A lesson on being where your feet are…
My father is the type of person that used an Atlas map as his primary means for navigation over a GPS until about a year ago. He’s the type of person that keeps that same Atlas map in the backseat of his car in the off chance that the GPS tries to drive us into the Atlantic Ocean. I remember as a child whenever we drove to a new place I would sit in the back with an Atlas map that was bigger than me, shouting out what I thought was the most direct route to our intended destination. I always thought my father to be somewhat old-fashioned. When I first arrived to Spain I laughed at his confusion as he held his iPad up to his nose and rivaled in the fact that we were talking “face-to-face” (or in my case, nose-to-face), while I was on a different continent. However, as the time has passed in Spain, I have begun to realize that perhaps my father is less old-fashioned, and wiser than I realized. Before I left for Spain, I was self-admittedly addicted to technology. I had all the gadgets: iphone, MacBook, iPod; and all the social media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Pintrest, Gmail. You name it and I probably had it. Being in a foreign country, unless you are willing to spend thousands a month on phone-bills (which I’m not), you have to break this technological addiction, and put down your phone.
I have been pleasantly surprised with how little I have missed mobile technology. Of course there has been a few times where having Google maps would have been immensely helpful. But instead of relying on my phone, I have been forced to have conversations with Spanish people to ask for directions. Sure, there have been a few mishaps; for example: asking where “Tierra” was in Spanish, and later realizing that Tierra is not only a burrito restaurant in Madrid, but also means “earth” in Spanish (which explains why some people pointed to the ground). Despite a little confusion, not having my phone has encouraged me to interact with the world and people around me. When I want to go to a new place, my map of Madrid and Metro map are my best friends. It brings me back to the long car rides with my Dad, trying to find the most direct route and making an adventure of the trip instead of the destination. Being abroad has truly helped me to learn how to “be where my feet are”. By this, I mean I feel like while I am out and about here, I am disconnected from the distractions of technology, and focused on the present and what I am experiencing at the moment. I feel like I can stand in Parque del Retiro in Madrid, and feel content where I am, and enjoy the company I stand with.
Of course I am not completely disconnected, as Internet allows me to keep in contact with my loved ones at home. While I’m in my homestay I have the beautiful ability to Skype my little brother, message my best friends, and share photos with loved ones thousands of miles away. I can already confirm that going abroad has been one of the best decisions I have made to-date. I have learned so much about myself, and one of the most important lessons is in being where my feet are. While I am walking on the beaches of Santander, I am not “liking” a status, or tweeting; I am walking on the beaches of Santander. When I am in the Prado learning about El Greco, I am relishing in the fact that I am standing in front of one of the greatest artist’s works, not re-pinning a post. I am where my feet are today.
Kirsten King is studying abroad with API in Madrid, Spain and is a regular contributor to our Tumblr blog.
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