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X Marks the Spot

Today, I used Google Maps to find the location of a place I had visited while I was abroad and when I found it, my heart hurt. A lot.

I was working on another blog post that focuses on the time I got my nails done in Madrid (news flash: it was painful) and I wanted to get the name of the venue right, so I looked it up via satellite. The blog post was almost done and I was about to post it, but this feeling overwhelmed me so I put it aside and wrote this instead.

I casually moved around the overview of the city searching for the exact spot where the shop should have been, and right after I found it my eyes betrayed me and drifted just a few blocks North to where my host home was. I stopped and stared for a moment remembering what the view was like from the living room balcony. I thought about the first time I looked up and down the street that I would call home for 2 months.

Then, my gaze travelled down the path that took me to the metro, the coffee shop I frequented, and every back alley of Malasaña. I thought about the cake shop that I had spent a whole evening trying to find by memory only to learn I had just been one block off the whole time. I thought about window shopping at the seemingly endless row of shoe stores on Fuencarral. I thought about the feeling of joy when I found a Dunkin' Donuts 10 minutes away from my place and the feeling of complete disappointment when I learned they didn't have iced coffee.

It was like I had been transported from my desk and put right back in the cobblestone streets. I could see the burnt orange and earthy red-colored buildings. I could practically smell the smoke from cigarettes. I could hear conversations I couldn't fully understand. I travelled back in time to when I felt free and new.

Finally, I looked back at the nail salon and remembered the time I had hiked alone all the way from Puerta del Sol, through Gran Vía, all the way up San Bernardo and back to my apartment on Calle de Manuela Malasaña. It was an entirely uphill 20 minute walk and I remember every inch of it.

That walk was the first time I realized I was doing something wildly out of my comfort zone, and I wasn't just doing it. I was succeeding at it.

I had never lived in the heart of a city before, so that adjustment alone was a bit to take in, and then I had to factor in using an underground transit system. Oh, and did I mention that everything was in Spanish? I had been in Madrid for maybe a week and everything, I mean everything, was SO. Much. Harder.

But I was doing it.


Everyone tells you all of these amazing stories about the stuff they did when they went abroad, but no one ever tells you how it feels and that's because it's almost impossible. You spend half of your time abroad trying not to panic that you're alone and scared, and you spend the other half of your time abroad basking in the fact that you are doing what you're doing. It makes evaluating your true feelings at the time a little muddy and complicated, so when you look back on it you just end up thinking to yourself "Did I really do that?"

Yes. I did.

Or if you're me, you spend more time wondering "What the hell was I thinking getting myself into this situation?"

I don't know.


I hyperlinked the shop website into the blog post and quickly closed out of the map, but my brain was still making the trek back home from the city center. My body was glued to a desk chair, but my mind was roaming along the streets of Madrid. It was like I was suspended in this alternate reality, except it wasn't an alternate. It actually existed. I was there.

I pulled the map back up. I hesitated over the street view button as if clicking it would actually take me back.

Everything I have is here. There are so many other places in the world to go see. There are so many other marks on a map I want to make. So, why do I want to go back so badly?

Because Madrid was the first place to leave its mark on me.

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