We are back in the United States. By living in another country, we opened a door that can never be closed. We will be forever changed.
This is what I wanted for me and my kids – to recognize that life is different all over the world, and that it is important to understand and accept these differences. However, it has been hard for me to leave Spain behind.
For a while, I was reluctant to say I had returned “home” because it was a reminder that our home in Spain was behind us. Ask anyone who has lived overseas and they will probably tell you that coming back is a little difficult. It is easy to compare everything in the United States to what you experienced elsewhere.
It is true that on returning to the U.S. the streets and houses looked too big, the pace of life seemed overwhelming, and Americans appeared wasteful with our big cars, our plastic bags and our urban sprawl. However, living somewhere for only a year is enough time to love what is different but not really develop a critical eye. I’m sure that over time, cracks would appear in the Spanish veneer.
For example, I know that even though I proclaim to love the Spanish focus on family and friends, I would probably get tired of it. I am still a Westerner, and I love my space. I also love the focus on academics in the U.S. I would have gotten tired of my kids always putting friend time over studying. Living in Spain made me very appreciative of the caliber of schools in Durango, as well as the work ethic of students here. And, I would have eventually tired of the late nights and time sleeping during the day.
I think the solution is to bring back things that resonated with you as a way to keep your experience a part of who you are. I went out and bought a little espresso machine so I can have friends over for good coffee and conversation. I have steered clear of getting food and drinks to go and always sit down to have drinks out of a real cup.
I try to leave my house less and walk and ride my bike whenever possible. I’ve enrolled my kids in fewer after-school activities and don’t focus as much on any competitive exercise or outdoor experiences. And, I will keep in touch with my Spanish friends in the hopes that some day I will return.
I was at the library last week and encountered a couple from England who were visiting the U.S. for the first time. They thought Durango was beautiful. I told them that not only was it beautiful, but that it was a great place to live with kind people and lots to do. They answered with, “Don’t make us more jealous than we already are. We would give anything to live here.” It just shows that everyone who steps outside their own life has a starry-eyed view toward what is unfamiliar.
As I took a walk today under the gorgeous aspen colors, I was reminded that although the experience will always be with me, the different and new can always be found in whatever you do if you only look for it. And Durango is a pretty amazing place to do it from. Going to another country really helps to define more clearly who you are. Escaping the familiar allows you to redefine yourself.
Thank you to everyone who has followed my family’s adventures in Spain for the past year through this column. Thanks also to The Durango Herald for providing a place to share the experience and my insights.
If you would like to continue reading about future travel and culture observations, you can do so through my website at www.sallyshuffield.net. Hasta luego mis amigos.
Sally Shuffield is a Durango resident who lived in Spain for a year with her family.