From as far back as I remember, I spent an incredible amount of time wishing myself away from the place I grew up. As a child I remember begging my parents to send me away to boarding school. They declined. I spent my childhood reading the words of Enid Blyton, I wanted to be like the children in the stories that were sent away to stay with family over the summer and got to explore new and exciting places, the ones that were sent away to boarding school where they got to spend every day having adventures with their friends and I longed for a time when I was grown up enough to visit the woods on my own.
I grew up in a little village in the middle of Somerset. I lived on a housing estate with lots of other families and there were plenty of children my own age to play with. We lived in the countryside and we spent a lot of time making dens in the trees, climbing trees and playing in the grass. Our Christmas lists consisted of ‘wood’ ‘beads’ ‘old gates’ and ‘old furniture’, anything we could use for our dens and in the trees we climbed. I remember sneaking out in the middle of the night with some bread to meet a friend and we sat in our dens and had a ‘picnic’, and then rushed back to our houses before we were caught.
I guess you could say that I was always adventurous.
As a teenager we spent a lot of time climbing the trees and lying in the grass. Gone were the days of making dens, but we were finally allowed to venture further afield and we would often pack a picnic and set off into the countryside for the day. We would walk through fields, wading through rivers and streams and finding new places to explore. I have no complaints about my childhood. I would often spend weeks staying with my grandparents, without a second thought of ‘home’.
As an adult I moved away from the village and into a small town. I wasn’t at school so I didn’t have any way to make any new friends and I was working in the city, which was about 12 miles away. All of my friends from work lived in the city and I started to spend all of my free time there. I no longer spent time out in the countryside. I started to really dislike the area I was living in and spent a long time trying to escape it. This was the case for a few years and I became quite unhappy.
After a few years I met someone new and started to walk again. We would visit the woods and walk for hours with the dogs and visited lots of places I had visited when I was a child. We explored lots of new places and I started to appreciate the area that I lived in again. But I was still not happy with it. I still felt like there was more to life than the place I grew up.
As a family, we always went on holiday every year. Two or three times a year we would get on an airplane and spend a week or two exploring new places overseas. This was usually within Europe, but we always had a really great time. This stopped when we turned 18. My parents started going on cruises and leaving us at home. Until now, I hadn’t left the UK for five years.
Although I was starting to appreciate the area I grew up in, I was itching for something else. I visited a few places in the UK and started to travel around the country. But I was longing for something different.
I was working a 9-5 job in an office and although I was trying to make use of my weekends, I felt really tired and unhappy. I had a friend who had worked overseas after we finished university and I asked her how she had found the opportuity. 24 hours later I had over 100 job offers from people all over the world that were desperate to learn better English. I accepted a job in Madrid, left my job, packed up my life and moved to Madrid.
I have never considered myself a home bird. I always believed that I was destined for something different that my home-town couldn’t give me. I have never suffered from homesickness (in fact I believed that I suffered with the opposite!) and I wasn’t worried about leaving.
I have been here for a week. At 24 years old I am living in a foreign country with a family I have only just met. I don’t speak a word of Spanish, which I was told wouldn’t be problem, but it is very isolating. I am almost scared to speak because the words fall on deaf ears and I end up confusing people, which is more trouble than it is worth. I am having to simplify my sentences so much that I am scared I am losing the ability to speak English myself. I have met some lovely people from all over the world, but English is not their first language.
Madrid is a beautiful place, but it doesn’t ‘pop’ for me. Not like visiting Ebber Gorge for the first time, or seeing Bolsover castle. People say ‘give it time’ and ‘you obviously haven’t been to the right places’, but I think sometimes you can just simply feel out of place somewhere. There doesn’t have to be a reason why. You could meet lots of lovely people and try lots of different foods and traditions, but it just feels empty. Like you are ticking things off of a list.
I’m going to give it some time. I miss the fresh air that comes after a heavy rainfall, the smell of the dew in the mornings, the green of the grass and the beauty of nature. I don’t feel that here, everything here seems exhausted by the heat, drained of its beauty. I never thought I would miss the rain or the cold, but after just a week here I miss it all.
I would still consider myself adventurous. I still want to see the world and experience different things. I think under the right circumstances, maybe I would enjoy this place a little bit more. Or maybe it just isn’t for me, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t enjoy other places.
I was planning to stay here for about nine months, but all things considered I don’t think that will happen. This place doesn’t give me what I need. If I come home I won’t consider that I have failed or that I should have given it more time. I will consider it an experience that I was lucky to have had. It made me realise what really is important to me and what it is that makes me happy. It has shown me appreciation and I am very thankful for what I have at ‘home’. I can finally consider my home ‘home’. I came here to find myself and I think that I have. I have listened to my heart and my head, I have considered my priorities and I am ready to make life happen!
I definitely need to see more of the world, but this wasn’t the way for me. I don’t need months to know whether somewhere means something to me. In future I will value my independence and understand that it is the most important thing to me. I need to do what I want to do in my own way. I am happy for people to introduce me to new experiences and share their knowledge, values and beliefs. But I don’t want to be subject to it and I want to be able to make my own decisions, rather than trying to slot into a place that doesn’t fit.
This has been a rather long entry, so I am going to leave it there for now. I think I have said all that I wanted to say. My need for adventure still lives on!