Before leaving for Spain I didn’t know quite what to expect. What would a big solo trip like this actually be like? Would it be an absolute disaster and turn me off of the idea of traveling forever? Would it be a life-changing experience that I could one day turn into a best-selling memoir?
I assumed, and I was right, that my actual experience would lie somewhere in the middle. It didn’t turn me off traveling (exactly the opposite), and I don’t think I came back a completely new person. Still, I did learn some important lessons while traveling by myself, so I thought I’d share them today.
The five lessons I learned while traveling solo for the first time
I have to keep telling myself that because it still doesn’t seem real. But it is. I’ve booked my flight. I’ve booked accommodations. I’m reading my guidebook (shout out to Rick Steves, heyyy). I’m going to Spain!
This is going to be my first international trip (Well, besides Canada. But Canada is my next door neighbor, so that hardly counts, right?) And my first solo trip. And the longest flight I’ve ever been on.
So many firsts, y’all. I’m kind of freaking out.
So, why Spain? Why now?
Great question. For one thing, I’m going to be 25 next month, which is when I’m leaving. This is like a big birthday present to myself. And Spain is a place I’ve been wanting to go for a while. Like I talked about before, I’ve thought about teaching abroad there, and I thought it was finally time I actually see this place I’ve been dreaming about.
Plus, Spain is pretty affordable this time of year, as far as Europe goes (or so I’ve been told), and I’m nothing if not… well, I was going to say cheap, but let’s go with “economical.”
I’ll be gone for almost three weeks, and I’ve decided to focus my time on Madrid and southern Spain, which are the areas I’ve wanted to visit the most. After flying into Madrid and spending a few days there, I’ll be visiting Segovia, Toledo, Granada, Nerja, Ronda, Arcos de la Frontera, Sevilla, and Córdoba, before flying out of Madrid.
At this point, I have only a little over two weeks until I leave. Queue internal freak-out. I’m excited but I won’t lie, my anxiety has definitely been acting up over this trip. I’m trying to focus on the positives and excitement I am feeling, but that can be pretty difficult when you’re a person with anxiety.
If you have any recommendations on things to see/do in any of the places I’ve mentioned, feel free to let me know in the comments! I’m especially interested in any cheap/free activities, since I’m trying to do this a budget.
If you want to keep up with me while I’m on the road, check out my Twitter and Instagram. I probably won’t be making any blog posts about my trip until after I get back.
Anxiety is something I have dealt with for most of my life, and I’ve written about it before. As I’m sure others who suffer from anxiety will understand, going on a trip can bring up a lot of opportunities for anxiety to rear its ugly head.
Last year, I went on a few short trips with family and friends, and there were several times when anxiety cropped up and made things unpleasant. Since one of my goals for 2017 is to travel more, I’m going to have to work on finding more ways to deal with my anxiety. Luckily, I have already figured out a few things that help me deal with anxiety while traveling. Hopefully, if you deal with travel-related anxiety some of these methods will work for you as well.
About a year ago, I earned my Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate through the International TEFL Academy (ITA). I took the online course, and it was a great experience. While Life Stuff (and, let’s be honest, a big ol’ dose of fear) has gotten in the way of my going abroad to teach so far, it’s still something I think I would like to pursue someday.
When I was first considering the idea of teaching abroad, one place that I really wanted to go to was (and still is) Spain. Spain is actually a fairly popular destination for teaching abroad, but it can be tricky to go about doing so legally, especially as a US citizen.
The United States doesn’t have a working holiday agreement with Spain the way Canada does, and it’s just about impossible for someone from the US to get a work visa in Spain for teaching English. (Side note: if you HAVE managed to get a work visa for this and are a US citizen, I would love to hear your story. You can contact me here)
There are some people who choose to just go over on a tourist visa, overstay it, and teach under the table. And while this isn’t uncommon, it’s not something I would want to do. Knowing my luck I’d be the one sorry soul to be banned from the EU forever.
I’ve listed here some of the ways in which US citizens can teach English in Spain legally. These aren’t the only ways to teach legally in Spain, but they are some of the more popular ones, and they are all legitimate.