That was after my parents strongly objected to studying in Central America.
As part of my undergrad degree I had to learn a language. Spanish was a natural choice because I was from South Florida and already understood a good bit of the language. Naturally, I wanted to go and study in the jungles of Central America but my parents didn’t feel so good about sending their 18 year old into the jungle to learn Spanish. Instead, they paid the airfare to Malaga, Spain and so I was off.
My first morning of Spanish school I woke at 2 a.m. Not because of the excitement of class. A newbie to travel, I had plugged my alarm clock in without a converter and the different electrical currant wrecked havoc on the timepiece. Welcome to life abroad!
School was simple and I found myself picking up Spanish easily. More importantly I learned what Spain was like. We enjoyed our siestas and then went out for tapas. I tried sherry for the first time and at one restaurant I chose my fish for dinner from a bucket held by the fisherman himself. The beach was always packed and I had an awful lot of time to spend on it given that classes were part-time.
Malaga is something of a holiday town for all of Europe and lots of people flock south for holidays to Costa del Sol. I happened to choose the week of the annual Feria for my visit and a full 10 years later I can still remember the Flamenco in the street and the gypsies trying to pick the pockets of people as they passed along their way. The party literally lasted all night long and was simply unlike anything else I’d ever experienced back in the USA.
Without question, the most amazing part of my first solo trip abroad was the weekend I spent in Morocco. The weekend trip was $150 all inclusive without drinks. As a student, I agonized over the decision to spend that much money over a weekend but somehow forced myself to take the plunge. Years later I still look back on that lesson as a turning point.Money is just money, but using it to create great experiences for ourselves, that’s what counts. That weekend in Morocco was like being in another world. Walking through the markets, seeing an actual snake charmer for the first time, felt to young—naive—me just like the start of Disney’s Aladdin.
I had a great time in Malaga and all along the coast of Andulcia, but I had an even more amazing time stepping out of my comfort zone and into the great unknown. What I learned on this trip though, aside from some basic Spanish, was that it really was easy to travel to live a completely different life than the one I’d always expected to live.