Madrid: It’s Not You, It’s Me (But Maybe It’s You)

Personally I liked Madrid, but it’s always interesting to see a totally different opinion:

I’m not one to get home sick. In fact, I can’t even remember a time when I missed home whilst abroad. And now, I had the opportunity to spend a month in Madrid writing about the fascinating culture, the vibrant way of life, and enjoying deliciously tasty tapas. I was so excited. My research beforehand revealed a cosmopolitan city jam-packed full of art, history, and adventure – my ideal destination. So why did I spend my whole time there counting down the days until I could leave? The turn of events that follow may not seem like overwhelming situations but, when they all united, proved to be just that little too much for me.

Where am I?

Usually, I’m the one with the map in my hands. I like to know where I am and where I’m going so I can plot the best route from A to B. Honestly, I don’t trust anyone else to do this. I like to be in control. After a while, I can usually navigate my way around my destination without the use of a map; simply by using pure intuition and by ‘following my nose’.

For some reason though, this didn’t happen in Madrid. For some reason, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get my bearings. Day after day I would find myself wandering around in circles always ending up back at the same place. After several efforts of trial and error, all without a successful outcome, I started to get frustrated. In fact, it was only in the last week that I truly felt confident with my surroundings in Madrid. By this point it was too late, and I was already wishing myself out of the city.

Same Old, Same Old…

My days in Madrid were pretty regimented. The mornings were spent in Spanish lessons and layout meetings which meant that my ‘free time’ didn’t really get going until late afternoon. If you’ve been to Spain you’ll know that this is siesta time; ergo, many places aren’t open. The days seemed to fly by in a timetabled haze of routine. Call me naïve but this is something I expected back at home, not in one of the most sought-after destinations in Europe. I found that the reason I had left England (to relieve myself of the daily grind) had in fact followed me to Spain and proved to be as relentless there as it was in my full time job.

Is anybody out there?

Despite Madrid’s size and friendliness, I often found myself feeling utterly alone. I was sharing an apartment with five other people, but I regularly sat in my room refreshing Facebook in the hope of gleaning any information about home. Perhaps it was my lack of the Spanish language or the sheer vivacity and city-that-never-sleeps vibe that had me feeling like a small fish in a big pond. Not that this is a bad thing – I have this same feeling at home and quite like it. But for some reason the effect seemed to be magnified in Madrid to an extent that made me question why I was even there.

Stolen Phone and Near Death Experience (sort of…)

When I’m away, I try to keep as little contact with home as possible. Not because I don’t want to, but because I can immerse myself more in the place I am visiting without having to take myself out of the moment. However, it’s nice to know that I can contact home whenever I want to. This luxury was taken away from me when my phone was stolen as I watched Spain win the Euro 2012 cup with twenty-thousand other people. It was my fault – waving my phone around taking photos was just asking for it. But still, the fact that I had lost my communication port with home was a kick in the stomach.

And I almost died… Well, sort of. My time in Madrid coincided with the riots there this summer. I had no idea of the full extent of them until I emerged from a flamenco performance one evening into a street full of flames. Protestors wearing masks ran amok, setting fire to bins, cars, and anything else in their path of destruction. Heading down a side street, I was almost trampled down by a mob running away from the sounds of gunfire. It’s safe to say I couldn’t wait to get home after this. I’m all for a bit of excitement, but the reality of the situation was completely different and people often act out of character when they are in a large, unruly group.

So, there was no one important event that had me wishing my time away in Madrid. Instead, it was an amalgamation of things that kept piling on top of each other. I look back on my time there now with fondness and I’d like to go back soon to see if I still feel the same. At the time, however, my month in Madrid was tarnished with a mighty dose of homesickness and the overriding desire to leave. I guess there’s a first time for everything!

Lizzie is a full time marketing assistant and part-time travel blogger promoting the ways to get the most out of grab-it-when-you-can travel. She spends her time creatively thinking of ways to plan trips around her job and advocating the idea that you don’t have to be ‘homeless’ to enjoy the perks of frequent travel. Find out more about Lizzie at www.wanderful-world.com

25 thoughts on “Madrid: It’s Not You, It’s Me (But Maybe It’s You)”

  1. I’m from Madrid and hate it badly, it’s so stressful and aggressive, doesn’t have open spaces, relaxing atmosphere anywhere, only stress, but Barcelona is cheap, tacky, ugly and disgustIng. That type of cheap tourists use to like it.

  2. I love Madrid! I think it’s a city you have to really try to get to know. A lot of people find it underwhelming especially when they don’t figure out that meetups and facebook groups are amazing ways to find events and friends. Madrid needs to be explored thoroughly before being appreciated. So many people I know study abroad here and come back.

  3. The first time I went to Madrid I did not like it at all. It really had nothing to do with the city but with the difficulties I had getting there. I have been back two more times and like it now. It is a city that takes time to appreciate. On the other hand I loved Barcelona from the minute I got there.

  4. Its always a confluence of things isn’t it? Seems like a lot of theft stories which doesn’t help the mood but from my own experience its the energy I bring to a place that has shaped my impression of it. Of course events and people can shape your mood but in many ways you can overcome/overpower them if you’re on a winning streak. Unfortunately being on losing streak can also keep you in a funk.

    Wee see things through a prism. The good part about travel is that we can move on and (ideally) reset our mood. Treat the moment for what it was and if all else fails treat it like an interesting episode. I think “meh” is the worst compliment I could give a place. I made some stories in Madrid.

    1. I really like the idea of being able to shape our own impressions of places and I definitely agree with this to a certain extent. I think what may have happened in Madrid is my mood “faltered” a bit after the theft etc and I just couldn’t get it back up again. That’s one theory anyway 🙂

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