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Madrid: It’s Not You, It’s Me (But Maybe It’s You)

Personally I liked Madrid, but it’s always interesting to see a totally different opinion:

I’m not one to get home sick. In fact, I can’t even remember a time when I missed home whilst abroad. And now, I had the opportunity to spend a month in Madrid writing about the fascinating culture, the vibrant way of life, and enjoying deliciously tasty tapas. I was so excited. My research beforehand revealed a cosmopolitan city jam-packed full of art, history, and adventure – my ideal destination. So why did I spend my whole time there counting down the days until I could leave? The turn of events that follow may not seem like overwhelming situations but, when they all united, proved to be just that little too much for me.

Where am I?

Usually, I’m the one with the map in my hands. I like to know where I am and where I’m going so I can plot the best route from A to B. Honestly, I don’t trust anyone else to do this. I like to be in control. After a while, I can usually navigate my way around my destination without the use of a map; simply by using pure intuition and by ‘following my nose’.

For some reason though, this didn’t happen in Madrid. For some reason, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get my bearings. Day after day I would find myself wandering around in circles always ending up back at the same place. After several efforts of trial and error, all without a successful outcome, I started to get frustrated. In fact, it was only in the last week that I truly felt confident with my surroundings in Madrid. By this point it was too late, and I was already wishing myself out of the city.

Same Old, Same Old…

My days in Madrid were pretty regimented. The mornings were spent in Spanish lessons and layout meetings which meant that my ‘free time’ didn’t really get going until late afternoon. If you’ve been to Spain you’ll know that this is siesta time; ergo, many places aren’t open. The days seemed to fly by in a timetabled haze of routine. Call me naïve but this is something I expected back at home, not in one of the most sought-after destinations in Europe. I found that the reason I had left England (to relieve myself of the daily grind) had in fact followed me to Spain and proved to be as relentless there as it was in my full time job.

Is anybody out there?

Despite Madrid’s size and friendliness, I often found myself feeling utterly alone. I was sharing an apartment with five other people, but I regularly sat in my room refreshing Facebook in the hope of gleaning any information about home. Perhaps it was my lack of the Spanish language or the sheer vivacity and city-that-never-sleeps vibe that had me feeling like a small fish in a big pond. Not that this is a bad thing – I have this same feeling at home and quite like it. But for some reason the effect seemed to be magnified in Madrid to an extent that made me question why I was even there.

Stolen Phone and Near Death Experience (sort of…)

When I’m away, I try to keep as little contact with home as possible. Not because I don’t want to, but because I can immerse myself more in the place I am visiting without having to take myself out of the moment. However, it’s nice to know that I can contact home whenever I want to. This luxury was taken away from me when my phone was stolen as I watched Spain win the Euro 2012 cup with twenty-thousand other people. It was my fault – waving my phone around taking photos was just asking for it. But still, the fact that I had lost my communication port with home was a kick in the stomach.

And I almost died… Well, sort of. My time in Madrid coincided with the riots there this summer. I had no idea of the full extent of them until I emerged from a flamenco performance one evening into a street full of flames. Protestors wearing masks ran amok, setting fire to bins, cars, and anything else in their path of destruction. Heading down a side street, I was almost trampled down by a mob running away from the sounds of gunfire. It’s safe to say I couldn’t wait to get home after this. I’m all for a bit of excitement, but the reality of the situation was completely different and people often act out of character when they are in a large, unruly group.

So, there was no one important event that had me wishing my time away in Madrid. Instead, it was an amalgamation of things that kept piling on top of each other. I look back on my time there now with fondness and I’d like to go back soon to see if I still feel the same. At the time, however, my month in Madrid was tarnished with a mighty dose of homesickness and the overriding desire to leave. I guess there’s a first time for everything!

Lizzie is a full time marketing assistant and part-time travel blogger promoting the ways to get the most out of grab-it-when-you-can travel. She spends her time creatively thinking of ways to plan trips around her job and advocating the idea that you don’t have to be ‘homeless’ to enjoy the perks of frequent travel. Find out more about Lizzie at www.wanderful-world.com

25 Responses to Madrid: It’s Not You, It’s Me (But Maybe It’s You)

  1. Sal October 11, 2012 at 9:59 AM #

    Great last picture….ha!

    (pssh, her link doesn’t work).

  2. Lizzie October 11, 2012 at 10:13 AM #

    Thanks for the opportunity to guest post on your blog Steph 🙂 I’m hoping to get back to Madrid soon to see if I have a different experience! I wanted to like it so much.. But I guess you can’t force it!

  3. Julie - the fairy trails October 11, 2012 at 3:14 PM #

    I can totally relate to the first item – not getting your bearings. It’s one thing to feel delightfully lost in a new area of town, but another to feel completely disoriented all the time. It’s frustrating and can put a damper on everything!

    • Lizzie October 12, 2012 at 3:02 AM #

      Yes.. I love getting delightfully lost in new places and finding things I wouldn’t have found otherwise, but this was just frustrating when it took me so long to get from one place to the next!

  4. efrutik October 11, 2012 at 4:49 PM #

    I like the honesty here. Not every place will feel like the right place to be when traveling. I also have the feelings of “homesickness and the overriding desire to leave” Potsdam (close to Berlin) where I am now. Perhaps for me the cure would be to move into Berlin itself for a few months. Might give it a shot. Great post.

    • Lizzie October 12, 2012 at 3:04 AM #

      So many people before hand told me I would love it there, so I guess my expectations were a bit high! I found that taking day trips and getting out of the city helped 🙂

  5. Kelly October 11, 2012 at 5:55 PM #

    I’ve never liked Madrid much. It’s quite beautiful but I find the only times I ever get ripped off, have bad meals, terrible weather, meet awful people.. is in Madrid. I don’t know if it’s Madrid’s fault, but I’m blaming it anyway!

    • Lizzie October 12, 2012 at 3:06 AM #

      I’m glad I’m not the only one! I was a bit wary about this post as I thought there would be lots of Madrid-lovers coming after me! It is a lovely city but it just didn’t feel quite ‘right’ for me 🙁

  6. Kristine October 11, 2012 at 11:32 PM #

    I was in Spain when they won the Eurocup, too!! It was so fun.

    I went to Madrid in summer 2011, and it was one of the places I wanted to re-visit since I had loved it so much. I went back and to be honest…I didn’t love it as much the second time around. I think a big factor was the heat, which would beat us back into submission every time we left our hostel. I want to go back in the spring or fall though.

    Musas Residence and Way Hostel are awesome hostels there, btw.

    • Lizzie October 12, 2012 at 3:08 AM #

      It was fun! Definitely one of my highlights of being there – it was such a great atmosphere! Yes, I was there in summer and it was very hot, but I don’t think that was a big factor for me (maybe it was subconsciously though!) I would like to go back in winter as I’ve heard that it’s completely different to summer 🙂

  7. Michelle October 12, 2012 at 8:54 AM #

    It’s such a relief to see I’m not the only one who didn’t feel comfortable in Madrid. The city is beautiful, the people are friendly and the food is good so I don’t know what it was, but it just didn’t quite… fit. I thought it was just me, when I moved on to Seville the feeling was completely gone.

    Great post! I like the honesty 🙂

    • Lizzie October 12, 2012 at 9:56 AM #

      I found that too! – beautiful city, friendly people, good food… so why wasn’t I enjoying it? I thought it must have just been me, but after seeing all these comments about people who were in a similar situation, I’m not so sure!

  8. Brandy October 12, 2012 at 10:57 AM #

    I studied abroad in Madrid, and loved the city. It ended up feeling like a second home to me, and I think the city has a great energy. I do think it’s really easy to get lost, though, if you wander off the main streets! But, I enjoyed the honesty in this post. Not every destination is going to be everyone’s favorite, and Madrid seems to be one of those places that a lot of people don’t enjoy. Hopefully you’ll get to go back to Spain sometime and check out some of the other cities! Lots of people seem to love Barcelona and hate Madrid, or love smaller cities like Sevilla or San Sebastian.

    • Lizzie October 14, 2012 at 4:52 AM #

      Yes, I found I really liked Barcelona – but I was only there for 5 days so maybe the time frame affected how I felt. I would love to go back to Madrid to see if I still feel the same 🙂

    • Loz in Transit (moment) October 21, 2012 at 10:45 PM #

      The main gripe with Madrid I feel is that its landlocked. The festivity of Spain is due to its warm climate and without some water to swim in its kind of a bummer. That said every place has its charms and it usually creates novelties to offset what it lacks. Barcelona is pretty great though.

  9. Si October 13, 2012 at 12:50 AM #

    Madrid is my least favourite place in all of Europe – bu that’s probably because I was robbed in Valencia on my way to Madrid and I was literally stuck there, waiting for a new passport to arrive from New Zealand. It’s a shame when these things happen (like with your phone) because you can’t help but sour on a place.

    • Lizzie October 14, 2012 at 4:53 AM #

      Sorry to hear you got robbed! It’s always horrible. It does affect how you feel about a place I think.. I tried not to let it ruin my time there but I guess it did a little bit subconsciously!

  10. amelie88 October 13, 2012 at 11:40 PM #

    I lived in Madrid for two years and it is where my Spanish drastically improved. I got to know the city really well and it felt like a second home. I was sad to leave but the economic crisis made me realize I could not bum around Spain unemployed and I did not want to continue teaching English (which is the only job there seems to be in Spain for native English speakers). I had my ups and downs in Spain and I also got my bag stolen but I survived!

    Madrid may not be for everybody but since I lived there long term, I got to know the city way better than any tourist passing through (even if you were there for a month, I wouldn’t say that’s enough time to get comfortable with any city really). I still miss it. 🙂

    • Lizzie October 14, 2012 at 4:57 AM #

      It sounds like you had a great time there 🙂 I know a month isn’t the same as living there for 2 years but I like to think I got to know it a little better than a tourist passing though… I guess everyone feels differently about places and since you lived there for a while it became ‘home’ for you which means that you will probably always have a soft spot for it 🙂

  11. Loz in Transit (moment) October 21, 2012 at 10:15 PM #

    Its always a confluence of things isn’t it? Seems like a lot of theft stories which doesn’t help the mood but from my own experience its the energy I bring to a place that has shaped my impression of it. Of course events and people can shape your mood but in many ways you can overcome/overpower them if you’re on a winning streak. Unfortunately being on losing streak can also keep you in a funk.

    Wee see things through a prism. The good part about travel is that we can move on and (ideally) reset our mood. Treat the moment for what it was and if all else fails treat it like an interesting episode. I think “meh” is the worst compliment I could give a place. I made some stories in Madrid.

    • Lizzie October 23, 2012 at 12:35 PM #

      I really like the idea of being able to shape our own impressions of places and I definitely agree with this to a certain extent. I think what may have happened in Madrid is my mood “faltered” a bit after the theft etc and I just couldn’t get it back up again. That’s one theory anyway 🙂

  12. Jeff @ GoTravelzing October 25, 2012 at 10:35 PM #

    The first time I went to Madrid I did not like it at all. It really had nothing to do with the city but with the difficulties I had getting there. I have been back two more times and like it now. It is a city that takes time to appreciate. On the other hand I loved Barcelona from the minute I got there.

    • Lizzie October 30, 2012 at 5:25 AM #

      Maybe I need to go back soon to see if my view has changed 🙂 I also loved Barcelona as soon as I got there… strange how that happens.

  13. Sima October 12, 2014 at 5:15 PM #

    I love Madrid! I think it’s a city you have to really try to get to know. A lot of people find it underwhelming especially when they don’t figure out that meetups and facebook groups are amazing ways to find events and friends. Madrid needs to be explored thoroughly before being appreciated. So many people I know study abroad here and come back.

  14. She August 29, 2016 at 6:39 PM #

    I’m from Madrid and hate it badly, it’s so stressful and aggressive, doesn’t have open spaces, relaxing atmosphere anywhere, only stress, but Barcelona is cheap, tacky, ugly and disgustIng. That type of cheap tourists use to like it.

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