Thoughts in Transit: Manila to Madrid

What started as a What If is coming to fruition today. I am on the second leg of my 26-hour trip from Manila to Madrid, and in about 9 hours, I officially begin my 9-month adventure in Europe.

Saying goodbye to my parents felt all too familiar. My dad held my hand from the passenger seat, and I felt his worries and longing from where I sat. My mom rushed down EDSA, trying to get me from Quezon City to Pasay in less than thirty minutes. I munched on the monggo bread she had packed, and sipped on the thermos she never left home without.

Ninoy Aquino International Airport

On the other side of this flight, there would be no one waiting for me. There would be no furnished house, no fancy car, and no fiancé taking me from my parents’ care and into his. From here on out, it will be just me and two friends who are going through the same thing I am. Just a band of kids in their mid-twenties, trying to find a new adventure halfway across the world, in a country that spoke a language we can’t even follow, streets we have never walked, and government forms we struggle to fill out.

Of course, this is all happening roughly a week after I turned 24, and a year after I’d come home from my failed engagement in Tokyo. I have a knack for storytelling after all, and what better way to start a journey than by coming full circle?

From a wide-eyed, sheltered 22-year old in Japan, to a reckless but hustling 24-year old in Spain, I can’t help but hold this moment with pride and look back at the past year with amazement. The events that have led me here were not all good, but they were necessary to my character development. Would I change a thing? Go back in time? Alleviate the pain? Never. It’s only onwards and upwards for this little brown girl.

The next few days might be a little crazy for us. There’s an orientation at 9 in the morning tomorrow, one that we’ll roll in drunk with caffeine I’m sure. We only have ten days in our Airbnb before we need to secure an apartment for ourselves, and during this intense apartment-hunting season no less. We also need to apply for our TIE, which might prove to be difficult seeing as we can’t speak good Spanish. Or basic Spanish for that matter. Mi español es muy malo. That’s the only sentence I can confidently say.

Madrid, Spain

But I’m also looking forward to all the good things planned. The hikes that we’ll inevitably join because… how can we not? The train rides to school that will have me listening to podcasts or reading books, observing surroundings and watching people. The new space that will be my home for the next 9 months — a space that is mine to decorate and organize and fix up. All the new faces, and all the new names. The new language that I’ll be forced to use and learn and truly embrace. All the new life lessons this adventure will bring me, and the life I’ll craft for myself afterwards because of them.

Most of all, I’m excited for all the words I’ll string together, the vlogs I’ll film, the photos I’ll take, and the memories we’ll make.

As I charge headfirst into this strange but welcome change, I whisper to myself the words of Alba, a headstrong woman in 1950s Madrid from my favorite Spanish TV show Las Chicas del Cable. 

“Cabeza alta, orgullo, y amor propio,” Alba had reminded her friend.

Head high, pride, and self-esteem.

Europe, SpainAyn Bernosspain, europe