A walk from Sope to Barika

This year, the St. Patrick’s Day celebration aftermath went into Sunday.

And there is no better way to get yourself moving and out for some fresh air than to go for a hike along the coast.

I packed up my next book (Better, by Atul Gawande), hopped on the metro, and rode the 40 minutes to my friend’s house. From there we walked to Sopelana Beach, then along the coast to Barika.

I’ve walked along the coast numerous times. Almost every weekend I’m either walking or running in that same area. And every time I stop and stare out into the ocean, I just feel this sense of peace, accompanied by the most calming breeze. As many times as I try and capture the moment on my phone, or post it to Instagram, I can’t help but feel disappointed that the person looking at my post can’t enjoy the moment as much as I’m enjoying it right then and there.

When I get into more pensive moments during my walk, sometimes I just stop and look at my surroundings. I watch my friends with their kids or watch the dogs along the walking path just happily trotting along with their owners, and I wonder what it must be like to have a family, or to have a furry friend to pour your heart into.

At 35 years old, I’m becoming more comfortable with the idea of rescuing a dog, having my own place again, settling into a city by the water. I’ve learned so much from living here in Bilbao, and from the people I’m lucky enough to call my friends. It’s like they showed me exactly what I needed to see (how much fun it can be to have a family or a dog), exactly when I needed to see it (I’m finally ready to want something more permanent) and it’s all starting to make sense.

Confianza…

TRUST…something that can take a lifetime to build and a minute to break.

Why is it that this topic is covered towards the end of my Executive MBA course and not at the beginning?

It’s the building block, the foundation of how the next 18 months will be shaped and it’s taught after most of the team assignments are complete. It’s the cornerstone of how people work within their organizations and how they solve problems.

Yesterday’s lesson focused on trust: how to engage employees, how to solve problems, how to lead a team while giving them the autonomy to do their work.

The one thing I wanted to do after class was actually spend time with people I trust! So I did. Went to my “home bar” – the first place in Bilbao that welcomed me in, the one place I go when I want to feel like I’m sitting in my living room surrounded by familiar faces and an excellent beer selection…Bar Singular.

I met some friends and tried out two new beers (my favorite thing to do!) before moving on to the next local spot, Morrocotuda. Now the evening is complete and I finally feel better about my course on trust. I trust quality beer and solid friends, people who will see how exhausted you are after class, laugh at your silly stories, make sure you try amazing beer, and then tell you to go home and go to bed! haha

This place I go…

I frequently feel this need to ground myself…to go to a spot where I have some peace and quiet, where I can think without my headphones on, where I can relax without feeling like I have to be doing something.

I found the spot.

There’s a corner of a beach, here in Euskadi, that brings me so much peace that I find myself going back there every weekend. Sometimes there are other people walking along the beach, sometimes I sit there quietly and watch the surfers run into freezing cold water to catch a few waves, sometimes I meet a parent and a child, or a dog playing fetch.

On Friday, I laced up my running shoes, took the metro out to Bidezabal, and started running the trail along La Galea, my thinking spot as my destination. As I sat down on my rock, I just melted into relaxation (rocks and relaxation are a quite unusual match!).

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Standing with my arms at my sides

I grew up in a culture where handshakes and hugging were normal.

You meet new people – always a handshake. You meet up with friends, you hug to say hello and goodbye. Sometimes, you have friends that hit the hug into left field and give you the best, strongest hug ever. And as you part ways, you feel calm…and a bit more loved.

Then, I moved to Spain.

From what I’ve seen, these are my new rules:

  1. Dos besos. You greet pretty much everyone with two kisses.
  2. Hug. Incredibly intimate and only saved for people you know very VERY well.
  3. Handshake. I’ve seen this in business situations…especially if someone is international.
  4. Saying “hi” with zero physical contact.

In order to learn how everything typically happens, I spent a year (still learning!!) watching business and social interactions to figure out when a handshake becomes “dos besos” and if anyone ever hugs anyone else….in public.

From what I’ve learned, there are “rules” but they are not consistently held. So I say hello (with zero physical contact whatsoever) and let the other person take the lead based on their comfort level.

What typically happens…me being me, I end up standing like a statue, with my hands at my sides, just staring at the other person, waiting for them to lead. Because the worst thing that can happen is I subconsciously go for a hug when they go for dos besos and we end up awkwardly untangling ourselves in front of a huge crowd that decides to walk by at the same time (haha).

 

FOMO: books

I have a book problem. I love to buy them.

A year ago, when I moved to Spain, I packed a few books to get me started: Originals (Adam Grant), Being Mortal (Atul Gawande), and The Emperor of All Maladies (Siddhartha Mukherjee). The first two, finished (two of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read). The last one, still working on it.

I’m someone who likes to read a few books at the same time. Not out of boredom, but actually out of interest. Sometimes I want to read about the psychology of how people work together, other times about doctors and patients, and other times, rare ones, something fiction. And I like to pick them based on the mood I’m in that day.

Over the last year, I’ve accumulated quite a few books…enough to make a suitcase overweight. And enough to make me wonder how I will transport them to my next flat!

But I learned something amazing in the process: I actually LOVE to read and I’m fully capable of finishing two books in a weekend. I’ve blazed through 10 more books than I would normally finish in a year and I can’t stop reading…for “fun.”

In my bag right now, accompanying me on my walk to and from school and work: Give and Take (Adam Grant).

#cervezaartesana

I spent the last week in Boston visiting friends, family, and people I’ve worked with who made their way into both of those categories.

In Boston, artisan beer is about as easy to find as a cup of “chowdah.” That said, my options were not only limitless, but were narrowed down to the point of “which brewery is testing out this market with beer that I may never be able to find again?” And those were the ones that were fortunate enough to make it into my suitcase to bring back to Euskadi.

Today was a good day…today, I love living in Bilbao. What I love even more is being able to share my crazy love for beer with some amazing people who just want to do the same. This market is less saturated, allowing me to experience the rise of artisan beer all over again. I wouldn’t trade it for the world…I wouldn’t trade it for my favorite milk stout.

 

I could live here forever

Just when I thought life was starting to get irritatingly difficult here in Spain, I booked my Christmas trip. I somehow convinced my mom, who HATES flying (and that’s a complete understatement), to get on a flight to Ireland…

And it worked! I spent the last 10 days in Ireland with my mom. It was incredibly relaxing if you can believe that. We rented a car, beginning our journey in Galway, traveling to Dublin and then to Cork, and then back to Shannon so my mom could catch her flight home to Boston. I 100% could have spent another week just walking the countryside and curling up by the fireplace in our Airbnb near Cork. And the amount I spoke was astonishing. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to speak (in English!!! Finally!!) and have someone else understand me, without having to explain myself in circles, using unfamiliar vocabulary. The relaxing part may have been that my brain finally got a rest from operating in a second language 100% of the time.

However relaxing this was, I missed my home in Euskadi more than ever. I was constantly reminded of the rolling hills and the tranquility of the beach that has become such a huge part of my life and of my way of relaxing. And part of me just wanted to run along the trail by the sea in Sopelana one more time.

Well, here I am, back in Euskadi and, for the first time, I truly feel at home. The friends I wanted to see first were my artisan beer friends and my “unofficial flat” friends in Casco. Mission accomplished! After a few months of visa craziness and still feeling like a complete outsider (who knows if that will ever go away)…I was so happy to be back in the craziness. It was finally a familiar craziness. And as much as it drives me nuts, it also makes me feel at home.