Clouds graced the sky offering a dreary effect as light rain misted my face, and all too typical day in Vitoria-Gasteiz. Today is different; a day when I said “hasta luego” See you later, to my adopted city of 9 months. Desite a few luxurious days of sunshine, Vitoria wants to remind me sunshine isn’t as common occurrence in the North as it is in the South and to really appreciate the warm glow when it comes out of hiding. Days before I met with friends enjoying rounds of beer, or my preferred beverage a pica– beer and fanta lemon mixed (usually known as a Clara or Clara with lemon in other regions in Spain) as we reminisced about our time abroad together and uncertainties of what comes next. Truth is I don’t believe in “good-byes” only in “See you later” or “Till next time,” because good-bye feels too final. I believe in paths crossing, in unexpected opportunities and return trips to meaningful or favorite places. The only response that kept falling from my mouth was “Nunca se sabe” You never know.
But as the bus pulled away and I waved good-bye from my window seat in the back of the bus to a good friend, tears streamed down my face as soon as he was out of view. A mix of happiness and sadness came over me. A chapter of my life nearing an end whether I’m ready for it to be over or not, and lots of happiness of all I accomplished.
Reflections of all my doubts and worries before moving back flood my mind. And being reminded that in life there are no guarantees, only a willingness to try new things and see how they go- and living through all the ups and downs and savoring the accomplishments. Though Vitoria-Gasteiz never charmed me in the way one my hope their adopted city would, I met wonderful people, ate delicious food, learned a lot about myself and grew.
I confronted a crazy landlady in my adopted language, as well as my own fears and worries and questioned my wants and new goals. I traveled more than I expected or thought I wanted too and met great folks along the way who renewed my travel spirit. I accomplished many goals I set for myself and had the honor of my mom visiting a region I’ve called home and had the privilege to travel with her to quaint towns. One of the best surprises from her visit was realizing how well we travel together and how much are travel styles are similar- tasting local cuisine, roaming a city, meeting locals and going with the flow without a laundry list of places to see. However, she seems to have more energy than I do, which is impressive.
I’m proud of myself for everything that has happened this year.
If there is one thing I’ve learned in my second year abroad: you can plan until your hearts content (or if you’re like me, you don’t plan much) but sometimes what you think is next, isn’t really the next step at all. It feels slightly strange to leave but not so much because I’ll miss the city but rather the leisurely lifestyle filled with lots of time to gather with friends or travel on long weekends as well as the people I met. I felt loved when both Spanish and Basque friends we’re jokingly telling me, “Enjoy your vacation at home, I’ll see you in September” even though they know I don’t have a comfy grant job lined up for a third year that has allowed me to fully aprovechar my almost 2 years on the Iberian peninsula. I rolled my eyes as I mentally stamped my feet in defiance as I said to myself “No, I’m going home.” But I realize this time around, anything is possible. Truth is, San Sebastian aka, Donostia in Euskara, is a place I’d love to live for a year. There’s magic about the city that I haven’t felt in other areas of Basque Country or in other regions in Spain but my apprehensions are the rainy weather and the heaps of tourists that grace this city year-round. “How easy would it be to speak in Spanish when waiters hear your accent and switch to English?” and “How easy would it be to meet locals when it’s already more difficult in the North?”
And it was in Donostia, while walking across its most photographed bridge last July where I thought, “Wait a minute, maybe I do want a second year. I have a position awaiting me somewhere here but wouldn’t have any idea where until a month later in August when I would truly allow myself to think about it. What would a year in the North be like?”
I’m the painter of my life and when I step off the plane in SFO, the next chapter in my life is blank. My white canvas is ready to be doodled and drawn on, written and painted full of inspiration and possibility. So far I’m finding the unknown exciting and my only wish is the excitement remains and allows me to blossom and dream up my next steps instead of allowing fears and self-doubt creep in.
Often our biggest fears in life are simply the unknown.
I’m trusting in myself and from what life has taught me and keeps reminding me: To think positive and trust everything will fall into place because it always does!