A luxurious 100m2 apartment in a small Spanish city by the coast has been my home for the past two weeks. It’s basically located in a gated community; very posh. I moved to Spain on December 1st and I will live here for at least two months. The Mediterranean Sea is only 200 meters away and the city is quite lovely. I’m not a fan of the winters back home and nothing was really keeping me there, so I decided to discover another part of the world and move to a country where it’s warm and sunny this time of year.
I usually don’t enjoy the actual traveling part, but I was surprisingly thrilled on the day of departure. I remember sitting on the airport waiting for my flight to arrive just feeling excited and being full of expectation. In the animated safety instruction video before take off, all the people were happy and smiling like Barbie dolls, despite the fact that they were putting on oxygen masks and jumping out of an airplane that just had crashed: “calm like Hindu cows.” Of course it made me think of Fight Club.
I love flying. I got goosebumps all over my body when the plane left the ground. I looked out the window for most of the flight and some of the views were stunning. The best part was a gigantic mountain chain that suddenly appeared out of thin air. From a great distance, I saw formations that seemed to be rising high above the clouds. It wasn’t until we got a bit closer that I realized those formations were mountains.
We flew over the mountains around dawn, so the villages in the valleys could be seen in the form of tiny dots of light. Sometimes the houses were spread out in semicircles, higher up in the mountains. The lakes appeared as large, black holes in the ground. I later learned that I saw the The Pyrenees between France and Spain. It seemed so safe and cozy living up there.
I arrived in Alicante around 7PM and had to wait about an hour for the bus to my coastal town. The bus driver helped pick out the right amount of Euros from the coins in my hand. I said “muchas gracias” and he replied “de nada”. The driver was playing Light My Fire by The Doors on the radio and when I got to my seat, Free Falling by Tom Petty came on. For some reason, I suddenly felt so happy that I got a few tears in my eyes.
After the bus had taken me to the coast, I walked around for a bit and eventually found an available taxi. Since I hardly speak any Spanish and to avoid misunderstandings, I had written down the address to the apartment on a piece of paper. When the cabdriver dropped me off, however, I quickly realized that he had not taken me to the correct address.
So there I was in Spain at 9PM, right by the ocean, and I had no idea how to get to my apartment. I knew I was in the right area, but I wasn’t in the right neighborhood. I aimlessly started walking around, asking the few people that I met for directions. Problem is, not many Spaniards know English – particularly not people over 40. They had no idea where my apartment was, even though I showed them the address.
After 40 minutes of walking up and down blocks, I was preparing myself for a night on the beach. Then I discovered a bar, a Swedish bar, actually. I went in there and met a girl around my age who finally could tell me where to go. Success! I was impressed by the apartment that somehow managed to exceed my high expectations.
I was so very thirsty that night and I dreamt of lakes, even though I had managed to buy a couple of small bottles of water at the airport. See, the tap water in Spain is undrinkable. It both tastes and smells like a swimming pool. I’m not fully sure how they managed to ruin it – a lack of groundwater, pollution, no proper cleaning process? Either way, I had a clear mission when I woke up: food and water. My inner compass took me in the right direction, but for some reason, I strayed from the path. I ended up in some weird industrial part of the city, far from the commerce. After having walked around aimlessly in the hot sun for two hours, I was dehydrated, exhausted, hungry and lost.
I finally managed to score some bottled water and later that day I had dinner at one of the restaurants by the beach with an old Finnish couple (the old racist geezer hated Russians). The meal was bloody horrible actually and later that week I noticed the restaurant had put up a “closed – for sale” sign. On my second day in town I even managed to find an open supermarket. There is of course an abundance of bars and restaurants here (basically one every 15 meters), but I didn’t think I could feel so exhilarated walking out of a supermarket with a bag of groceries. It felt like I had found a treasure and ten minutes after my grocery store discovery, I was dancing around in my kitchen while cooking a nice chorizo and cheese omelette.
I discovered so many unfamiliar places and met so many new people during my first time here that I basically got to experience more during one day than I did during an entire week back home. The last time I lived abroad for an extended period of time, many years ago when I was much younger, I asked myself when I got home: what am I doing? I should be traveling non-stop. That’s how I feel now, and this time I actually can go through with it if I want to. I can keep doing my job as long as I have a computer with an Internet connection.
For a Spanish city, it contains surprisingly many Irish pubs. I did some research and the Spaniards are actually a minority here. Nearly 14% of this city’s population consists of British people, which explains the amount of English and Irish pubs. This town would be a great place to become a booze hound. Alcohol is dirt cheap, too: yesterday an old lady in the line in front of me at the supermarket bought seven beers, some vegetables and 70cl of fancy vodka for 9 Euros. I hope that list isn’t representative of her diet.
It was naturally not the main reason, but in part I moved abroad to forget about a girl. Initially, it appeared to be working. Now I am no longer so sure. She appears in my dreams at night, now and then. She seems to be following me around like a ghost. I hope she eventually will go away and disappear, because the memory of her is bringing me down.
I’ve investigated the apartment rental situation in this city a bit closer. You can basically live like Scarface during his heyday, right by the ocean, for the same rent as my last apartment in my homeland. One of the flats I looked at even had two stories. I’m still surprised that it’s so easy and cheap to find a nice place to live here.
Even though I am a big movie buff, I actually didn’t watch The Shawshank Redemption until the year 2000, I believe. Frank Darabont’s prison drama has consistently been one of the two highest rated films on IMDb for at least the past 15 years. At that time, however, I wasn’t very impressed even though I appreciated the craftsmanship. I felt that the movie was too mainstream, predictable and sentimental back then. Around that time, I was mainly into weird, surrealist, original, quirky and less commercial dramas.
When I watched the film again earlier this fall, I could appreciate it more. The Shawshank Redemption is indeed a fine film, and one line particularly struck a chord with me: “Get busy living or get busy dying.” I’ve had a few dark moments since I lost the one I love. Moving to another country is me trying to get busy living.