Sixteen years of life in Spain: a short recap of 2020

October 25, 2020

This week I celebrated 16 years in Spain.

A quick calculation tells me that 16 years is around 42% of my life so far.

That’s a long time. I guess I’m as Spanish as a rabbit paella at this point.

My younger self, back in 2004, had no idea what he was getting into, as he got off the metro on a rainy October morning to start his new life in Madrid.

Back then, I wasn’t honestly expecting to live past age 25. I didn’t have a lot of examples in my life of successful “adulting”. Most of the adults back home were pretty miserable. And the American public education system had failed to instill in me any sort of optimism about my future as a human being.

So, having never seen an example of competent adulthood, I just failed to imagine it was possible, and assumed I’d die young.

16 years of life in spain

Flash forward to 2020. I seem to be an adult by now. Hell, I’m almost 40. Whether or not I’m successful at adulthood is debatable.

In any case, here we are. Adulting.

A short recap of 2020

This year’s been weird, to say the least.

The last few months of 2019 I was preparing to go to Asia. I spent Christmas and New Year’s in some random dusty spot in India, and then a couple of weeks in Thailand. I loved it. And I came back to Barcelona thinking that travel to Asia was going to be my new expensive hobby.

2020 was set up to be a pretty cool year.

Of course, like everyone else, I was completely wrong about that.

In the meantime, let’s just say I’ve learned a few things, and gotten back into some old hobbies.

So let’s talk about the good, the bad and the ugly of my 16th year in Spain.

First, some of the good.

Walking!

When I was a kid I’d go wandering around the desert for fun.

It was way better than sitting at home. And apart from the snakes, scorpions, cacti, sunburns and constant threat of heatstroke, it was a mostly safe hobby.

(Pro tip: don’t grow up in Arizona.)

By the time I was a teenager I was sneaking out at night and wandering through neighbors’ yards. Trespassing, and probably breaking some sort of curfew for young people, but really, just exploring.

Anyway, I’m not sure why, but walking is something I’ve always enjoyed a lot. Many great thinkers are also great walkers.

And all in all, it’s not a bad hobby to have. It’s free, it’s easy, and you can do it almost anywhere… Unless your country has made it illegal.

Since the end of the lockdown, I’ve taken more time to explore Barcelona the city, as well as parts of the province.

I walked all the way up the coast to a town called Mataró, about 30 kilometers. Here’s a video about it…

Another day, I walked up the Besòs river to Sabadell – another 30 km or so.

I’ve also explored some of the trails in the Collserrola park, and a couple of nearby towns as well.

It’s an interesting way to get to know the “country” – a lot of it is unspectacular industrial parks and such, but it’s a side of things that most people never see. Slow tourism, with a cardio aspect to it.

Plus – and this is one of my favorite parts – it gives me the opportunity to drink beer at old man bars in the most random of places.

These days, of course, all the bars and restaurants in Catalonia are closed. Which brings us neatly to the next thing I’ve rediscovered this year…

Cooking (and fermenting) in quarantine

Life under lockdown was great for cooking.

Not only did the search for ingredients give me an excuse to get out of the house, but making things myself is usually a satisfying experience.

And I may not be able to go out to bars, but I can certainly ferment things in my kitchen. Currently, I’m fermenting some garlic. It’s good for your immune system, supposedly.

But who really needs an excuse? Garlic is awesome. These fermented pickles are pretty good too.

I used to cook quite a bit, back when I was younger and more broke. These last few years I’ve started going out more, partially to save time on the shopping, prep and cleanup – and partially just because I like eating out.

Anyway, when I do cook, it usually turns out pretty well. I do simple things. Steak and potatoes, chicken with whatever, salmon. If it has protein, I’m all over it.

My favorite recipes these days?

These shredded beef tacos. Various types of ramen with a base of bone broth. Stir-fried noodles with beef. Salmon gravlax. And more.

Anything to fill the belly, and all the dead time we’ve had.

So cooking is another positive hobby to develop. I know some people are intimidated by it, but if you figure out a few things you like to make, you’ll eat better on the cheap and increase your enjoyment of life. I promise.

On the other hand, let’s just say this year hasn’t been all garlic and roses. There have been some bad parts, too.

Let’s talk about some…

Disturbing facts about human nature

I could go on and on about the many disturbing (and few positive) aspects of human nature that’ve been revealed by this situation.

But let’s just do one.

Here goes…

I’m continuously surprised to find that so many people are willing to give up ALL THEIR FREEDOM because of some stupid virus.

Not only do they joyfully give up all their freedom, they also have no problem with governments taking away everybody else’s freedom as well. In fact, they practically demand it!

social distancing 2020

So while I was stuck at home for 2 months, with literally fewer rights than dogs, I was pretty outraged. Turns out, though, that not everyone has a problem with totalitarian police states… as long as those totalitarian police states have a “good reason” to take away everyone’s freedom.

Well, here’s a news flash: once you’ve given up your rights, it can be a lot harder to get them back.

And of course, all the totalitarian states start with a “good reason” for going that way – the Soviets had to get rid of the bourgeoisie, the Spanish fascists had to quell the anarchist and communist uprisings, and the Nazis…

Well, you see where I’m going with this.

This time it’s different, of course, because the “enemy” isn’t some group of people – it’s an invisible thing in the air.

And I understand that people feel unsafe. But let’s not create a society that’s so “safe” that it’s no longer worth living in.

Because the road to fascism is paved with good intentions. And every shitty authoritarian government you can name is doing it all “for the common good”. Because of course they are.

En fin…

Onward towards 2021

A year ago, when I tried to imagine the year 2020, I figured it’d be basically like 2019, but with a few minor changes.

Now, looking at 2021, I have to admit that I have no idea. Anything could happen, at this point.

Will we go back to lockdown?

I hope the idiots in government don’t decide that’s a good idea. Then again, they’re idiots. So who knows?

All we can do, in the end, is work hard on the (few) things we can control, and try to tolerate the rest.

Set some goals and get to work – hopefully, goals that can be accomplished (mostly) indoors. Oh yeah, and take a few nice walks, while you can.

That’s all I’ve got for today.

Have a good autumn, y’all.

Yours,

Mr Chorizo.

P.S. If things get any worse in Spain, I’m going to seriously consider finding a better country to live in. Any recommendations? Some place with a reasonable cost of living, good food, good weather… Hit me up with your suggestions, right here in the comments. Thanks!

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About the Author Daniel

How did I end up in Spain? Why am I still here almost 20 years later? Excellent questions. With no good answer... Anyway, at some point I became a blogger, bestselling author and contributor to Lonely Planet. So there's that. Drop me a line, I'm happy to hear from you.

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      1. I think Argentina has been super strict with the quarantine situation otherwise I’d say yes. So, I hear that the Canary Islands are pretty open right now (as long as the numbers are low). I also have a friend from Barcelona who just moved to Porto, because things are open there as well…and of course there’s always moving back to USA where in Florida, the governor has said he won’t close things down again and has rolled back all capacity restrictions on restaurants and bars.

        I’m in Canada for the foreseeable future. I’m told that I should be grateful for 20 degree (F) weather as it will be -20 soon enough.

  1. What you call a totalitarian response of the government… I don’t quite see it like that. If the majority of the population were sensible, it wouldn’t have been necessary to “give up our freedom”. But just when the lockdown had ended up, the Spanish people massively let their hair down, and… ask the health personnel. I’m continuously surprised to find that so many people are so absolutely oblivious to the danger.
    BTW, excuse my English. I’m learning it on my own, and it isn’t so easy when being in my late sixties. Life didn’t allow me to study it some years ago, I had to study other subjects. But I try to be consistent and make the most of my time. Stay healthy.

    1. María, your command of English is awesome! I do agree with you: what is more important? to have temporary mobility restrictions and save some lives or to behave as a selfish idiot and contribute to spread the virus? Pity that the latest do not get it as soon as they “forget” to have the mask on, drink and smoke without keeping safety distance and so on. I’m happy to “give up my individual freedom” to ensure a collective benefit: health!

    2. I agree with you, Maria. I have friends who work in the healthcare sector in Spain. It’s very sad to see what they are going through while so many party-animals seem to be completely oblivious to the costs of the pandemic. Here in Madrid, I go for walks (alone) and see large groups doing “botellones” in the parks. It’s ridiculous. If people were a little more considerate of what the healthcare workers have been going through, there would be no need for lockdowns. This is not a political issue, but a public health one. Spain is a great place for nightlife and parties, but sometimes you really do just have to stay home for a while and let the circumstances blow over. By the way, you’re English is very good, Maria.

  2. And don’t psych yourself out due to the fact that society will be so “safe” that it’s no longer worth living in. That will never happen in the Mediterranean countries. I’m not trying to ruffle anyone’s feathers here, but a word to the wise is enough.

  3. To be honest, I can understand you’re scared about the idea of having perforce to stay at home if in your apartment there’s no room to swing a cat. But I’m sure there won’t be another lockdown, due to the fact the economy would bankrupt.
    When it comes to how long would last this alarm situation, it depends on people’s carefulness, and if they keep or not running around like a headless chicken, as they did in summer’s hullabaloo.
    Thank you for bearing with me. Greetings from Santander.

  4. I’m wondering of you are getting disillusioned with Spain because of the lock-downs. In this case, I can recommend a great country that seems to be 100% against lock-downs. Come back to the USA, and especially Arizona. You’ll probably get COVID but you are young, so it shouldn’t be a big problem according to our leader. Just don’t get near your grand parents. I wouldn’t want their death to be on your conscience.

    I’ll keep Spain any day!
    Salud
    Martin

  5. Hey, Mr Chorizo!

    I was really glad to hear you saying out loud what many people are probably thinking. I too am considering leaving Barcelona and what bothers me a lot is that anywhere where it is half way good, the measures are getting very restrictive.
    I would, however,recommend to you Bulgaria. I was born there and I am probably biased although that’s not so certain, considering that I’ve been back just once in the last 9 years. Still, the weather is better than here. Varna, their 3rd biggest city is just 1-2 degrees colder than Barcelona, you get sunshine from May to the end of October, amazing autumns and beautiful springs and you get to see a lot of snow (not in Varna though since it is by the Black Sea). Cost of life – amazing flat for 300-400 Euro per month, no mold, lots of windows and they don’t ever advertise the balconies as all flats have ones. No internal rooms. This has never been heard of there. People speak English more or less but like to learn 😉
    On the negative side, salaries are the lowest in Europe. Then again, if you work from your laptop, which I think you do, this shouldn’t be a problem. We too have a dictator in power but he is on his way out and it had never been as bad as here. It is worse but in a less frustrating way if you earn in another economy.
    I don’t know what else I could add. The country has so much history, it would fill a few blogs. Food is not as good but ingredients, if you are lucky to find real Bulgarian produce, are amazing. Tomatoes, strawberries, and cherries taste much, much better than here or in Italy. For real.

    I am considering going back after 20 years abroad. Probably in the spring.

    Ta,
    Maria

  6. Me too, I moved to Dubai in 2004 and I love it here.
    Its been super easy to fly to Chile Or New Zealand & most parts of the world.
    The media negativity about Dubai is appalling.
    If you move to a new country, start fresh like a new relationship 😅
    Stop comparing it to your Ex.(Spain)
    I would want to move to Chile & live in a self sustainable home.

  7. Interestingly Daniel, I received this article from you literally minutes before Spain’s new martial law came in to force potentially until May 2021. I had expected millions to hit the streets and protest. But no! We take gradual steps backwards and the “cuidadanos” bend over. It’s been just over 40 years building a democracy, and yet several months to put many of those freedoms in serious doubt. It’s hard to be positive when surrounded by such madness.

    Our rulers (you cannot call them leaders) are incompetent beyond belief. Vote them out people say. Really? Are the potential replacements any better. NO they are not. And this is Spain’s problem (obviously not unique to this country), in that the political class are under qualified. According to ABC only 36% of “diputados” have ever been in the private sector (the link: https://www.abc.es/espana/abci-solo-36-por-ciento-diputados-trabajado-sector-privado-201804160215_noticia.html). Most originate from political activism or having studied politics since uni. The disconnect with the real man and woman (and child) on the street is enormous.

    Maria (Santander) – I agree. In the Summer people let their hair down, but a lot of that is because our rulers claimed victory over Coronavirus. In Galicia, people seem to be taking precautionary measures quite seriously, and yet numbers of infected still climb. The economy is already decimated though, and it could take two decades or more to repair the damage. Also if face masks didn’t cost twice that of the UK, and 4 or 5 times the prices of buying them in Portugal, then less well off families may be able to protect themselves better.

    Maria (Bulgaria) – The way this country is going it’s very tempting.

    Where to live if you leave Barsa? I am a big fan of Lisboa. Great weather, loads of cycle routes in and around, captivating Sintra close by, chic Cascais too, the rugged Atlantic coast a short ride away, surf, wild beaches, loads of trails, varied nightlife, decadence and 21st century architecture mingling together & excellent food. If you like Barcelona, Lisboa may be a good option in terms of similarities.

    For personal reasons I am stuck here for the time being, but I have the solace of being able to plant fruit and veggies, chop wood and make great bonfires on my in-laws finca well away from the city.

  8. David, I agree with you about the mask’s prices. It should be one of the foremost among the Government actions, to allow everybody to have their masks at a reasonable (cheap or free) price. Besides other measures you know what I’m talking about. Having said that, and concerning Galicia, their local government seems to be taking precautionary measures quite seriously but did people take it really seriously in their daily lives? Very likely them behavior was similar to the rest of the Spanish population. Beaches and pubs choc-a-bloc, multitudinous family celebrations without a mask, touching, hugging and kissing hand over fist, and so on. The government of Asturias also took really seriously the issue; I was sharing a flat with an Asturian mate and she told me, people there were doing exactly the same as here in Santander… and I’d bet sadly everywhere happened so.
    And yes, on top of that our rulers’ triumphalism promoted this kind of national-“typical Mediterranean” stupid behavior. Salud.

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