Varying Levels of Hygiene & Happiness

I’m sorry (to myself, mostly) that I haven’t made more posts. You see, I was a little busy. I’ve been traveling a lot. Madrid is thrilling enough on the weekdays and every weekend I spend here is like a vacation in and of itself. However, my American school gives us every Friday off. Fifty euro round trip flights and three day weekends every weekend are just too good to pass up. So somehow I find myself at the airport every Thursday.

I’ve always thought traveling constantly would be hectic and stressful, but instead I feel like I’m flying along a steady breeze and as long as I flap my wings every now and then, I just continue to fly. That being said, you wouldn’t want to know the longest I’ve gone without sleeping or showing because of it. I guess I’m just so happy and excited by this life I’m living that those things are put on the back burner . If you asked me which weekend trip was my favorite I would find it extremely difficult to answer. They were all so magical in their own ways and so different from each other. Each has provided me with memories I’ll never forget and moments I simply cannot explain. With each destination I’ve traveled to I’ve felt feelings of joy so pure and overwhelming I would shake and my teeth would chatter.

You’d be surprised (I know I am) by how many things just fall into place when you trust that everything that happens is meant to happen that way.

Each day I spend in Madrid is a dream. I’m in love with the weather here. It’s very similar to the weather in San Antonio…yet somehow better. The first week I was here it was scorching hot and ever since then it’s been slowly declining from around 85 to about 65 degrees. Today it was around 70. The Spanish pretend that it’s actually cold just because it’s autumn and wear coats, pants, and scarves. I’ve tried to embrace it, but I’m not too keen on pretending to have a style I don’t have so I’ve stuck to t-shirts for the most part. And who’s most comfortable when it’s extremely warm because there’s so many people in the metro? It’s me. The trees have turned the same colors as the setting sun and they litter every street I walk on, which is slightly nicer than the fast food trash that sometimes liters Guadalupe Street in Austin.

The amount of flawless scenes that I just prance through in Madrid alone would take too long to write about. My days are filling with sun naps, 7-story shopping, rooftop bars, cafes out of story books, and if I’m being honest, a lot of metro rides and a lot of walking. I’ve taken a cooking class, gone to a bull fight, and I’m going on a hike up in the mountains tomorrow.

The school I’m attending is lovely. The inside resembles a palace with a double staircase made of marble with a red carpet at the entrance and all. I’m studying some of my favorite subjects including traveling writing, Hemingway, and ancient Christianity. All of them interest me and learning about them is a pleasure. I still have dinner every night with my Spanish family including my host mother, father, brother, and sister and I have yet to eat a meal that wasn’t absolutely delicious or have a conversation that wasn’t absolutely riveting.

There was a certain point after I got back to Barcelona when I realized I could speak Spanish to communicate what I wanted to say. All the time before that I had been so afraid of Spanish that I avoided simple situations that I would have to speak it in, like ordering food. I hadn’t had a fear so acute and lurking in such a long time, but I was able to overcome it with time, reassurance, a little practice, and self-instilled confidence. My vocabulary isn’t huge and I still don’t have all the verb tenses down but I can get across a point, and more importantly, I’m not afraid to do it.

You know how, when you’re sad, one small discouraging thing happens and then you remember all of the other things that have been giving you bad feelings lately and before you know it you’re crying? Well it’s been happening the same way when I’m happy. One little perfection reminds me of all the perfections that have somehow occupied a majority of my time and all the sudden I’m crying…because I’m so happy.

As far as my weekend trips go, I could go on and on describing each moment that made me wonder if I was living in a dream and all the detail of all the adventures I’ve gone on but instead I’ll limit this to describing just one thing from each trip.

Nice, France

A couple of my abroad friends and I rented chairs and bought frilly drinks that come with lots of fruit at a private beach club and then we all fell asleep on the most comfortable beach chair I’ve ever lied in to the sounds of the waves and the polite French whispers of the people around us.
Hygiene level: Gotta keep it classy in the South of France, 7
Kind of happiness: Completely content and comfortable, like living in a cloud

Lagos, Portugal

Sunsets are very important to me. I could care less about sunrises. I truly find it hard to believe that something so beautiful isn’t more rare. In Lagos we watched “the sunset at the end of the world” which is actually located in the most southeast tip of Europe. It was a perfect day and we sat on a large rocky incline as our hair was wiped all over the place by strong wind only produced on cliffs likes these. The ocean reached as far as could be seen. In a span of 15 minutes I saw more colors than I could describe to myself at a time. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. And that happens everyday.
Hygiene level: My sandy, salty, crusty hair would say pretty close to a 3
Kind of happiness: Universal, like the happiness in me could also be felt in the wind, water, sky, and sun

Munich, Germany (Oktoberfest)

The first beer tent we entered was stacked full of drunk and rowdy youths, a majority of which were American and German. It was a high-energy, high-paced environment. Everyone was singing and swinging their beers and cheersing and laughing, all in their tradition German attire of course. Instead of being caught up in the action, I found myself in a state of shock that I was there. It was a bit of last minute decision to come and I couldn’t believe I was actually in Germany and at such a historical festival. Usually I’d be taking part in all that went on around me but as we sat in the middle of the tent I couldn’t do anything beyond hold my chin in my hands and stare and I had never felt a mixture of feelings so content, yet ecstatic at the same time. Also it should be noted that we slept in literal tents at a campground during this excursion.

Hygiene level: Dirt low like the ground I slept on, 1 1/2
Kind of happiness: The feeling that you have when you can’t stop laughing, but constantly

Paris, France

Paris holds more treasures than can be discovered in a year much less a weekend and an aura of sophistication that cannot be found anywhere else. High atop my list of favorite museums is the Louvre. After spending hours in just a small part of the endless museum, I was started to become overwhelmed. It was then that my friend Avery and I decided to share headphones put music on, lock our arms, and dance through the museum. I pretend I’m in a music video all the time but I have never actually felt like it more than at that moment. It was like all the dreamy ideas I had of Europe while I was falling asleep before I came here were actually taking place. My cheeks hurt from the grin that wouldn’t leave my face.
Hygiene level: Paris wouldn’t let me go below a 5
Kind of happiness: When you seriously start to wonder, and even worry that this isn’t real, because it’s so good that it can’t be true

Barcelona, Spain

We went out in Barcelona to a discotecha with a large group of other kids from our hostel and I danced so much I had to catch my breath several times and I think I ordered at least four vasos de agua or glasses of water just to keep hydrated. I’m not a good dancer. But I know that I probably have ten times as much fun as anyone who actually cares about how they look when they’re dancing. Everyone that I met I became instant friends with because they would laugh at my dance moves and I would laugh at my dance moves. Everyone that I came with thought I was the most entertaining, funny person to watch and I made sure to give them quite a show of silly dancing. At a certain points I couldn’t help but feel like all the attention was on me. If you know me, you know that this is all I ever want. In Barcelona, I got that.
Hygiene level: I only bought one dress with me that I wore 3 days in a row (at least my backpack was extremely light) 4
Kind of happiness: Like being a celebrity

Tangier, Morocco, Africa

The entire trip, I had trouble truly realizing that I was in another continent and in a place so different than my home. It’s easy to become numb to things that are absolutely amazing when you’re experiencing them so often. The moment that filled my heart with butterflies the most, was actually the ferry ride back from Africa to Spain. It was about an hour long and we boarded as the sun began to set. The ferry was an empty, dirty, almost sad little ship that contained mostly sleeping people. Somehow, I discovered that there was an outdoor deck. The waves were so bumpy that a person trying to walk resembled a person trying to walk after spinning quickly in a circle for more than couple of minutes. Add that to outside where the wind was a whip and the thick ocean water filled the air. Gravity forced me to dance and I could not stop laughing. The colors in the sky were dark purple night on one side and an orange and pink pastel paining on the other, blurred by a cloud of ocean water being produced by the speed of the ferry.
Hygiene level: Sweaty from frolicking through the Moroccan desert left me at a 3 1/2
Kind of happiness: Exactly like a toddler, unable to walk strait, everything is funny and you don’t have a care in the world

Like I said, there were so many more magical moments I wish I could share. Like having white wine and discussing cultural differences with our Airbnb hosts up in the cozy Paris apartment or meeting people from everywhere who loved Texans at Oktoberfest or kayaking through the ocean caves in Lagos or riding a camel on the beach in Africa.

The only thing that’s less than stellar is recently, my phone got stolen and it’s thrown my easy life into a whirlwind of minor inconveniences. One of the more major minor inconveniences is that I lost all of the pictures on my phone that I haven’t posted on social media since May. I would have much rather have gotten an iPhone 6 worth of money stolen than all my pictures. But that’s how things go I guess. In fact, I don’t know anyone at my American school who hasn’t gotten their phone stolen. No one has a phone! I’ve tried my hardest to make the best of it and although it’s posing a lot of frustration challenges, I refuse to complain while living the life I’m living.

Published by Mia Olea Garza

I am a photography, videographer, and filmmaker in Austin, Texas.

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