The last couple of weeks have been an odd combination of incredible shock after losing my job and simultaneous joy as I explored parts of France and Spain. My time in France was solitary, journeying through the southwest part of the country on a personal blog trip. My time in Spain though was something entirely different. It was a very social and dynamic blog trip through the Costa Brava region along the country’s northeast coast. More than just a pleasant time exploring the culinary and cultural side of the area, the experiences helped me personally through a very difficult time and I think have changed my outlook on the future.
I wouldn’t say I particularly enjoyed the job for which I now grieve. But it was a paycheck, something all too important in our modern lives. It also allowed me a certain level of flexibility I enjoyed but was it personally rewarding? No, not entirely. When I found out I lost my job the feelings were a mixture of shock, grief and even despair. Even though it wasn’t necessarily my “calling” I didn’t realize just how much of my ego was tied to the occupation. When it was severed in one brutal stroke, I felt as if I had been stabbed through the gut. Throughout my time in France I kept busy, but simultaneously tried to process not only what had happened, but also what to do next.
So when I arrived in sunny Costa Brava, I wasn’t necessarily in the best frame of mind. Three events occurred however that I think have rescued me from my doldrums, a condition to which I am somewhat prone, and have set me on a path for the future.
On the first day the group of bloggers and our hosts were treated to an extraordinary experience; a private tour of the Ferran Adria exposition in Barcelona led by the great master himself, Ferran Adria. Ferran was the head chef of the El Bulli restaurant in Roses on the Costa Brava, and is considered one of the best chefs in the world. Adria single-handedly transformed the culinary world through the creation of plates the likes of which no one had even considered before. Foams, gels and unusual serving vessels all had their start with Ferran and El Bulli was considered the best restaurant in the world before he decided to close the doors.
Just a glance at his impressive accomplishments would be enough to inspire just about anyone, but for me the moment of stark clarity arose from a simple phrase he shared with us; his own mantra for life.
“It’s not important to be the first, it’s important to be the most innovative.”
That struck a chord deep in my soul and instantly raised my spirits, a feat mere words are usually unable to accomplish. Prior to that moment I feared that I was too old to start a new career, to find a job that would enable me to pursue my passions. I feared that a lack of experience on paper would lead some potential employers to ignore my talents, in spite of the fact that I am sure of my own abilities. Ferran taught me with that one phrase that I need not necessarily worry about others and instead, I need to concentrate on myself and find ways to set myself apart and to truly create a career that is unique to me and which drives me to succeed.
The next instance of Spanish spirit lifting occurred during a leisurely lunch at the fishing cottage of some local residents. That afternoon was amazing for everyone involved thanks to our hosts and the feeling of hospitality and inclusion that emanated through the repast. But it wasn’t the food or the views that caused my outlook to change, it was the incredibly positive and happy outlook exhibited by our guests. They were enjoying life to the fullest, not worrying about minor things and instead reveling in the most basic form of human interaction, the breaking of bread. My colleagues and I have since looked back at that day as one of the most relaxing and enjoyable of the week, but for me a lesson was delivered. Life is short and instead of languishing over past events that I cannot change, I truly need to be happy for who I am and look forward to the future not with dread but with titillating anticipation. And copious amounts of wine, that apparently helps too.
Finally, the night before I left Girona, Spain, our trip host took us out for a casual meal of pizza and beer. It was a fun evening of friendship and camaraderie, but a moment came at the end when our host shared an allegory. The point of the tale was that we can only accomplish the impossible if we push ourselves to make it happen. It’s too easy for most of us to exist in situations that are familiar but not necessarily good for us. Instead, it is the rare individual who pushes himself to do the impossible and he is almost always the happier for it.
Of course I wouldn’t say that every guest to Costa Brava will have similarly illuminating experiences, but I did. These messages came at a time when I needed them the most and I wonder whether or not I would have even heeded their warning had my own personal circumstances been different. But they weren’t and I did. My soul was in need of direction and direction was given. Not towards a particular career path necessarily, but towards to path of more positive thoughts and for taking responsibility for my own future.
So what are the next steps, what will I do? Well, that still remains to be seen, but whatever it is I am determined that it is something that not only feeds my bank account, but which feeds my soul as well.
Have you ever had an illuminating moment while traveling? What was it and how did you react?
15 thoughts on “Power of Travel: How Spain Changed Everything”
I actually just experienced “a moment” on my latest trip, a 10-day road trip through northern Arizona and southern Utah. I haven’t written about it yet, I am still thinking about how to express it. I am not a religious person, or even spiritual, it is just something that doesn’t play in my life, but there were certain times on this trip in the midst of viewing incredible rock formations that I was struck by the fact that there is something out there. I have only felt it one other time before, while on a cruise in French Polynesia when I was in the middle of no where as I looked out on the back of the boat. It had this amazing calming effect which I still don’t fully understand….
I’m truly sorry to read that you lost your job, Matt and believe me – because I lost mine three years ago – you’ll soon find out that it’s a great opportunity to discover talents that you have and never suspected.
As for the trip, I’m glad it happened to you in Costa Brava, as it’s a special place with special people.
For myself, I felt illuminated many times, although I guess it mostly happens when I am in the mountains, alone, surrounded by the silence and the majesty of the peaks. Feeling so little is always enlightening, it helps me keep things in the right perspective, recover my strength and go on.
It is amazing how, if you’re paying attention and are open to the possibilities, people or opportunities arise when you are in need. Ever since I had my daughter (11 years ago) I found a mantra that helped get me through the difficult nights or frustrating stages. I would tell myself, “this too shall pass” and it always did, sometimes followed by a more difficult stage but always followed by something different. Since we’ve been traveling (10 months so far) my perspective has changed and I realize that my mantra also applies to the wonderful events and general everyday joys that will pass me by if I’m not paying attention or opening myself up to the opportunities. So I say to you – this too shall pass! Good luck with your search for your passion with a paycheque. BTW- I really enjoy reading your blog so although you don’t know me I feel like I know you just a little.
That is really sweet of you to say, thank you! And thank you for the thoughtful comments, great perspective
Matt, I am thrilled you experienced tremendous moments of illumination during your recent trip. There are parts of your post here which resonate very strongly for me, as I have no idea what awaits me after my RTW year ends in January. On the other hand, I’ve been having a great time so far! Thank you for sharing your personal insights, and as always, best wishes!
Matt, the time is now, I hope you will look back and say just as well that happened but for now you’re free to explore the new and exciting…go for it
Great post Matt. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, so take the words and advice that you heard in Spain and turn it into something great. When life gives you lemons, make champagne out of them – that’s innovation for you ;)
Also, really loving the first and last photos. Gorgeous!
Matt, I can totally attest to the ups and downs of living abroad in Spain. I’ve been dealing with a lot of things personally and professionally that are unexpected and worse than I ever imagined to be, but having the sun on my face on the daily while craning my neck at my beautiful surroundings seems to ease it all just a bit. Buena suerte, as we say down here (and totes jealous you met Fernan Adrià! Following all the people in the blogosphere, it seems like an incredible trip!!). Adding this post to my facebook page…
This is the sentence I liked most in this article, something people forget when success, money, the trappings of modern life, are seen as the most important things.
They were enjoying life to the fullest, not worrying about minor things and instead reveling in the most basic form of human interaction, the breaking of bread.
THANK YOU Irene, I’m so happy that it resonated with you!
Ferran Adria must be an incredible presence to be around, especially at a time when you’re in need of some uplifting sentiments. I do think the Costa Brava has something spiritually special about it – struggling to put my finger on it but have thought this many times. It’s a little corner of the world I feel particularly drawn to. Best of luck with your future career – sure you’ll make a success of it:)
Marvelous post. Very inspiring. I know something about losing a job. The one I lost I hated, but even so there was a sense of “being useless” I suppose, even though I knew I wasn’t. It taught me that other peoples’ perception of me isn’t that important, at least not the perception of people for whom I have no respect in the first place. So there is always a lesson to be learned.
The important thing about what happened to you in Spain is that you were open to it. You were listening and “the universe” spoke to you. Sorry to sound “airy fairy” but it’s a struggle not to sound that way when you talk about things like this! I also know about this because there are times in the past when I’ve listened and other times when I’ve been feeling so sorry for myself I didn’t. Paul Coelho said something like, “If you want something enough, and are listening, then the universe will help you.”
I’m very glad for you that it happened in a fairly short time space after you lost your job, because it’s as easy to get bogged down in feeling useless as it is to get bogged down by the 9 to 5, and the more bogged down we get by whatever it is (even our dreams and ambitions) the less clearly we hear the messages. Lots of luck for your future. Really look forward to reading about it here :=)
Thank you Linda, I appreciate that!
Change is scary but always good because it forces us to make positive changes we otherwise would have ignored. It’s the new experiences that help us grow more. Best of luck to you on this new chapter in your life. I look forward to seeing what you do next.
As far as illuminating travel experiences, I had many of them when I was traveling extensively in Europe in the 90s. They honestly shaped my life. Like you, I was at a time of change in my life so the experiences meant more than they might have at another time. Your photo and description of the lunch resonated with me because it was the time with locals, totally focused on the moment and each other, that really made an impact on me.
You made such gold out of the straw; that dry, pasty fear that can come with being ‘let go.’ I tasted it too years ago in a job that had run its course and suddenly ended. The bitterness didn’t last long and that’s why I write. Like you, being “job-less” led to better work, more personal and fulfilling. Where I’d once been teaching radio drama to disinterested elementary and middle school students, soon I was leading a passionate group of adults, adapting scripts, writing our own and eventually winning a national award. The loss of steady income was a drawback but other opportunities opened, just as you’ve found. Bravo! Brava – wish I’d gone! See you in Toronto perhaps at the next TBEX as the story continues!
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