But Isn’t the Grass Always Greener on the Other Side?

In Going Places, Madrid, The Art of Travel Fall 2014 by Yanina-Stefania Yasevich5 Comments

Ideal traveling partners for one another, my mother and I have excitedly journeyed to various corners of the world together, meditating in Bali amongst rice paddies and watching the sun rise below us from the top of a volcano in Maui. A true romantic in every sense, I consistently verbalized to her a strong desire to live abroad, fantasizing with wanderlust of baguettes in Paris and sloping coastlines in Positano. I am De Botton’s dreamer, imagining a life of “vividness and coherence that it may lack in the distracting woolliness of the present[1]”. Wholly aware of life’s true nature, my mother would kindly respond with the reminder that unlike the popular idiom dictates, the grass is never really greener on the other side.

As I begin to truly live here in Spain, I feel very tangibly the truth behind her gentle heeding, so similar to the words of De Botton. In the comfort of our familiar homes, entrenched in the ups and downs of daily life, we picture the sandy beaches of Barbados as entities separate from our anxieties or worries, a carefree, happy heaven. In reality, however, we bring our same bodies and minds that are at once capable of fear and joy, pleasure and pain with us wherever we go. In physically changing our location, we do not eradicate our worries or trepidations, abandoning all negativity for pure bliss.

Madrid is a beautiful city, a true metropolis airy and diverse in its inhabitants and culture. It is exhilarating to be here, independent of my family and friends and therefore wholly dependent upon myself. I am comfortable, warm and satiated. But I am also scared, worried, and anxious. Classes are beginning, various trips are starting to be planned, and at times I desperately wish my family and friends could experience Spain with me.

Unlike De Botton’s Des Essenties, however, I fully invite this reality. Though I pray that upon seeing the Alhambra in Granada or Sagrada Familia in Barcelona I will be able to momentarily still my mind and give myself over to the beauty, sacredness, and power that these places hold, I understand that my time here will also feature moments of discomfort or pain. The challenge, then, is not to wish for the nonexistence of these moments but rather focus on savoring those that are touching, enriching and exciting. It is within them that we create the most beautiful and long-lasting memories.

This weekend, I plan on traveling to Granada in the south of Spain with a few friends. Our journey will be long, hot and at least slightly uncomfortable. But it is upon our arrival, within the city walls that we will, from within ourselves, gather the strength to look in awe at the beauty and significance of that which surrounds us.


[1] The Art of Travel, Alain De Botton, 15

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  1. Hello Yanina! I think it’s interesting that you mentioned you wished your friends and family were with you in Madrid to experience everything with you! I often find myself longing to share my wild experiences with those I know but sometimes that very longing allows me to realize that I am way more independent than I believe I am! I’m very jealous of you, just starting your crazy European travels!

    1. Author


      Thank you so much for reading the post! I’m glad you felt connected to a piece of it! I completely agree with you about the feeling of independence – living in an apartment thousands of miles away from everyone else, I’m wholly beginning life as an adult! Luckily we’re still young enough for this to only be the beginning with many more decades to travel and experience with our family and friends 🙂

  2. Hi there, Yanina! I’m so glad you wrote this… De Botton’s bit about how one’s bodies and minds are independent from the land we are in struck quite a chord with me, as well. It is so interesting to think that we can be primarily affected by ourselves, before we are affected by our surroundings.
    Similarly, the reactions you may have to things in Madrid are probably similar to the reactions you would have to the same things anywhere else. Classes, for example, can be anxiety-producing, wherever you go! (Haha)
    Travelling is an experience, but it isn’t always necessarily a good one. As De Botton writes (on page 11 of the text), “We are familiar with the notion that the reality of travel is not what we anticipate…It may be truer and more rewarding to suggest that it is primarily different.”
    Nevertheless, it sounds like you have an exciting experience ahead of you. Granada should be beautiful! Take photos– and keep us updated! I would love to read about your travelling experienced in the future!! 🙂

    1. Author


      Thank you so much for your kind words – I’m so glad you enjoyed reading the post 🙂 I definitely agree with what you’re saying. Though many found De Botton’s words to be depressing or pessimistic, I rather viewed them as being quite frank and realistic. Travel is absolutely beautiful and rewarding and exhilarating, but it would be irresponsible to ignore the difficulties present as well.

      Thanks again Lila! Hope to keep in touch!

  3. Hi Yanina-Stefania!

    So if you have not read my introduction, I am relatively new to this course, and I still have some catching up to do (hence why I am late in responding to your post).

    Perhaps the line of your post that resonated in so many ways for me was: “I fully invite this reality.” It was so powerful the way you assert yourself in welcoming both the good and bad. I’ve always believed the lows are necessary in order to experience the highs. Personally, flatlining seems a bit boring, and it wouldn’t quite in with your wonderfully vivid life.

    I too believe that”the challenge, then, is not to wish for the nonexistence of these moments but rather focus on savoring those that are touching, enriching and exciting.” My only concern lies when I try to savor these moments too long and extend them past their natural length. We must always remember the meaning of the word moment: a very brief period of time. It is okay for such brevity to be fleeting, as long as we experience it “in the moment”.

    Anyhow, I very much enjoyed reading your post. You write quite beautifully, and it is clear you are a passionate traveller. I can’t wait to read more of your posts!

    All the best,

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