In every traveler’s life, there comes a time where you you need to think about moving back home after living abroad. For me, that time has arrived. That’s not to say that is a permanent state. For me, it’s only going to last two months — but for others, that journey home lasts a lifetime. Still, there is a lot to love about living in the southern European countries. It’s not exactly like going on your first cruise, but the lifestyle is very relaxing. There’s also a lot to do and you can pretty much live your life however you want to, even if that means growing a travel beard.
But there’s also a lot that is frustrating. This is especially true when it comes to efficiency. If that’s something you care about, then moving abroad on a budget might not be for you. You can’t expect to go to one of the southern European countries and have anything be on time or work properly. That’s just not how it works.
As a New Yorker, I initially found this maddening. It made me feel like I was traveling to the third world. The MTA might never work properly, but at least New Yorkers get mad about it. And at first it felt like that. But then I recognized that in the Southern European countries, inefficiency is everything. But you always have to remember that you aren’t paying for efficiency. The bus may take go ten hours in the wrong direction to get to a destination that is only six hours away (just ask my brother), but nobody wants to pay for it to work any better than it does.
This is particularly true of the four most infamous Southern European countries: Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain. Of course, I’ve been to all of these countries in the last six months (look, now I’m bragging about travel), and have found the same thing to be true of all of them. All of them once had great empires. And now all are now content to rest on their laurels. Not that this requires an eagle-eyed individual to point out. But it does point to a big difference between ‘America first’ exceptionalism and the ‘live and let live’ attitude in the Southern European countries.
At the end of the day, I won’t miss siestas, although those may soon be on the wane. Interruptions in the middle of the day are frustrating when you’re on a messed up sleep schedule like me. But what I will miss about the southern European countries is the freeing lifestyle. People here live way more varied lifestyles than back in America. While part of this is because there is less wealth to go around, it’s also because the cultural values of the southern European countries are fundamentally different than our own. And while I won’t always miss some of the day-to-day consequences of that, I will miss a lot of the cultural implications. I’ll miss the fact that we climbed a mountain near our apartment and found people literally living in caves. And more importantly, I’ll miss everything that comes with lifestyle choices like that.