12.08.14 - Granada, Spain
It had been six days since we left and I couldn’t help but feeling guilty that I had been so calm about leaving. In the airport I was smiling while saying goodbye. When Alex and I turned the corner and left my crying sister and mom behind, I took a few deep breaths but that was all. I clenched his hand tight and looked into the ceiling. Two minutes later I was fine, laughing with him about the airport security. I was still waiting for it to dawn upon me just how long it would be before returning home... I was waiting to break down in tears, realizing that I would not see my sister turn 18 or see my brother grow taller than me. My family meant everything to me, and my childhood home had been my safe-base my entire life. Maybe it was still just a matter of time. It was really strange to witness first hand how your mind can sometimes be completely incapable of grasping things, especially the big stuff.
Visiting all of our favorite places in Granada was a surreal experience. Those five days we spent there a year ago really made an impression. It almost felt like we knew the city in and out even before we arrived. Then we learned that you don’t really get a full impression of a city until you go without being a tourist. The last time we went it was all about tapas tours, flamenco shows and having fun with people we met at the hostel. But living there for a while trying to live a local life and working everyday was quite a different story. The city was beautiful and vibrant but had a severe lack of coffee shops, an overflow of obnoxious tourists and an unbearably lazy and unproductive atmosphere. The city was like a drowsy little bubble filled with laid back Spaniards and stoned cave-gypsies all looking up into the sky humming “manana, manana” (tomorrow, tomorrow) religiously honoring their ‘siesta’ – a 4 hour break in the middle of the day. As a result a lot of shops closed at 2pm and never re-opened because the owner fell asleep at home...
Every morning I smiled first thing when I resurfaced from my dreams. Waking up next to him used to mean that we had one day less together, that another yesterday had disappeared in laughter and beautiful moments and that there was one less tomorrow to come. Now we had endless tomorrows and I could fully enjoy every dawn. Anyway it felt endless, like I’d finally gotten him for real and not just for rent.
24.08.14 – Sevilla, Spain
After saying goodbye to our beloved Granada we looked forward to spending a weekend in nearby Sevilla. It was only a short stop before moving on to the beach town Marbella where I had found a couch surfing host that seemed perfect for us. Alex had told me he wanted to see as much of Spain as possible within the limits of our budget, and so I made it a personal goal to find a way for us to stop at as many cities as possible. Those two days we spent in Seville we lived like actual backpackers, just walking around admiring the tourist attractions and having fun, not worrying about work or where to go next. It was refreshing.
Seville was beautiful, there’s no denying that. The city is very wealthy and as a result extremely clean. We might have been poor travelers living on a tight budget but I think anyone can’t help but feel that certain amount of calm when surrounded by beautiful buildings and clean streets. We both felt a bit self-conscious admitting this, hoping that one day we’d feel just as much at home in a favela in Rio. Never the less, we played tourists in a beautiful and wealthy city for a couple of days.
28.10.14 – Marbella, Spain
Marbella was not a big or historical city like the previous two had been but a small retirement city by the ocean. At that point it was just what we needed. The atmosphere there was very laid back and local, but if you took a closer look you’d realize that the so-called “locals” were more so tanned old Englishmen than actual Spaniards. Also the wealth of the city was screaming at us from every little designer store and black-an-white themed tapas place, making the whole city seem like a resort. Although this wasn’t really our thing we both loved to people watch in wealthy areas. Watching people buy 25$ drinks and wondering how much they paid for their noses could entertain us for days. It was not like we were holding a grudge against them, heck who wouldn’t want to be rich and have the ability to tip the waiter 100$?
In contrast we were actually staying in Marbella for free. We were Couch Surfing with a lively Brazilian couple, Hell and William. Hell worked from home writing screenplays for a TV channel and managing a comedy YouTube channel. She had a great sense of humor that made her personality colorful and frisky with an undertone of knowledge and awareness of the world. As a bonus she was an amazing chef. Her husband William brought a cloud of calm with him every time he entered a room. With his wide smile and deep laughter he could easily make anyone relax. The two of them had us feeling at home on their couch in a matter of minutes. In Granada we had picked up a branch of fake green leaves that we would bring around and hang in all of our ‘homes’. Our green garland looked perfect next to their little yellow teletubby teddy bear.
Will knew about photography and design and by the end of the week he had designed our first logo and done a big photo shoot with Alex and me in the city. His photos of the both of us (up until then we’d had to do with selfies and pictures of each of us) and Hell’s valuable advice on how to manage an online ‘business’ really helped us to take the final steps and get serious about our website. Sleeping on a couch with a humongous hole in the middle was definitely worth hanging out with such cool people in a beautiful beach town.
02.09.14 – Jerez de la Frontera, Spain
Alex told me Cadiz was at the top of his list to see on our Spain trip. He said it was his dream and I had to give it to him. Cadiz is a white city with narrow streets and stonewalls as old as Homer. Famous for it’s succulent fried fish, it truly feels like one of the last genuine classical cities of Spain. It’s situated on a narrow island giving it a timeless air of historic mysterious luster. So I searched through all of the AirBnb’s in the area and sent out Couch Surfing requests to what seemed like an endless stream of locals, begging the universe for a chance to stay in the city of dreams. When the time came for us to say our goodbyes to Hell and Will we were forced to head onto a train to Jerez de la Frontera. Jerez was close to Cadiz and we managed to find good accommodation so we hoped it could be a half decent alternative for now.
Our host Paulo’s voice was high pitched and had a quivering confidence I’d never encountered before. His demeanour can be described as a tender mix of socially awkward and overly optimistic. “So here’s what you need to know about Jerez. The city is famous for dancing horses, running bulls and a very extraordinary type of Flamenco. It’s also famous for sherry – a sweet and thick type of wine! We have the best sherry in the world, you have to try…”
He brought out a sampling of his treasured sherry and we got excited. Six shades of sherry lay before us and we began sipping the fluid eagerly. Instantly we cringe in disappointed puckers by its bitter and sour aroma. Sherry just sucks.
This first impression became rather symbolic of our impression of Jerez. All of the other ‘attractions’ cost a fortune and there was no way we could afford the 60$ tours our host was trying to sell us. After a long walk around the city between seemingly endless white walls we concluded that Jerez was a ghost town. We came across what seemed to be an abandoned building with a half open door. Naturally we squeezed past it’s rusted chain lock and explored it’s crumbling surroundings. After scavenging through the rubble of it’s collapsed roof we heard a noise in the upper floor that resembled footsteps and ran for our lives. Rule No 1. of urban exploring is ‘run if you hear someone coming’. Alex has had one too many bad experiences with angry squatters not being very welcoming towards adventurers intruding in their homes. At least I got a unique souvenir - an illustrated Spanish dictionary from the 60's.
So, we concluded on the very first day that Jerez was the ‘ass of Europe’. For the week we spent in Jerez we went to Cadiz twice both times unable to stop saying “why aren’t we staying here” every 5 minutes.
Alex and I were never together without ‘living together’. By that I mean that whenever I visited him in the states I would live in his house and visa versa, with the exception of a few days when we first met and stayed in a hostel in Spain of course. This is why I never thought twice about the whole living situation part of our traveling. A lot of fairly ‘new’ couples would maybe have hesitated before committing to spending every second together but Alex and I always loved spending 24 hours a day in each other’s company and never really needed our own space. After a month of traveling I had never once felt sick of him. I was nothing but awestruck every time I woke up next to his beautiful face. Still, it was different than it had been before when we’d been visiting each other: This time there was no putting off shaving legs or calling my parents until after he left. There was no end to it; we were truly living together, although not in the traditional way.