It was a longing for something more and something bigger that compelled me to spend a whole month by myself in Madrid. I can honestly say it was the best investment I have ever made in myself. At first, I thought it was selfish of me to experience something amazing without sharing it with a loved one, but I eventually realized that I had to be selfish to be selfless.
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.
Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” — Howard Thurman
That quote resounds in my heart louder than ever. Before Madrid, it was only an inspiration to me. Now, it motivates me to keep on feeling alive. To maintain this feeling of truly living.
As I write, I honestly don’t know if I’ll have the words to express just a taste of how much I’ve grown from my one-month experience. But I must try.
The first days were the hardest for me. I had to confront my loneliness, and it was torturous. I’m quite an introvert, finding it scary meeting and talking to strangers. But on just my third day, I realized that what I truly needed was to be surrounded by people. So I looked up Madrid events online and just pushed myself out of my comfort zone and messaged the host right away and said I’d come so that I wouldn’t back down. And that changed the rest of my trip for me.
When I walked up to the group of travelers who were gathered to meet other strangers, my heart was racing and my hands were cold and sweaty. I was so relieved that instead of doing hand shakes in Spain, they do kisses on both cheeks: I didn’t have to make hand contact with anyone, which would reveal how nervous I really was. But after introductions and hearing myself speak, I realized I wasn’t as scared to meet strangers as I had made up in my head to be. And that was just the first wall that slowly broke down, day after day.
Meeting all kinds of people—young and old, locals, au-pairs and tourists, introverts and extroverts, unsettled and settled—opened up my eyes to who I truly was. It became clearer to me what I liked and what I didn’t like, in others, in life and more importantly, in myself. And it gave me a clearer picture of what I truly wanted in life; the kind of lifestyle I craved, the kind of person I wanted to be, the kind of people I want to be surrounded by. In short, I started to finally find myself. It inspired me so much.
Most people, I met only once. Because I got to know myself more, I knew what kind of people I didn’t want to meet again, and instead freed up time to those I found were worth my attention and effort. Those who were more or less in line with my way of thinking. And that was empowering to me; being able to say no to what I didn’t like and didn’t want more of. I gained so much self-confidence in the process.
I also eventually realized how blessed I was to be able to live in Norway and earn and save up while I stay at my parents’. It compelled me to make the biggest step towards a personal project I’m currently undertaking. It was spending time away from what had become my home that made me realize how much of an opportunity lay in front of my eyes. But I hadn’t realized the treasure in front of me because I was too self-absorbed in my personal issues and dramas.
I spent a few days building the foundation of my idea for the said personal project I felt compelled to see through. Then the rest of my time was spent continuing to experience all that Madrid had to offer me: Its food, its wine, its energy, its art, and most importantly, its people.
And the days only got better and better.
It was having the attitude of just saying yes to everything that was the key to my amazing experience. One of the best experiences I had was being forced to face my fear of heights. I had asked someone who became a really good friend of mine to take me hiking outside of Madrid. He had organized a trip with two others, and little did we know we’d go to Aventura Amazonia, an adventure park with challenges to move from tree to tree with varying balancing and cling-on challenges—one to at least seven meters above ground!
I know it’s not a big deal to most people, but you have to understand that by just watching a video of someone bungee jumping would completely soak my palms! So although we were a hundred percent secure from falling by wearing tactical rappelling gear, I experienced too many moments of shaky legs and feeling as if I was going to faint! But that feeling was so empowering, realizing how fear is just all in our head. And after a while, I found myself quite enjoying the thrill.
I had never in a million years imagined I’d be able to do something like that. But just having a yes attitude and just going for it regardless of the intense fear pulsing through me, was what helped me to somehow overcome the psychological barrier I had set up for myself. And it was clearer to me more than ever how much potential we all have inside of us to do things we once thought impossible.
The mind is incredible like that. There I was thinking I’d only overcome certain challenges during my month in Madrid. Little did I know I’d face my fear of heights as well!
The most beautiful thing I experienced was realizing how well-accepted I was to most of the people I met. It was empowering to realize that when I was one hundred percent transparent about who I truly was—without withholding my opinions, my taste, my preferences, my knowledge, my values and my beliefs—I was very much accepted. Don’t think for one second I haven’t felt accepted by my loved ones. I have, but I’d never opened up myself to so many people in such a short time before.
Every new person I met, I observed myself. And it was scary to be honest about certain things about myself at times, but I just did it anyway, and it was motivating to see how they appreciated the honesty in me. And that motivated me to keep on being vulnerable.
When I got back to Bergen three days ago, I felt so high on the collective experience Madrid had offered me. It felt as though my family couldn’t handle the huge change I’d gone through, and how was I going to explain everything to them? Later that evening, I broke down, fearing that I’d go back to my old way of fretting the future and getting up to just get the day over with, trying my best to mask the unhappiness within. But the next morning, I woke up with such a peace in me and I just knew it was impossible for me to go back to that.
Because Madrid had truly changed me forever. ♥