Reflection on the Downside of a Dream – It’s Official: My Spanish Adventure Sucks

My Spanish Adventure

I’m in Madrid. It’s cold, miserable and grey. It’s everything I thought Spain would be the opposite of, having spent the past week dreaming of it from my discontent in London. Putting so much emphasis on a place and dreaming of something else? I was wrong to do that.

And so here I find myself. Enjoying the flipside of all the sunshine and rainbows this travel blog often epitomises. Solitude, doubt and fear? They’re the order of the day this morning. Even the sound of the busy streets outside, listened to as I sit here in this empty city-centre dormitory, are no replacement for the comfort and warmth of that familiar face or perfect body.

And so naturally I’m left to question. Left to ask myself just what this all is.

Why substitute that comfortable life for all this loneliness, self-pity and doubt? What is this masculine sense of “mission”, this hell-bent attitude that pervades and urges me to taste all facets of life and push myself to the limit? Why is that there? Why does it insist on destroying everything?

My Spanish Adventure sucks really bad right now.

Why My Spanish Adventure Sucks

I guess the reason why this is hitting me so hard right now is that I sailed through the past three months in Granada without a hitch. Without any emotional wobble. Without any sense of doubt.

Showing up there in early January, Couchsurfing with cool people and finding an apartment on my first day in the city, I didn’t really have time to feel all the bad stuff. Instead I just shoved it all to one side and felt absolutely sure that what I was doing was indeed the right thing.

So as a measure of justice then, delivered to me by the hands of karma or my own foolishness (I don’t know which), I’m feeling it now. Bad.

Of course, I’m trying, albeit vaguely, to piece together some kind of semblance and build enough strength to come to terms with where I’m at right now. But the truth is that here, showing up in Spain for the third time and for the last half of this adventure, I can’t help thinking about where this is all going to end.

Granted, so on completion of “this adventure” I’ll have learned Spanish, lived and travelled in Barcelona and all other major cities, lived in different parts of Spain and understood a fair bit about it’s culture.  But where did all of that get me in the end? Did it really succeed in making me any happier like I assumed (without ever really thinking too deeply) that it would? Did it really help to make me a better person, with a better understanding of the world and my own place within it?

Right now looking inward, I don’t really know how to answer any of these questions.

All I can say however, right here in this moment, is simply this.

There will be times you throw into question everything that’s gone before you and what is still left to go.

There will be times you feel at the bottom depths of yourself, sick of your own company and sick at the thought of having made the wrong decision.

There will be times when all you want to do is go home, lie in bed, curl up in a ball and never venture outside again.

And I don’t care what your adventure or challenge is (and it doesn’t have to be travel related by any means), this will happen. You will arrive at low-points like the one I’m stuck at right now.

Yet that’s not even the thing that sucks the most.

What Sucks Most

No the thing that sucks most, the thing that’s the most hardest to bear, is the fact that I don’t have any answers.

Without a big magic wand to wave to help reveal the future, I’m stuck with two choices.

The first is to keep on going (despite all better judgement) with no concrete idea of where I’ll end up. The second, and the one that’s really tempting right now, is not to take any risk. To run back to that I know and get on with life quietly, without any future murmurs.

Now, I’ve never been a quiet person. Nor has this blog ever been particularly quiet in tone. Yet right now, here in this position, it’s silence, instead of this stirring in my soul, which I’d give everything to have.

Silence or an answer.

Silence or confirmation.

Silence or someone to tell me that everything about this adventure and what it might achieve will be worth all this pain and hardship in the end.

What sucks to high heaven? I know nobody can give me that.

What to Think About

So when it comes to your hopes, dreams and aspirations, (hell, would I even call this, My Spanish Adventure, any of those things?) what should you do?  The answer’s not easy. It’s incredibly complex.

This fallible quest, the one that the 25-year-old me thought was good at the time, was never going to be simple either. Sure it sounded cool, saying that I would go learn another language and immerse myself in a foreign culture, working and travelling as I went. But is the reality of it, now that I’m living it and feeling its lows, actually that cool? Does it have any real meaning at all?

This is where I feel I have to admit something.

During the past few weeks, and on the plane ride over here, I felt like this wasn’t really what I wanted to do anymore.

This probably won’t come as a surprise (for those following closely). My passion for learning Spanish, as you’ll see from my latest progress reports, has waned to its biggest low yet. My interest in the country? Has gone pretty much the same way.

Yet instead of re-aligning my goals and running off to a new challenge, I’m trapped in the stubbornness of “having to see something through”.

That sense of bloody-mindedness, destructive as it is, is why I think My Spanish Adventure sucks. That’s the real reason I felt the need to write this post.

But while I can’t offer myself any sort of denouement, perhaps I can at least advise you about your future plans.

Think hard about your dream and yourself.

Is it actually going to make you any happier?

35 Responses to Reflection on the Downside of a Dream – It’s Official: My Spanish Adventure Sucks

  1. Lauren April 17, 2012 at 9:43 am #

    My Somalian Adventure is free 😉

    • Will April 17, 2012 at 10:08 am #

      Now that would make for interesting reading…mind is whirring

  2. Lauren April 17, 2012 at 9:43 am #

    My Somalian Adventure is available 😉

  3. michelle April 17, 2012 at 9:51 am #

    Wow this really is a great post, because it’s brutally honest. I think everyone goes through phases when they feel lost and their whole life feels like a huge question mark. Either the phase passes or you realise the goal you’re pursuing is no longer meaninful and if that is the case it’s okay to change direction. I’ll paraphrase a quote I read in a Gavriel Kay book. “There are no wrong turns in life, only paths we never knew we were meant to tread.”

  4. Ian [EagerExistence] April 17, 2012 at 10:14 am #

    Will, I couldn’t figure out if you’re burnt out, bored, or just don’t like Madrid?

    Burnout, all long-term travellers can appreciate, and there’s many tips around the traps to help ease the pain.

    Boredom or wanting to give up on something… well, I’m not much of a quitter, so I can’t really help you there.

    Or if it’s Madrid… well that’s just not right. I lived there for 3 months, made tonnes of great friends (who speak Spanish). All you gotta do is reach out and connect, contact me for the hookup.

    You’re dead-on-correct about your happiness though. If you’re not enjoying it… quit. You can come back to it later if its that important to you.

    I can give you all the answers you seek, for 4 easy payments of $3999 😀

    Good luck working it out man!

  5. Ian [EagerExistence] April 17, 2012 at 10:31 am #

    Maybe Joel can give you some inspiration

  6. Erica April 17, 2012 at 10:56 am #

    I was in a similar place not too long ago… and not too long before that, and before that… you get the point. Through 2+ years of repeating that cycle while in Tokyo, I’ve come to realize that you just have to trust your gut and hope for the best, almost savoring those downs because it really does make it that much better when you realize that you’re happy and that your decisions (good and bad) are what got you there. 🙂

  7. Adventurous Kate April 17, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    Feeling like this sucks. I’m sorry it’s going like this for you.

    You defined yourself with a very specific mission — and while that was exciting to follow you around with, it also unfortunately means that you hold yourself up to a very rigid standard.

    I suggest you take a break and spend a few weeks doing very little — then book a random trip to somewhere you’ve been dying to go. Nothing reenergizes you quite like that!

  8. Johan April 17, 2012 at 8:06 pm #

    Will, I feel your main, man. Been there (not in Spain but in similar situations) many times. I don’t know exactly your plight (it’s vague) but hit me up on skype if you want.

    One thing I’ve stopped doing: search for happiness.

    Happiness is an effect of circumstance and situational. We don’t realize this, so we look for happiness itself. And looking for it will lead you, rather quickly, nowhere.

    It’s elusive because it’s not a stand-alone state of mind or being. You can’t find it. You can’t hold it in your hands. It’s a reaction to some thing or an event.

    So, instead of searching for it, I decided to put myself in situations and circumstances where I thought it might show up. And it does. Every single time.

    The tighter your hold on to it, the less you’ll have it.

  9. Christine April 17, 2012 at 11:09 pm #

    I know this feeling well, Will. We all do when we turn our lives upside-down in the name of adventure and change.

    Now, it depends how you want to interpret those initial goals that brought you to Spain. In short, you learned a language and a culture and experienced living immersed in it. It doesn’t mean you’re absolutely fluent (which language learner ever really is?) and it doesn’t mean you know the ins and outs of the culture, but you learned an impressive amount in a short time, and you pushed yourself extremely hard.

    Be thankful home isn’t too far and you can hop on a plane with relative ease and sort your thoughts out and find out what is important to your 26-year old self instead. Don’t let your website trap you in to a narrow goal…perhaps your Spanish adventure is to be continued in Latin America? Or maybe after some soul-searching and time away you’ll come back with a new appreciate for Spain.

    Wishing you the best of luck with everything!

  10. Svala April 18, 2012 at 12:47 am #

    Oh Will. I think we both know that there isn’t ever an answer.

    I wish you’d reply…

  11. Justin Travis Mair April 18, 2012 at 6:28 am #

    The honey moon is over and the reality that this is your life has sunk in! I know what you mean, it has happened to me many a time as I get half way through. Many reasons for this….You are defined by one goal that was fun, but now you aren’t sure if your life is better for achieving that goal.

    I think it can be and will. I say look past your goal and decide what is next. What do you want next. Then what ever that ends up being, make the rest of your adventure help you get ready for that. You don’t have to leave spain or stop learning spanish if that is what your next plan is, just make what you are doing now part of what you are going to do next.

    I hope that is good advice if not just ignore it

  12. Christina April 18, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

    Sometimes when I get discouraged I just remember that now I basically understand funny stories from a huge extra percent of the worlds population then I could seven months ago. And you can laugh at the things you hear people saying as you eavesdrop on the street and in a cafe to cheer your self up. =)

  13. Aleks April 18, 2012 at 4:46 pm #

    Sorry to hear you’re under the weather a bit..
    From experience I would say it’s a natural phase…with more to come,never mind the mid life crisis ! 🙂

    I’m sure the next phase of the adventure will turn out well too though.

    Anyways,watch this clip of Mickey Flanagan talking about the travel experience….should give you a laugh and raise your spirits!

  14. Martha April 18, 2012 at 9:31 pm #

    Hi Will, if you are still in Madrid we might meet up and check out how Madrid can cheer you up! Living abroad can be cruel and depressing sometimes and it happened to me as well but I am sure with a bit more sunshine and some good experiences the motivation will come back again. So if you are still in Madrid don’t hesitate to write me. Martha

  15. María Ortega April 19, 2012 at 8:31 am #

    I have this question sometimes, I don’t know if the way I decide to live my life is going to make me happier when I am risking to loose the few stable things in my life. I don’t know but I will continue this path until my happy moments are less than my downers, even though the downers are harder, stronger and more powerful than the discreet and peaceful moments of joy.
    Your Spanish adventure might sucks right now but if you forget about the results and this moment in time, did you think it sucked as well before, when you were learning and having fun and meeting cool people?
    Good luck, cheer up soon! 🙂

  16. Irene April 19, 2012 at 8:51 am #

    Yep it’s dark when you are a little lost. Especially when the weather sucks, because then it is even more dark.

    Been there. And yes, I cried my heart out. Many times.

    There is only one solution. MOVE. Don’t. stand. still.

    If you hate the rain, move towards the sun a.s.a.p. Go to the south of Spain. Pack your stuff and go. Who says you have to stay in Madrid (who picked madrid anyway??? 😉 )

    Go, move in terms of take action. Go find help. Go meet people. Face your fears and share them face to face with somebody, not us, your readers, sitting behind a screen. That’s just too safe and comfortable for the fears.

    Good luck!! Chear up!! The sun is always shining, even though you can’t see it now. It’s just a matter of perspective…..

  17. The Honeybadger April 19, 2012 at 10:54 am #

    Never mind all these comments, only you can sort this out for yourself.
    In the meanwhile listen to this:

  18. Conni Biesalski April 19, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

    That’s why plans suck. At worst, they end you up where you are now: frustrated and disappointed.

    My advice: Screw plans. Go with the flow. Do what you feel like doing, no matter what you set out to do.

    Oh, and maybe give your blog a new name 😉

    All the best man!

  19. Adrian Collins April 19, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

    No one but yourself is telling to stick rigidly to things, even if you have an audience who you might be scared of letting down if you changed your mind. I recently had a similar dilemma myself ( I actually speak of it in my most recent blog post ) and after some soul searching, decided to break it.

    We’re only human, we have and ups and downs. What you are feeling is natural. Maybe it’s a sign the idea is wearing thin and maybe it’s a combination of factors such as crap weather and loneliness all coming together. Decide on what you think will be best for you and then move on from there.

    Also, reading this feels like a heads up for me as I plan on embarking on my own adventure later this year. I now know to anticipate these down times.

  20. Narayan pandey April 19, 2012 at 4:01 pm #

    That’s why plans suck. At worst, they end you up where you are now: frustrated and disappointed.

  21. Julie Sheridan April 20, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

    Will, I reckon the fact that you’ve been happy in Spain up till now means the country isn’t the problem. You’re an excellent writer and communicator and you need to give yourself credit for what you have achieved in a relatively short space of time.

    As for happines…all the studies show it’s people with clise friends and family, rooted in local communities, who are the happiest. Exactly what you don’t have when you’re travelling abroad. Online communities have their place but in my experience are a dismal substitute. That said, I do hope you take heart from the support your virtual clan is offering. That’s no mean feat. And on that note, come to Barcelona and we can drink absinthe till the wee hours:)


  22. Micamyx|Senyorita April 20, 2012 at 7:47 pm #

    Take a break, relax a bit and dance like nobody is watching! 😀

    To be honest, I am quite surprised to see this type of post from Will. But I admit that among your posts from your blogs and the comments you leave in mine, I can say that this post made me think a bit. Sometimes, we impose too much pressure to ourselves to accomplish a specific task to the point that it makes us really tired and uninspired. If I were you, you should really take a break. try to step back and see the bigger picture. Smile, mate! We will dance Moves Like Jagger once we meet in the UK or in Spain 😛

  23. Lily April 21, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

    Wow, this really resonated with me, Will. It’s exactly how I felt earlier this year while in Belize and then Jamaica. “Is this what makes me happy?” and a host of other questions – I felt miserable and left and returned home. I’m still figuring things out and like you I wish someone could give me “the answer”! I guess these are just transitions and we are being too tough on ourselves. A break may well be what you need. Hang in there! Happy to have discovered your other blog(s)! 🙂

  24. Arabella April 21, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

    You don’t have to force yourself to do something you are not really enjoying. Set some time aside to think, to work out what you actually want.
    Cheer up soon!! 🙂

  25. robin April 23, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

    Ride the wave, Will – it’ll come good. The whole bloody thing is the adventure, not this chapter or that…

  26. Mo April 23, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

    Will, I could be quite unforgivably cruel with you and tell you to go home, you´re out of your young depth. Or I could say look us up and me and Ramón will make your hair stand on end with our “Spanish adventure”. We´re in Alcalá de Henares. 678903683. Call us.

  27. Lauren April 24, 2012 at 11:09 am #

    Hi Will,
    I appreciate your honest post. Taking off on adventures, we natually have expectations of how itś going to be, what we hope to accomplish and where it will lead us. What we dont always expect is the hardship, the lonliness, frustrations, sadness,and the ultimate lows. I commend you for sticking to it and giving it your best. Itś easy to think this expat or wandering life is easy but the more time you spend abroad, I think what you’re experiencing is natural.

    Like you, I have a tendency (good or bad, I dont know) to see things through to keep pushing myself. I say give yourself time to reflect, to sit with these feelings. I think there part of the process and experience of ẗhrowing comforts away for a different life. Itś not always going to be easy.

    Right now, Iḿ not sure what my next dream is. I feel confused but I remind myself I have many of the same emotions abroad as I do at home. Theyŕe just amplied here and without the support of family and close friends. Thankfully I have made some new friends here.
    Hang in there!

    And most importantly, listen to your heart! Your heart always knows best!

  28. Jeremy April 27, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

    Snap out of it you morose POS! Everybody gets a case of the travel woes here and there (had them in Panama big time). If your goal was to learn Spanish, then that doesn’t mean you have to be in Spain. Go to Latin America. Learning a language is a huge skill to wield in your bag of tricks so getting to a higher level is definitely worth it, but if you don’t feel like doing it anymore, then fuck it, who cares. You could wake up tomorrow diagnosed with testicular cancer, then you’ll see what’s really important or not. Live life like you mean it son, move on if that’s how you feel.

  29. Adam Barratt April 29, 2012 at 6:41 am #

    Hi Will!

    Love the post. Not least because of the honesty. Travel and adventure isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. You may be having the time of your life in parts but there’s another side to that coin.

    Contrary to what some believe back home, Spain isn’t all sunshine and Sangria (when I went home recently people seemed quite concerned about where my tan was! I had been in Madrid through winter and working indoors…does not a sun tan make).

    When I’ve read your stuff before it’s been more about the positive, the meeting people, the places and the language immersion. I envied you a little and felt a bit bad that I wasn’t making anywhere near as much effort with my Spanish acquisition.

    I’ve been going through a similar thing recently (just read the article in the ‘recently posted’ link below if you’re interested in that). As I wrote in the article it’s all about perspective. I questioned my overall mission, whether Spain was in fact the place to be and more specifically is Madrid for me at this time. I’m still not 100% sure but I felt a bit rejuvenated following a trip back to England for Easter. Since then some fresh ideas and getting back in to writing has given me the fire back a little.

    I’m a little clearer about what I’m doing and how things are going to pan out but there’s still a lot of uncertainty. I’m just riding the waves for now until things unfold a little. I’m not ruling anything out at this stage.

    Perhaps you need a break. Maybe extended travel or maybe to set up a base for a longer period. I’m not sure of the whole reason of moving around every 3 months but maybe you could find a place you like with a good network of people and set up camp for a while. Whether that be in Spain or not, whether it means learning a language or not.

    Probably a time for quiet reflection…I’m sure you’ll work it out. Never a bad thing to question things occasionally. Maybe a whole new project on the horizon or change of direction…or just a holiday!

    Btw, give me a shout if you’re still in Madrid!

  30. crazy sexy fun traveler May 1, 2012 at 4:34 am #

    I am having those moments pretty often, no matter where I am …

  31. Laurent May 1, 2012 at 2:51 pm #

    Ya Connie makes a good point, plans do suck. But I’d say more specifically that ‘rigid’ plans suck. You might just be trapped in an idea that needs a bit of rethinking. Ideas are easy, but it’s the execution that is a challenge. Also, perspective is a big deal. You’re in Spain, learning a new language. That’s pretty cool. If it turns out it wasn’t the best experience of your life, look at it as a learning experience. Those are sometimes more valuable than good experiences because they prep you for the really trying times.

  32. Kiri Bowers May 11, 2012 at 5:08 am #

    I’ve felt like this countless times on this trip. Love your honesty Mr Will.

  33. rodrigo November 6, 2013 at 8:50 am #

    “People are strange when your a Stranger”

    Its time to go home man, I’ve been traveling for 5 years and have lived in Agentina, Uruguay, Dominican Republic, Barcelona, and Andorra.. You will be much happier around your own people, however narrow minded you may think they are. Get out before its too late


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