I am not a Cuttlefish

In The Art of Travel Fall 2015, Madrid, Transformed by Maggie Boreham2 Comments


So this semester has definitely been an interesting one. I’ve realized a lot about myself and most importantly, realized that I’m not as adaptable as I had previously believed. I love travel and always have loved experiencing new cultures and meeting new people…. Until now. I’ve realized that I’m not a cuttlefish.

I know what you’re thinking, “Maggie, clearly you’re not a cuttlefish. You’re a human.” I know… but hear me out. If you have never seen them in action before, cuttlefish are this freaky little sea creature that aren’t even really fish at all. A few fun facts about this weird mollusk: they have an internal shell, 9 arms, 2 tentacles, have a life expectancy of a little over a year, are fairly intelligent (for an invertebrate), ink themselves when they’re threatened, and are called the “chameleons of the sea.” Straight up, these things automatically camouflage themselves to their surroundings. I, do not.

This semester I’ve realized that most of my past travels weren’t as culturally immersive as I had thought and I am not adaptable. I’ve been traveling in a bubble. This semester though, I was thrown into the deep end (apologies for all the aquatic references). I had expected to come to Spain and, like I had in the past, be able to maintain my normal New York City routine. In the past when confronted with a new culture, I had thought that I was still able to fully experience what life would be like long term there while still keeping my 6 am wakeup call, packed day, hippie vegan diet, and anti-tourist agenda… pretty much my lifestyle in New York City.

However, after about a month and a half being in Spain, I realized this wasn’t going to work for me… I was going to have to change. My routine didn’t vibe with the Spanish clocks. It’s hard to wake up at 6 am in a city where they like sleeping so much that for 3 hours everyday a solid chunk of stores closes for “siesta” time (I haven’t had naptime since Kindergarten… so this definitely felt like a bit of a regression to me).

I’m actually really happy that this week’s prompt was about change because only yesterday I delivered a TED talk at NYU Madrid about change and transformation in which myself and another student were asked to share an experience about adapting to unexpected challenges in our lives. I was asked to speak about my veganism and how I’ve coped with being in a country where the staples are ham, cheese, and bread. My answer to this? I haven’t. I’ve had a really hard time settling into Spanish culture and I’ve learned, much to my disappointment, that Madrid is definitely not the city for me. I’m just not laid back enough and much like a child I need constant stimulation otherwise I just get bored and depressed.

However, I’m going to look at this lack of transformation as a positive: if Madrid isn’t the city for me and I’m obviously not happy with everywhere I go, then it just means I’m one step closer to finding the perfect place for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love Madrid, but I’m clearly not meant to live here… To much of a good thing can ruin it you know? I’ll keep traveling and keep breaking out of my bubble to find what makes me uncomfortable and what makes me happy, and unlike a cuttlefish… I don’t think I’ll ever be able to blend in to every single setting I’m in… but I also have a spine, so who really cares?


  1. Hi Maggie,

    I feel the same way you do: that I haven’t really “transformed” after going abroad. I found your comparison, or lack there of, to a cuddlefish hilarious. Your mentioning of how it quickly adapts and camouflages to its surroundings was great when comparing it to your experience with adapting to Spain. I also think your post was very honest, as we all imagine studying abroad to be this amazing experience filled with only positives. But in reality, there are ups and downs, and at times, we may even find ourselves looking back and not really discovering anything new about ourselves.

  2. Hi Maggie, I loved your post. I really could relate to it because I feel like I have been experiencing the same down here in Buenos Aires. It’s a great city and I have loved being here, but I am just not so sure it is the city for me. I’m vegan too so it has also been a struggle here as well seeing as this is the beef capital of the world. But that is a really great note to leave off on: experiences, whether good, bad, or in between, only lead you to know more about yourself and your likes and dislikes.

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