After this blog post I will finally be able to write about my past month and a half back in Madrid! But first, I need to talk about the rest of my first year and my summer at home.
After Semana Santa (Easter break), the year started to fly. I was having a lot of mixed feelings during this time. My mind was on serious countdown-mode for my flight home on June 18 but at the same time I wanted each day to crawl because almost all of my friends weren’t returning for a second year so even though I wouldn’t have been saying goodbye to Spain, I would have to say goodbye to my friends. It was definitely a tearful goodbye with them but I know that won’t be my last time seeing them. I spent the rest of my last month taking care of a bunch of NIE renewal paperwork in order to stay in Spain another year as well as checking off some last minute things from my Madrid bucket list such as rowing the rowboats in Retiro Park.
Before I knew it, it was June 18 and it was time to board my flight back to the United States. Saying I was excited would be an understatement. I was more than ready to go home to see my family and friends and to just relax for the summer. Ten months straight was the longest time I had ever gone without being home so I was ready to take a break from the crazy expat life and just fall back into my old routines of sleeping, working, going to the gym, and going out with friends.
I had a great plane-ride home. The plane was practically empty and I had the whole row to myself to just stretch out and relax. I was able to watch the two movies I had been dying to watch all year: The Wolf of Wall Street and Frozen. Unfortunately (and this is the only circumstance in which this situation would be considered unfortunate), my flight was way ahead of schedule and we landed right when I only had 10 minutes left of Frozen!! I was annoyed. But thankfully I got to see it again over the summer, otherwise I may have had a panic attack not knowing what happened in those last 10 minutes.
It was also SO nice having a direct flight from Madrid to Philly. There’s something to be said for getting from point A to point B without any stops. It was crazy being completely surrounded by Americans though. While traveling, you just grow accustomed to everyone speaking foreign languages around you, but it was nice being able to eavesdrop again! And of course I got lost in the Philly airport trying to find my parents. I swear, I can navigate practically any airport and yet for some reason I always lose my way in the Philly airport. But I finally found my parents and I was so happy to see them.
When we arrived back to my house I just wanted to hug everything: my car, my bed, my movie collection, the rest of my closet, etc. Part of the reason I love traveling so much is that finally going home is one of the best feelings in the world. If I had never left, I never would experience that feeling. It’s that warm feeling of comfort, familiarity, safety, and love. And although I will continue to travel my heart out (hopefully for the rest of my life), nothing can beat going home after spending almost a year away.
Some of the very first things I did was I had a cheesesteak dinner with my family, visited my old job, and went to Wawa for a hoagie. I hit the road in my car pretty soon after coming home and for about the first five minutes it felt weird, but after that I got the hang of it again- just like riding a bike I guess. I also celebrated my homecoming with a bunch of my friends over my first weekend at home. In fact, this is how absolutely incredible my friends are: they threw me a surprise welcome home party! It was very unexpected (since I didn’t want to make a big spectacle of my coming and going) but it was such a nice surprise and it was great being able to see a lot of my friends in one place just a few days after arriving home!
For the most part, I had a very mildly-paced summer. I was lucky enough to be given my old waitressing job at Bertucci’s back so I was able to work almost immediately after coming home up until I had to leave again. It was great being able to save up some money for this year since we all know I spent a really good chunk of my savings last year. I was actually happy to serve tables again because I missed having a more active and social job that allows me to work night shifts (more of my time of day). Teaching kids, let alone the super early hours, wore me out so it was nice to have a break from it all.
I would say the big event of my summer was the marriage between two of my dearest friends, Matt and Kirstin. They honored me by asking me to be a bridesmaid in their wedding and for their entire year and a half engagement I just couldn’t wait for July 25, 2014 to roll around! Sadly, timing was not on my side and I decided to move to Spain during a good portion of their engagement so I ended up missing little planning details and the bridal shower. But luckily I got home just in time to be part of the bachelorette party, rehearsal dinner, and of course the big day! It was literally the most perfect wedding. The ceremony was beautiful and the reception itself was a blast. Everybody definitely came ready to dance! Overall it was just the most gorgeous wedding and I couldn’t be happier for Matt and Kirstin.
The other highlight of my summer was seeing One Direction in concert YET AGAIN (hahaha I’m seriously such a fangirl). It wasn’t until long after I bought my tickets to their show in London in June that I found out they would be in Philadelphia in August when I would be home. Everyone was asking me if I was planning to see them again in Philly and I said no because I needed to save my money (and also how would I be portrayed if I were to see One Direction twice in one summer? …I got over that thought fast). Well, that all changed two weeks before the concert when I was hanging out with my friends Katie and Victoria and we essentially decided we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get floor seats together. Tickets for 5th row floor seats surprisingly weren’t even that expensive but even if they were, they would have been worth every single penny. Walking to our seats for the first time easily goes down in history as one of my favorite moments of all time. We must have passed by three or four security guards who needed to check our tickets so that we could pass through to the next section. And we just kept going! You could say we were freaking out a little bit (and only a little….obviously). Once we made it to our amazing seats, we were definitely freaking out (I just can’t lie anymore).
The weather was beautiful up until 5 Seconds of Summer finished their set. Victoria had to go to the bathroom and even though I didn’t have to go, I accompanied her while Katie “held down the fort.” The second Victoria and I got under the roof and in line for the bathroom, everyone around us started to gasp while looking outside. It was literally torrential down pouring! And poor Katie was out in the middle of it! And Victoria and I, being the GREAT friends that we are, turned our phones off airplane mode not to check to make sure Katie was ok, but to beg her to save the beautiful sign that Victoria had made for the concert that said “Niall makes me smile.” We finally found Katie and she was just as we suspected- totally drenched. Just like the majority of the crowd haha. The storm amazingly stopped just in time for One Direction to come on which made a lot of extremely upset girls happy again. Words can’t describe how magical the concert was. Our seats were so close that I saw Liam’s chevron tattoo on his arm IN PERSON. That moment just can’t be topped. I’m actually very surprised I’m not entirely deaf right now because the level of fangirl screams around us were nothing like you’ve ever heard before. Thank god we could still hear the music. But the boys rocked that concert and they made us go through some serious One Depression after it ended.
Some other highlights from my summer included:
1. Getting together with my friends over 4th of July weekend.
2. Spending my 24th birthday with friends and family.
3. Taking a roadtrip with my parents for the weekend to visit my sister in New Jersey, and my Grandmom and Great Aunt in upstate New York.
4. Going to NYC for a day trip to visit my Dad’s cousin who has taken an active role in my experience in Spain because she also shares the same passion ever since she studied in Madrid back in the day. She took me to brunch at a Spanish restaurant (where we had Cava- yum!) and then we went shopping at Zara. It was a great Spanish day in New York!
5. Spending an afternoon wine tasting with some of my oldest and closest friends.
All in all, I think that it was important that I went home because it really opened my eyes. They say that when you go home after being abroad, you’re never the same person you were before. This was definitely true in my case. I think during my year, there were times when I was feeling homesick and I was feeling nostalgic for the life I had at home before I left. So during those times, I think I was looking forward to going home for the summer to just spend a couple months re-living the life I had before. And I did do that. However, it definitely wasn’t the same. In general, everything else felt the same, but it was noticeable that I had been gone for 10 months. Everyone asked me how it felt to be home and honestly to me it felt like I had never left. It was just so easy falling back into my usual life at home. But the more I talked with people I knew, the more obvious it became to me that I had missed a huge chunk of time and I had to spend those two months playing catchup. Not only that, but it was evident that I was also different. I had just spent 10 months indulging in new experiences and ultimately I had changed in what I hope was for the better. I’ve never been good with change, but I think my time abroad finally helped me accept that change really is the one thing you can count on happening. Home will always be home and I will always belong there but it made me realize that going back to Madrid for another year was absolutely the right decision. I had grown up a lot during my time in Spain and it almost felt like I was reversing by going back to live with my parents in my hometown and going back to work at the job I had for the previous 5 years. I know how blessed I am to have that life at home, but I realized that living abroad was actually benefiting me in more ways than I thought and that if I wanted to keep progressing and maturing, I needed to go back.
Overall I had a wonderful summer at home. It was so great seeing my friends and family that I had missed so dearly during my 10 months abroad. It was also nice being able to rest, save money, and eat American food. But towards the end of my summer, I was definitely getting the itch to come back to Madrid. I was getting the urge to get back to traveling and also I had missed the big city life. Madrid is a great city to live in in your 20s- there is always something to do and always people to meet. It was definitely sad having to say goodbye to my home again on September 4, but when has saying goodbye to the place that has been your home for the past 24 years not been sad? Fortunately this time, instead of being scared out of my mind, it felt completely natural boarding a flight back to Madrid and I was so excited to begin my second year in this incredible city!