Before arriving in Madrid last week, I spent 3 weeks travelling solo throughout Europe. Many people back home questioned my decision to go travelling alone, and I admit that while I was incredibly excited I was also a bit anxious. It turns out that I had nothing to be anxious about! The last few weeks have been absolutely phenomenal. I already feel like I have grown, through having made a lot of friends along the way by getting outside of my comfort zone, through learning to become more independent than ever before and by truly coming to accept who I am as a person. I could go on for some time about my experiences the last few weeks, but I’ll focus on a few of the highlights.
I began my trip in Dublin before making my way throughout Belgium, France and Switzerland. I’d always wanted to visit Belgium and France in particular because of my love of French culture and the French language. I wanted to practice speaking in French with the locals, but I wondered if they would automatically switch to English as that’s what I had heard they will do if they realize that you’re an anglophone. I’m very happy to say though that that never happened! My first experience speaking with a local was in Brussels, where I ventured out right after I arrived at my hostel to find a laundromat, as I had run out of clean clothes. I found one nearby, but I had no idea how to use the washing machine and there weren’t any instructions. There was a woman sitting there, waiting for her own load of laundry to be done. Having just arrived, I wasn’t quite yet sure how common it was for locals to speak French in comparison with Dutch and English. So, I went up to her and asked in English if she spoke any English or French. She responded in English that she spoke a little bit. It became clear quickly that her English was very limited, but she tried using gestures to show me how to use the washing machine. Then she said the word “savon,” and I instantly realized that she did actually speak French (as this means soap in French)! So, I switched to French and we were able to have a full conversation about how to exchange money for coins to start the washing machine, how to get laundry detergent from the vending machine, how to load it and adjust the settings as well as how to use the dryer. It may seem like a simple interaction, but to me that was the moment that I realized I could actually get by and fully converse with the locals in French, and for that I was proud. From then on I spoke to everyone in French and I have to say that it was an amazing experience! I will without a doubt go back one day to both countries, hopefully sooner rather than later.
Some of the other highlights of my trip include:
- Exploring ‘La Petite Ceinture’, an abandoned railway overgrown with greenery that’s right in the middle of Paris and that only locals know about:
- Spontaneously travelling to Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland thanks to the advice of Alon (a fellow TABer!), where I went hiking and paragliding in the Swiss Alps. The very first photo was my view from the window by my bed! Words can’t express how incredible this experience was, and photos won’t ever do it justice, but take a look:
- I have now been in Madrid for nearly a week, where I spent the first few nights in a hostel. There I made friends with a few people who are moving here permanently to teach English! I also got the chance to explore this beautiful city. My favourite experience so far was taking the Teleférico de Madrid halfway through Casa de Campo and walking back through this beautiful, massive park near the centre of Madrid:
My Spanish is very limited, so going from being able to communicate in French with everyone in Belgium and France to not being able to communicate with anyone in Madrid has been an experience, but I am loving every minute of it and I really look forward to learning and growing even more as a future teacher and as a person. Right now I’m looking forward to that moment where I can converse (even just for a brief conversation) with a local.
I’m sad that one part of my adventure is over, but I’m truly excited to start the new adventure of teaching in Madrid! My fellow TABers are all here together now and it’s nice to finally settle into one place.
Until next time!