Best mate and ex-flattie Mandy and I first met in Barcelona on opposite sides of our Spanish classroom, and became firm friends after auditioning together to be “Scandinavian-looking” extras in a Swedish short film shot in the city. A role which, unhappily for my future career as an Abba lookalike, only she was offered. In those days, we were both new arrivals in Spain and would often slot in chats and late lunches at her place between work and classes – very often Spanish tortilla and tea themed meals, due to Mandy’s indecent love of tubular veggies and English Breakfast. (To this day, she is the only person to ever berate me for making a cuppa incorrectly!) Together, we’ve celebrated all the cherry picking highs and commiserated the gravel scraping lows of the past few years, always with a decadent pastry, or bowl of Mandy’s special pink pasta in tow. This serial expat and I are bestest buds – but even better, the kind of best friends for whom the super glue of friendship is made even more insanely sticky by living and traveling together. From Spain to Germany, Morocco to Lativia and Estonia, I was hopping out of my socks with excitement to see Mandy again in Colombia. There, we spent a month with a spontaneous group of travellers, exploring the country from Salento to Santa Marta.
How has being English left its mark on you?
Today I’d be more inclined to say it has at all. When I left the homeland at 18, I did it for the reason not to have it leave its mark on me. I couldn’t stand the mundaneness of daily life, the taste of the food, even the small talk of the people. However I’ve come to realise that we cannot escape our roots, it’s the one thing which is out of our control to change, and it’s important to embrace that. I like the sense of community we value, the routines we have, and those strange stereotypical habits like queuing which we are famous for!
What would your 13-year-old self think about you if they met you?
She’d definitely be proud of me, probably a bit stunned. I come from a village outside of Bath where I was one of the few to go on to study further or live abroad, and that was exactly what me at 13 wanted.
If you could meet your 13-year-old self, what would you say to her?
Chill! Study hard… Take German classes in school… Cheap vodka always ends in tears…
How do you make decisions?
This is interesting as I have to talk about it a lot when teaching business English. I think I usually make the wrong first decision, especially regarding people, however I believe going with your gut is important. We are more capable than we realise of judging situations and human behaviour so we should use our heart and gut more when making decisions, (in the least hippy sounding way possible!)
Do you think you’re on the right path? How do you know?
That’s a question you and I discuss way too often. I guess the concept of “right” is subjective because every decision we take leads up to the next. Of course there are some decisions I wished I’d taken differently, or even just taken full stop, but then I may not be here today. I think that the way you feel on your birthday says a lot about how much on the right path you are. I had a mini freak out about turning 28 until I really thought about why. I’m completely happy with what I have achieved in my life, regardless of whether I could have done “that” differently or gone “there” instead. Let’s just hope I have the right shoes for the path I am on!
How do you feel when you think about your future?
Errrrrr, the future, hmmmm. I’ve always been what I like to call a flexible planner. I like to have a plan but be able to change it. Sometimes I construct so many possibilities in my head that I forget them all and then am satisfied with the outcome anyway! Due to recent events I’m not as intent on constructing my future as I was 5 years ago, as you can’t control it. I still hope to “settle down”, (well, my definition of!) have a family, a decent-paying job which gives me as much holiday as I want. I’m trying to take a week-by-week attitude now, and it’s working.
What fascinates you about England?
Do you know what, the perception other people have of England is intriguing, namely because many alleged “misconceptions” of it are true. I love the politeness of the English, the overuse of the word “sorry”, our obsession with tea, our obsession with the weather, how our small towns have a life to them that I haven’t seen in similarly sized towns elsewhere in Europe, the concept of tourism stretching from an 80 year old museum of the village post-office which has always been owned by the same couple who are still there today to the flash 18 star spa resort with rooftop pool and £8 cup of tea!
I think everything fascinates me about humanity, and this is why I love to travel. People can lead such different lives, yet retain the same values at heart; being a loving wife/husband, getting better grades at school, perfecting that song you are learning on the violin. Visiting places from Chile to Estonia has allowed me an insight into the hearts of such a wide variety of people. The kindness you are shown while on the road and out of your country is astounding. What more can I say?
I guess I’d have to say I don’t really understand how I manage to see the good in people and situations, even when they appear completely bleak. I was told this by a friend the other day and I have to say I agree.
What scares you about England?
One thing I noticed last time I was home is how reliant on stereotypes English people can be, which can lead many to be unintentionally xenophobic. I was shocked with some things which a couple of people came out with about foreigners, immigrants and even the homeless. I don’t believe that ignorance can be an excuse for racist behaviour, and England is such a mish-mash of cultures blended together that people actually have no leg to stand on when it comes to idle chatter which they deem harmless because its “just” pub talk.
I guess I’d have to continue with how small minded people can be. It surprises me that everyone is essentially looking for the same thing, companionship, yet will go out of their way to destroy another. People can be cruel, and its incredible how it is often gravest when they do not mean to be. In fact, I’d prefer not to dwell on it too much.
I think you know this better than me! I also think had you asked me the same question two years ago my answers would have been extremely different. I guess the overwhelming insecurities that every girl has which I claim not to have but actually come creeping up on me. The challenges I have faced since last year were often suppressed by said complexes, which I suppose was a coping mechanism. However the process of procrastination I put myself through while trying to avoid dealing with more serious problems is in fact a problem in itself. But once this issue has been dealt with, another will pop up. I guess I hold on to problems in the same way I move to new countries.