Madrid in Review

Good

I’ve improved my Spanish

Before I came to Madrid, I struggled with conversations, because I couldn’t understand people when they talked. I was attempting to translate in my head, and was only about to translate about one word before the other speaker was two sentences further along. Now I can understand a lot more. I don’t understand every word, and I need to concentrate, but I’m getting there. I’m not conversational by any stretch, but my understanding has massively improved.  I put this down to language exchanges, which allowed me to talk to real Spanish speakers and pushed my abilities. This is something I am going to try to continue with in Rio and in South America. I do find that not understanding a single word can prevent me from understanding an entire sentence, so I need to work on my vocabulary a little more too.

Improved my dental health

I never used to floss my teeth. I’d always been told that I should, but it always seemed like a hassle using regular floss. Then I discovered dental floss sticks and it suddenly became much easier. I believe I have successfully integrated then into my nightly routine. It adds a few minutes, but given the smell left on the floss, removing that rotting food and plague is well worth the time for reducing the chances of bad breathe and causing cavities. I’ve also noticed that I no longer have blood in my toothpaste from bleeding gums after I’ve brushed my teeth which shows the health of my gums had markedly improved.

Proved the concept of location independence works

One of the main reasons for moving to Madrid first was to test whether I could be as effective in Madrid as I was in Brighton, while still being close enough to jump on a plane in an emergency. There was a slight delay in getting internet set up, but the VoIP phone system worked and none of my clients were any wiser the fact that I was not in Brighton. My two weeks in the Maldives may put this to the test, but I think it’s sustainable.

Saved money

I was spending £1000 a month on rent and bills in Brighton. My rent in Madrid was closer to £425. I need to spend some time calculating my spending in Madrid, but even with buying numerous plane tickets, I’m in a better financial position than I was. The Maldives will probably be expensive and I know the cost of living in Brazil is surprisingly high, but I hope that this trend will continue. It does show that the United Kingdom, and Brighton in particular, is an expensive place to live.

The bad

Getting out of shape

When I moved to Spain I replaced measuring my weight with measuring my waist, which is a better approach, especially if you are weight lifting. Unfortunately, in the last month I have increased the measurement around my waist, and my clothes are feeling tighter. I’ve only added about an inch, but it’s still disappointing. I put this down to a couple of things. Firstly I have not been exercising. Before I left Brighton I’d started weight lifting, but I have not been able to continue this in Madrid. I will have to make a concerted effort to fix this in Brazil. Fortunately my girlfriend has been going to the gym there, so we will be able to go together.

Secondly I have been socialising. I’ve been spending most weekends with some English friends who are not avoiding carbs, which means that when we go to restaurants or they visit, I fail to eat according to my diet plan. This requires much more will-power and not giving in.

I also think I’ve been failing to stick to one particular plan. I normally aim for a ketogenic diet, but I’ve been reading Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Body, and attempted to integrate some of his Slow Carb diet into my daily diet. Unfortunately, I think this meant I wasn’t really following either.  I need to pick one and stick to it.

Finally, I think I’ve been drinking far more alcohol than I would in England. Normally I’d order a soda and lime, but I don’t know an equivalent low-sugar drink that is typical in Spain. Going to language exchanges has only increased the number of opportunities to drink.

Procrastination

I possibly procrastinated more in Madrid than I did in Brighton, and this is my current major flaw, which I need to resolve if I want to continue making travelling a viable option. Part of this is down to not sleeping properly, despite attempting to fix this early into my stay here. The main problem here is lack of self-discipline and structure to my day. I think it would be a better idea if I worked on making getting out of bed soon after waking and showering first thing in the morning a habit. I also need to stop having distractions. Imgur and Reddit are a major time sink for me. I should investigate blocking these sites during the day and increasing my usage of tools like Focus@Will to get more things done. Planning my tasks may also help. I’ll be writing some more about these measures in a forthcoming article.

As much as I don’t think it is good to rely on other people to fix my problems, I hope that being around other people working, when I’m in Brazil, will help instil some of these habits in me. It’s harder to waste time looking at cute pictures of cats when the person next to you is writing away.

I didn’t improve my Spanish as much as I’d hoped

I knew that I need to spend more time conversing with native speakers if I wanted to improve my Spanish. Sadly I didn’t do this as much as I should. I spent far too much time talking with English speakers. I had also planned to visit far more language exchange than I did. I suspect that going to one every day the week was unrealistic, but I should have started sooner. Benny Lewis advocates a zero English approach and I failed spectacularly far from this goal. I will have to improve this in Brazil and in any south American countries we end up in. It’s going to be frustrating, but my experience of the improvement language exchanges have made to my Spanish shows that I need to get out of my comfort zone and make the effort and to deal with that frustration if I’m to progress in a decent time frame.

I didn’t explore further afield as I should have

I didn’t really get much change to venture out side of Madrid at all. I had planned to visit Segovia a few weekends ago, as they have a beautiful castle and a Roman viaduct, but a few friends weren’t able to make it, so we postponed our trip until after the new year, but I don’t be here now, so I won’t make that. The only real time I visited any tourist sites was when my friend from England came to visit and we went to see art galleries. I need to make an effort in future to spend more time sightseeing. I am trying to avoid experiencing cities as a tourist and to get a better feel for living in a city, but I shouldn’t avoid things that countries have to offer. The Tapapies festival is the kind of events I should be looking out for more. I think I need to work on working harder, so that I have more free time to experience these events and locations, rather than spending my day procrastinating.

I will be in Brazil during Carnival, so it will be pretty hard to ignore that. I’ve also realised that I need to take more pictures, especially of myself, as I don’t have many of my time in Madrid.

So that’s my review of my two and a half months in the Spanish capital. Some good, some bad, but the bad points are just places I need to look to improve in the future. Do you have any suggestions on how to improve the places I’m lacking? What are your good and bad points of your last few months or for this year? What do you want to improve next year?

Image Credits: Vicky Stevenson

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2 thoughts on “Madrid in Review

  1. Oooh, you wanted to go to Segovia? You should’ve let me know! My dad’s from there, so I’ve been visiting since I was little. I could’ve taken you to all the must-see places. The viaduct really is great. 🙂

    I’d recommend that you listen to music in Spanish. While music is no substitute for the cadence of a language, it does provide you with a pronunciation guide and it often has vocab you won’t find in a textbook. When I was in the seventh grade, I used “ain’t” in an essay for school and the teacher gave me bad marks because, according to her, “ain’t” is not a real English word. 😛

    1. Yeah, the au pairs suggested it, but I wasn’t proactive in finding things to do.

      In fairness, ain’t isn’t a word I’d use in written English. It’s far more of an informal spoken word.

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