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!).



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).


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.



Annnnnnnnnnd…we’re back!!!!

Today was the first day in a month that I went running!! My foot has finally healed and I couldn’t be happier to get back into my routine.

Also had another “first” today…the mercado at Open Space Zorrotzaurre

Aside from having all types of art and cultural activities there, on Sundays throughout the year there are flea markets. I finally made it to the flea market – only wish I had more time to explore! Well, there’s always next Sunday!

ZAWP (Zorrotzaurre Art Work in Progress) is also in the Ribera de Deusto area and works with local partners to preserve the history and culture of the area through various revitalization and urbanization projects: courses, theatre, music, dance, etc. 

What a great way to spend a Sunday here in Bilbao…I’m finally figuring out what to do when the city is essentially closed and only a handful of places are open for food and cultural activities!

Puntos y grapas…

Stitches and staples.

It’s been a tough month of zero exercise. Or, as I like to call it, everything I’m trying to do while my foot heals and I can run again.

I had a little accident while trying to paddle surf and ended up cutting my foot pretty badly on some sharp rocks…requiring a trip to the hospital and receiving a gift of some stitches and staples.

But, during the last 24 days, the most painful part was not being able to run, not being able to bike, not being able to hike, resulting in a complete makeover of my entire morning routine, which I did not handle well.

Exercise is my outlet. Without it, it’s like I don’t know what to do with myself.

I recently read this amazing post (see link below) about running and its affect on grief. When my dad was diagnosed with cancer two and a half years ago, I would take him to the park to get fresh air and exercise. I would run and he would sit on his favorite bench. That became our daily routine.

After he passed away, I could barely make it out the door. It was painful to go out there without him. After a year and a half of many failed attempts, I finally got into a routine again this year. Running is the only thing that brings me closer to him, the one thing that makes me remember how amazing our days outside were and how I would give anything to see him sitting on his bench while I run laps around the park.

Nowadays my running is more challenging: hills, tough routes, trails…anything I can do to fight my way through the grief. And, believe me, some days can still be as difficult two years later. Some days, I’m listening to music on a run and one song knocks the wind out of me. I feel like it was just yesterday that I was talking to him.

This week I can finally start running again. I can finally have those “conversations” that make me feel at peace as I start my day. I can finally get back into my routine of grieving, time set aside that allows me to reflect and move forward.

In case you’d like to read the other article as well: …