My flight to the US departs in a few hours and I’m still in denial that I’m actually leaving Spain for the foreseeable future. It’s not going to sink in until I hear the wheels pull up from the tarmac as the plane takes off, headed away from a country that I’ve grown used to calling home.
Madrid was once a foreign and confusing place for me. Simple tasks like getting a cell phone plan and grocery shopping proved to be more complicated than I expected. Now buying my weekly fruits and veggies from the frutería around the corner, picking up a baguette on my way home from work, 1€ bottles of wine, it’s all over (not all of my memories are related to food and drink, I swear!)
I remember sitting near the gate waiting to board my flight to Madrid in September, listening to everyone around me only speaking in Spanish, and immediately being overcome with nervous butterflies in my stomach.
Now as I walk through Malasaña, my beloved Madrid neighborhood, I smile when I hear the voices of people animatedly telling stories to one another in Spanish, their facial expressions and body language explaining it all. The passion that comes with this language and culture is what I love most about Spain.
My Spanish experience wasn’t exactly what I’d imagined. I wanted to have a million Spanish friends, live with only Spaniards in a cute little apartment with a balcony, and be fluent in Spanish.
It’s true, living abroad does not equal traveling. Instead I lived in a flat with 9 others, who were mostly foreigners, my bedroom didn’t even have a window, and I’m leaving here with a handful of Spanish friends (who are wonderful; quality, not quantity!). Maybe I didn’t integrate completely with the culture here. I may not be fluent in Spanish, but I did learn a hell of a lot more than I realized by the end of my stay here.
I walked around Madrid these past few days hoping to feel some sort of closure. But I didn’t; it will never be enough. The truth is, I could walk these streets a million more times and still be in denial that this is my last day here in Madrid. It doesn’t feel like the end. Maybe it’s not.
I’ve traveled extensively and I’ve grown used to saying goodbye to places. I know there’s a chance I may never return. At some point, you have to go home. But what happens when home changes? If I do return, my life may be completely different. I’ll never be the same person as I am right now. I suppose that’s the magic of travel: you change as your surroundings change. You grow with your experiences.
I’m leaving Spain with a heavy heart, memories of 10 of the best months of my life, and a passionate love for this country and culture. But how do I say goodbye?
One thing I love about Spain is how to say “hello” and “goodbye”. Saying “hello” is done with dos besos (two kisses), one kiss on each cheek. And “goodbye” is usually “hasta luego”, which literally translates to “until later”.
So how do I say goodbye to Spain? I don’t. It’s not a goodbye. It’s simply an hasta luego.