Things are moving very fast right now! I have less than a week left in Spain (my visa is running out and I don’t want to run into any problems when I return later this year) and I am launching my startup in a few weeks.
This week I thought it might be fun to post a series of short stories that normally wouldn’t warrant a blog post of their own. This is actually quite fitting as it reflects the speed of my current lifestyle quite well.
The European Financial Crisis (and Me)
A few people have asked me about what it is like to live in Spain while the world is watching the European Financial Crisis unfold. My answer may disappoint you.
Here is the vastly oversimplified version of what is going on:
Currently the European Union is in turmoil as the member countries try to figure out what to do about the ongoing financial crisis. Multiple member countries (most notably Greece) are on the verge of bankruptcy and the other countries who share their currency (the Euro) are extremely concerned that this will cause a doomsday like domino effect. The stronger countries (most notably Germany) are working on bail out packages (worth billions of dollars) while others are arguing that helping less financially stable countries will only prolong the inevitable.
Many think that after Greece, Spain will be the next country to go bankrupt. (There are sound arguments in both directions on whether or not this is fact.) Either way, the Spanish people are looking intently to see what happens to Greece.
So what has it been like for me?
My life in Spain has been largely unaffected by this. People certainly talk about the crisis a lot but as far as I have seen, prices for everything day things have not been affected. The general mood is down relative to what it normally is but at the same time, the culture here is so much more relaxed than what I am used to (the United States) that it still seems calm to me. There have been multiple protests but this has not been uncommon in my traveling experiences. The only explosions I have witnessed have been after a goal is scored in futbol or in celebration of one of the many holidays in Spain.
Times here are certainly interesting but for better or for worse, it has not affected my day-to-day.
Starting a Startup from the Other Side of the World
I am going to be frank. Starting a company while traveling full time and working remotely is way more awesome than doing it while sharing a small desk/apartment. And not for the reasons you might be thinking.
My co-founder is located in Seattle (when he himself is not traveling) and we are (usually) separated by at least nine time zones. This turns out to be perfect! Since we both work on our own time zone, the company moves forward 24/7. I get up hours before him and plow out the majority of my work before he wakes up. As such, I can work uninterrupted for as long as I want. Once it is late my time, he wakes up and does the exact same thing. We chat via Google Voice for an hour almost every day (9 PM my time and noon his time) and between that and e-mail, communication has been going great.
Paradoxically I am able to get more work done while traveling than when I am home. Remember those long layovers you have had? I call those development time. You know that feeling of being in a city block where you the only native english speaker? That is the atmosphere focus is made out of.
Every day I wake up late, do focused work, take a siesta, do a bit more work and then go out with friends. It is the closest to the perfect lifestyle that I have ever experienced.
Sneak Peak of Making it Click. Shh!
Always Looking Up
Thus far in my bucket list journey, I have visited over 200 hundred cities (as counted by the GPS card that is in my camera). Of those, Barcelona stands out as my absolute favorite.
This city is incredible!
It is clean, modern, English speaking, safe (besides pick-pocketers) and gorgeous. The weather is as close to perfect as I have ever seen and it has world-class beaches to show it off. The people are relaxed, in-shape and the women are incredibly attractive.
Living here is both easy and enjoyable. Every day, I see something that impresses me about the city and most nights I go to sleep with a smile on my face.
It is a a bit expensive but certainly manageable (unlike a few other countries in Europe. Cough Switzerland, Cough Luxembourg).
Below are a few photos to prove my point:
My friend Phil said it best. “You know you are living in the right place when you always find yourself looking up.” In this case he was describing both the attitude and the architecture. Although the city is on an (imperfect) grid, no two streets are alike. Most city blocks are uniquely owned and thus uniquely fashioned. It is the perfect city for a walking fan like me.
I Went To Spain To Learn Spanish But Instead Learned Ruby
A few people have asked me what it has been like to live in Spain without speaking fluent Spanish.
The language barrier in Barcelona has been annoying but not fatal. I really only have ‘survival Spanish’ and don’t know a word of Catalan. I am yet to have a single instance where language has prevented me from being able to do something I needed to do (buy groceries, find a place to work, arrange for an place to stay) but it slows me down constantly.
In South America when I would get confused and flustered while trying to speak Spanish, the other person would generally try to work with me and body language to understand what I was trying to say.
Unfortunately Barcelona is not in South America. It is in Spain and in Spain if you struggle to say something in Spanish, most people (at least in major cities) switch to English. In theory this is helpful but in actuality it has been frustrating as it has made it much harder to improve my Spanish.
That said, the real thing that has kept me from learning Spanish, has been my failure to sign up for Spanish classes. Simply put, I just didn’t make it a priority on this leg of my journey. Instead, I focused on learning a different language, Ruby.
Ruby is a computer language and is most commonly associated with a framework that is written in it called Ruby on Rails. I don’t have enough brainpower to learn two languages at the same time and for some reason I got hooked on Ruby rather than Espanol. Whether or not this is a good thing is above me but one thing is clear.
The return on investment of learning Ruby is incredibly higher than learning Spanish. See if I even made a graph. Now it is science!
My final thoughts on the matter: Learning Spanish during my time in Spain would have been much better for my sex life :-) but learning Ruby was undeniably better for helping me pay the bills going forward.
Let me know in the comments if you would like to see more or less posts in this short story format. I kinda liked it!