games’ with your day: watch, wait, listen; allow things to happen.

Indeed, if you set off on down the road with specific agendas and goals, you will at best discover the pleasure of actualizing them. But if you wander with open eyes and simple curiosity, you’ll discover a much richer pleasure–the simple feeling of possibility that hums from every direction as you move from place to place.”