Understanding Spain in 2018

So originally, this post was going to be about me taking you to the Spain I grew up in. But I haven't driven in a very long time and to be completely honest: you need a car to be able to reach where I lived!

It has been almost ten years since I was last in town, and while Málaga is a lot more tourist-y than ever, there are some inherent things that never change.

Everything down to the airport has changed - I have never been out of an airport so quickly - physically. Walking around Málaga the first day, I could have been anywhere in the world. Especially as all I could hear for the most part was English and (apparently) Finnish. Walking along the port, I could have been in any part of Europe or - dare I say it - even the English coast...

It was the small things like ordering my favourite tapas - ensalada rusa, croquetas de gambas and tortilla española  - and watching the locals not put up with any c***, to begin with. But it was talking to a school friend where I really began to think.

As a child, you of course don't take note of certain things. Especially in an era pre-social media and fast internet. When I was 12 IMdb only held around 100 celebrities...

And as a child growing up in a completely different country and having to learn the language bit by bit on the go every day, I would say I was even more unaware of a lot of societal things. I didn't take note of politics or social cues. I loved whatever I pleased (McFly and Black Eyed Peas on DiscMan all day) and dressed however I fancied. I was completely unaware of trends - although I wasn't immune to those skater shoes (the only reason I was allowed them was because they were baby pink with bright blue laces) and the heavy side bang of the mid-2000's.

But in this so called ignorance has developed a love of some other things. In not growing up needing to wear the latest brands, I found my passion for books and travel. Even when I moved back to England, I still wasn't 100% bothered as long as I had a new book to read. In growing up with long summers spent in the pool and on the beach with family, I learned to find happiness in simplicity.

A simplicity which I definitely lost for a few years. Going to uni, thinking "I had to" get a super successful corporate job in the City or I was a failure. Returning now - having gotten the high end corporate job bang smack in the middle of the Big Smoke - a couple of things are poking their heads through again.

Studying languages at uni, I of course had classmates who lived in Málaga for a year - which I know I was a little envious of - and when they came back they would tell me things that I was surprised by. Like "the Spanish are loud and rude". "They're so judgemental".

But the funny thing for me is that in the Spanish loudness, I see personality and character. In the 'rudeness', I see knowing what they want - and cutting the BS. In the 'judgement', I see a curiosity.

What people don't necessarily get is that Spain has been in an economic depression for ten years now. Opportunities at home are physically far and in between. My friend, who studied way harder than I did at school, can sometimes earn less in a month than I do in a week. And where she wants to go into international business, the only available options right now are in tourism. My AirBnB hostess will be paying off her flat - which costs less than a two bed house in Cornwall - until she is sixty.

But what they both have in common is that they can be happy with what they have. 

Having a home, a job, good food, family and beautiful views. They don't 'need' anything else to make them feel complete.

My friend has a car and therefore some freedom to see friends and do day trips. My AirBnB hostess is getting married next month surrounded by 140 family and close friends.

It's funny how we can fall back into old habits so quickly. My second day here, I found myself beginning to fall back in love with simplicity. By the third day, I was smiling on the inside as I rediscovered that passionate creative inside me. Infatuated by art and writing. I almost can't describe it. And looking for the pockets of the city that are still very much Spanish in essence.

The bustling tiny cafes down the long tiny backstreets with camareros with husky voices from too many cigars. Retreating into the apartment during the hot hours of the afternoon to drink a cool glass of gazpacho. The booming voices of the elder women having their café con leche first thing in the morning. The kindness and inherent caring of this nation. Treating everyone like familia.

I had forgotten the passion I learned from this country and its people. Being unashamed. And the wholeness in the simplicity of just living for each day and whatever it has to offer.

Over the years, I have been asked many times if I would consider living in Spain again. Permanently, my answer would be no. Yet in coming back for short periods of time, it is a reminder of the things that really matter.

Going back to London tomorrow feels just like returning from Birmingham or Southampton or Guildford. It's another form of transport to go back to my current base.

The difference this time is that I will be actively be listening to my creativity - and loving it like another person. Falling back in love with the joy of a drink with a friend or dinner with my family. The rush of a good book. The excitement of a new project. And being completely unafraid to live into it.

That, to me, is understanding Spain in 2018.

Han x


Han Talbot