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”. 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.
 The Art of Travel, Alain De Botton, 15