Living Abroad Does NOT Equal Traveling

Shiny skies on an evening walk home
Shiny skies on an evening walk home in Malasaña

Tingling feelings of excitement flowed through my fingers as I confirmed my hostel reservation. I’m heading to Granada in a few days and I can’t wait to be back on the road, albeit for only a long weekend.

I can feel the days and weeks slipping away from me like wet sand beneath your feet when the tide pulls back into the sea. Have I really been living abroad in Madrid for a month? Sometimes it feels as if I have lived here for no time at all, but lately I feel that I have been here for longer.

I’m learning that time travels in different speeds. I moved to Madrid this past month and have been attempting to settle into life here. It’s not as easy as it sounds, and certainly not as glamorous as it looks like in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. 


I’ve reverted back to college life a bit. As in, I made Ramen noodles for my first dinner in Madrid. I kid you not. Things are different now in comparison to my last six months of almost nonstop travel. I’m not actively traveling every single day, so I have to be more responsible. My wallet no longer thinks it’s acceptable to frivolously spend money on every meal, and my stomach no longer thinks it’s acceptable to rotate between eating at bakeries, pizza shops, and doner kebab stands. And as much as I’d love to indulge in the tapas and vino that Madrid has to offer every day, I have extra expenses now, like rent, metro card, groceries, etc. that I didn’t have when I was traveling. I bought a gym membership today – nothing spells a commitment more than signing a contract for one of those!


My living situation is interesting to say the least. I have 9 flat mates and 0 windows in my bedroom, but I like the casual atmosphere and we all have a good time together. My only qualm is that I never know when it’s daylight outside, which completely throws off my sleep schedule. To remedy this, I bought a wall decal of a window that makes me feel like I have a real window in my room. Sometimes I catch myself staring out my fake window, and then I realize that I might be losing my mind.

Living abroad means no windows
To the window, to the wall. In this case the wall is my window…
My Self Diagnosis: Living abroad does NOT equal traveling

Overall, things are great, but if I’m honest with myself, the transition from nomadic traveler to expat in Spain has made me feel a bit bummed out to be living somewhere instead of traveling. I’m not homesick. I’m wanderlust-sick.

Routine. It’s not my favorite thing. Routine was one of the drivers that led me to quit my job in New York. Life in Madrid is not so exotic and different from life in New York. Obligations, commitments, and responsibilities will always exist no matter where a person chooses to plant roots and live for a period. I’m disappointed to have developed somewhat of a routine since I’ve been working as an English language assistant for the last few weeks. Not every day promises the allure of unknown discoveries the way traveling days do. Although I think routine is normal and quite possibly inevitable in life, to me, it’s monotonous. It makes me stir crazy.

I miss living out of a backpack, wearing flip flips and no makeup, and carrying my daypack instead of a purse. The past six months I spent traveling was the best time I’ve had in my life and I’m sad that I gave it up for the time being. There’s a part of me that is lost when I’m not traveling.

I love my new home of Madrid; don’t get me wrong. I can’t wait to know the ins and outs of this city the way I know my last home of New York City. I look forward to finally being able to speak Spanish without having a slight panic attack when conversation is initiated with me. But as much as I love it here, I want my freedom back.

I’m not ungrateful for this opportunity to be living abroad in Madrid; teaching English to kids is rewarding and I’m in my element when at school. This is just the confession of a wanderlust chaser stuck in limbo, waiting to be swept off her feet by the thrill and excitement of a new destination.

My Solution

A solo weekend getaway to Granada is exactly what I need now. I’m tethered to Madrid. I can fly away, but I can only go so far before I have to be back. It’s easy to feel too comfortable when stuck in one place; I notice myself wasting my time in my apartment, taking one too many siestas and not exploring as much as I should. I need to proactively explore Madrid the way I did last year when I visited as a traveler. I also need to embrace my never-ending wanderlust and visit the other cities that Spain and Europe have to offer. I have only been living in Spain for one month; in time I can do some serious damage (travel-wise, of course) in Europe!

Madrid is not a bad place to be living abroad and “stuck” in a travel rut, but I do miss being that free bird. Sometimes I wish I could just fly out into the vast forest outside my fake window…


  1. Ethan
    / 12:17 am

    It’s easy to get complacent where you live and feel like you need to travel. You live in an enormous city with an infinite number of pueblos surrounding it. You don’t be able to travel to a new country or new city every weekend – get over it. Use this time to explore parts of Madrid or the pueblos you might not of thought of….this will give you your true insight to Spain. These towns are the traditional towns that will change your perspective.

    Teach English under the table. My ex and I did that and earned an extra 120-140 euros a week. Granted we lived in a small town, but people wanted to learn, and they will in Madrid too. You might have to charge less, but I’m sure the people who want to learn is higher, based on increased population.

    Traveling in Spain is cheap and easy, and you will enjoy every second of it. Traveling in Europe is also cheap and easy, but for me…I was there to learn about Spain and soak up their culture. Now, I an fairly fluent in Spanish and know a lot about their culture. Did I feel uncomfortable in the teacher lounge? Oh god yes. Did everyone welcome me? Oh god no. Find the people who do, find the natives who want to learn English, and stick with them.

    I hope you have as an amazing time as I did. If you need additional help/advice, I hope you know how to get ahold of me. Facebook, texts, my email is….I can give you my cell if need be. Enjoy every second you have, make the most of them all, travel every second you can, and as gay as it sounds, live life to the fullest. You wont regret it.

    • Lavi
      / 5:48 am

      Thanks so much for your advice and tips, Ethan! I truly appreciate it and am happy to learn about your experience in Spain. Where were you teaching? You’re absolutely right that I need to use my time to explore different parts of Madrid and Spain – after all, I came here to learn about the culture and language. Traveling to other parts of Europe is an added bonus!

      I am starting my first private lessons today in the pueblo I teach at slightly outside of Madrid. I’m really looking forward to the one on one time to help these children learn English and really make a difference in their progress.

      Your advice has really helped me snap out of it and as you said, I need to live life to the fullest here. Thanks again and I will definitely let you know if I need anything!

  2. / 6:12 am

    Find a high-fidelity version of Yo Me Bajo En Atocha, by Joaquin Sabina.
    Listen to it seven times.
    Fall in love with Madrid again.

    • Lavi
      / 8:29 pm

      Thank you for recommending that video! It reminded me of so many reasons why I do love Madrid and I’m happy to be back after my weekend getaway 🙂

  3. / 4:08 pm

    This article really struck a chord with me, I too found it very difficult to deal with the changes caused by coming back to reality after a prolonged period of time on the road (4 years for me). For me it was a shock to be honest, and still to this day find it difficult at times.

    • Lavi
      / 9:24 pm

      4 years is a very long time! Although my six months of travel can’t compare to that, prolonged travel has its benefits and setbacks. Sometimes I wonder if i’ll ever be truly content if I am settled in one place. It’s a scary thought!

Leave your comments!