Long-term travel caught my attention when I studied and interned in Madrid for a year. One semester didn’t satiate my abroad appetite even before I left. After finishing two semesters, I still wasn’t satisfied. Fast forward to now: I’m living in Barranquilla, Colombia for, yes, another year.
It’s living abroad round two, but at the same time, each round is an isolated experience. They are completely different. This time, I’m truly independent. Your girl’s got a job, an apartment, and bills here in B’quilla. This independence is what I wanted; it’s what I’ve been craving. And it really has been liberating.
Each day I wake up and decide how I’d like to organize my day. So far, my days involve teaching (that’s a given); they’ve also been focused on practicing yoga/pilates, writing, cooking meals, and eating ice cream.
I’ve learned a lot about what affects my happiness, and what things affect my daily happiness. I absolutely love where I live. It has lots of light, greenery and space – plus we’ve got a hammock! Where you are does affect your happiness. Moving into my first apartment abroad has truly made me happy.
I thrive on the energy around me. Some days I’m super tired and teaching is the last thing I want to do. But then I show up to class, and the energy in the room wakes me up. My students really are animated and fun. They help me to become my animated and fun self.
I love to cook. It’s my passion. My days revolve around meal times, and around prepping for meal times. There is no better way for me to de-stress than to come home from teaching and prepare dinner for myself. It’s therapeutic. And by the time I sit down to eat, I’m relaxed and content.
I love walking. I believe this stems from my European adventures, and my walkable university campus back in New York. I’ve become used to walking everywhere, though Barranquilleros are absolutely jaw-dropped when I tell them I walked to my destination from my apartment. I think this is due to the unbearable heat, but depending on the time of day, it is actually quite pleasant to not take busses everywhere.
I need green space and/or beaches. I enjoy cosmopolitan cities, but I’ve also noticed that I need a balance between nature and concrete. There are not as many green spaces in Barranquilla as I would’ve liked. Fortunately, our apartment is right next to a luscious park. And the B’quilla beaches aren’t too far. Being geographically equidistant from both Cartagena and Santa Marta is a refreshing reminder that beautiful beaches are relatively close.
I require lots of ice cream. Barranquilla is scorching hot. Thus, ice cream is crucial. Come to think of it: It doesn’t have to be hot for me to require ice cream. You won’t understand how happy ice cream makes me until you’re waiting in line with me listening to me anxiously decide which flavors and toppings to order.
I need to stretch. Since moving here, I’ve tried to make yoga a habit. I usually stretch when I wake up anyways, so why not turn it into an elongated stretching/breathing session? I feel healthier when I wake up and stretch. There’s a peaceful, content state of mind that follows moments of stillness.
I reflect through writing. For this reason, I have
so too many journals. But can one really have too many journals? Nahhh. Here in B’quilla I have a gratitude journal, a happiness journal, a travel journal, and three undesignated journals. The trick is to set aside time to write, reflect and document. My dear friend Christine O’Dea writes for at least ten minutes before going to bed. Pretty good idea, eh?
I really feel like I’m coming into my own here in Barranquilla. By distancing myself from the familiar, I am learning more and more about what it is that makes me happy. And I must say: I am happy.