We all know Murphy’s Law. It dictates that when you most need things to go well, they do the exact opposite. Which was pretty much what happened to me upon my arrival in my new home for the next 9 months. Not to be terribly dramatic, but everything you don’t want to happen when you arrive in a foreign country happened to me in Madrid (okay I didn’t get abducted, but this is not Taken and pretty much everyone has more street smarts that that girl soo…).
I’ll get to what happened soon enough, but first, let’s back up a bit to the airport.
There’s me. Life packed in two bags, ready to go. I put this picture here not because it’s a good photo (it’s not) or because I look good (I don’t). I am sharing this photo with you for a reason that will soon become clear. Let’s just take it in: note the hiking boots, worn to save space in luggage, jeans to both stay warm on freezing flight as well as be as comfortable as possible for 7+ hours in a metal tube, glasses for sleeping – you get the point. Not dressed to impress here.
Head on down to wait for flight, start chatting with fellow auxiliar (name for people in my program – means assistant), start thinking, this won’t be so scary after all! I was feeling good and excited about this, and the words of my favorite hobbit kept repeating themselves in my head:
Sadly, soon I would be as dismayed as Bilbo when he realizes he has forgotten his handkerchief. How I wish that analogy wasn’t so startling ironic.
Downside: Air Europa Lost My Luggage
Yes, that’s right. I arrive at my destination, already overwhelmed that I’m actually here and this is happening and ahhh need to find an apartment soon but first where I’m staying – basically, overloaded – and then I have to shuffle over to the line of disgruntled travelers whose luggage was also AWOL. I would find out later that my bag had never in fact made it out of New York, but at the time I was worried that it was lost forever in the underbelly of the airport world, lurking in a dark corner never to be seen again.
Not to mention that due to the loss of said suitcase, I was stuck wearing the hiking boots and jeans that I had cleverly worn to save room and be comfy. Those jeans are not meant to be worn outside in public, especially in a city as well dressed as Madrid, and lets not even talk about the hiking boots! Walking down the street, I imagined every Spanish lady giving me the most judgmental look in the world, all the while wishing I could post a sign on myself saying “MY LUGGAGE WAS LOST OKAY!” Of course it was probably my imagination, but it it is pretty hot here so wearing jeans and hiking boots was already making me grumpy.
Upside: Luggage Delivered to New Apartment
Since Air Europa took a few days to locate my bag, and then another day to actually get it to me (it needed to catch the new flight from JFK to Madrid), by that time I had settled on a place and they delivered it right to my door! Actually, my lost luggage was a blessing in disguise because I didn’t have to lug that thing across Madrid multiple times! If there wasn’t that stress that it was lost forever and I would have to say goodbye to my favorite boots, I would highly recommend getting your luggage lost!
Downside: Unreachable Couchsurfing Host
After I had arranged to stay with a girl who I met on Couchsurfing.com (amazing website, will probably post more about why later), as I thought it would be a good way to meet people in my new city and also save money on hostel costs. I was counting on using my phone + wifi to use whatsapp in order to get in touch with her at the airport. She already said she would meet me at the bus stop but the luggage fiasco took an hour and I was afraid she would be gone, assuming I was a no show. Alas, non functioning airport wifi, and no answer when I used a payphone.
Get to the bus stop where she said she would meet me, only to find it painfully deserted. Mini panic attack when I imagine myself wandering around, trying to find a hostel, no idea where I am – poorly planned in that I did not have her address. Attempted payphone call numero dos, but no success. Trudge back to stop when I see salvation in the form of a small woman with a puppy – my host!
Upside: First Spanish Friend!
After I finally found her, my host was incredibly nice, helpful and generous. I think I can safely say I met my first Spanish friend! Though she speaks English well, so I will have to make sure not to lapse back into it – I’m here to speak Spanish, not English! Also as a random aside, she did Erasmus (European study abroad) in Graz, which is the city in Austria that my Oma is from! So I think we are meant to be friends.
Downside: Failed Apartment Hunting
Apartment hunting is something that obsesses New Yorkers, who are perpetually in search of the perfect apartment in reality does not exist. I feel like I always know someone who is moving or looking for a place! The process is like a right of passage: once you have survived apartment hunting in New York, if you’ve managed to snag a nice place, then you’re in. So I already have a huge aversion to apartment hunting (I mean who likes it anyway, no matter where you’re from?), and I was terrified to start the process in a different language. I saw my first apartment the first day I got there, and a couple the next day. They were in varying degrees of quality, but all shared a singular, undesirable trait: they all had 5+ rooms in them, meaning I’d have at least 5 other roommates. Hell no. While that may not bother some people, I like my home space to be comfortable and at least reasonably quiet to come home to; my room is my sanctuary. So after seeing a few places like this, I was discouraged; I wanted to find some Spanish roommates to live with, make friends with, and be comfortable. Was that too much to ask?
Upside: Back Up Plan Comes Through
My back up plan if I couldn’t find a place I liked searching on my own was to stay with a teacher from one of my schools that was renting a room. While I could have kept searching, I was so tired of doing that and I couldn’t stay with my couchsurfing host anymore so I needed to find something asap. The teacher said I could stay with her until I found a place, even if I didn’t end up renting her room. In the end, I fell in love with her apartment (my own bathroom, marble floors throughout the place, and a balcony near the park, yes please!) and am now settled in to my new room! It is nice to be somewhere comfortable, and the good news is that she speaks only Spanish so I’ll get a lot of practice!
While the first couple days were difficult (and it continues to be difficult), I wanted to show that while there have been really discouraging times, things have always turned out okay, and I hope they continue to do so! (At least I wasn’t deported like a girl I met today!). I now have a place to stay, am not the only person I know in Madrid, and have a Spanish cell phone (that was also a disaster, but I didn’t want to rant about it here). Also sorry I do not have any good photos and this has been a block of text, I haven’t been focusing much on taking pictures since I got here. I’ll be exploring the city all weekend though, so stay tuned for photos soon!
Have you had any frustrating travel experiences? How did you manage them? Let me know in the comments below!