Haz el bien, y no mires a quién. -Spanish Proverb

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aerial views

I’ve flown in and out of Bilbao more than a dozen times, but today the view from the plane window was unlike any I’ve seen before. As we took off at 6:45 this morning, the city was still lit up like night, but the sun was just starting to peek over the horizon, dimly lighting the coastline and mountains.

After all this time I’m able to easily identify each part of the city from the plane window based on the bends in the River Nervión. Now on the brink of sunrise, the bends can be seen as outlined by the evenly spaced lamps along the promenade, and I think of the hundreds of miles I’ve run there.

running around river bends in central Bilbao

running around river bends in central Bilbao

I see the blinking lights from the Iberdrola Tower, Bilbao’s lone skyscraper, and I think of the way it’s shiny exterior seems to reflect the sky in a different way every time I see it.

I identify the surrounding beach towns (Algorta, Sopelana, Gorliz…) based on their various unique curvatures of the coastline, and I think of the surf lessons, never-ending beach days with friends and the countless times I’ve sat and watched the sun sink into the water from one of the many perfect perches along the coast.

a fall sunset in Sopelana

an autumn sunset in Sopelana

I see the lights from the Puente Colgante transporter bridge, and I think of my days as a student here when I lived just down the street from the historical bridge, back when even just Getxo felt like a big place to me. I think of how fortunate I was this year to have had the chance to return to this neighborhood for my work.

Puente Colgante

Puente Colgante

I see the mountains that tuck Bilbao into its seaside nest, and I think of the many hiking excursions and the excitement I feel after hiking up a mountain to get a new perspective on the surrounding landscape.

taking a breather after climbing Vizcaya's steepest peak: Monte Anboto

taking a breather after climbing Vizcaya’s steepest peak: Monte Anboto

No matter how much I fly, it never ceases to amaze me how small the whole thing looks from the plane. This tiny-looking little world that once felt so big to me has become the perfect-sized place I’ve been so fortunate to call home for the better part of the last three years.

I didn’t board the plane feeling ready to leave this place today. But I don’t know if I could ever feel that way. A place that becomes so deeply a part of you is a place you will never be able to say goodbye to forever. So although I don’t know when or in what context, I’ll be back, Bilbao.

Hasta la vista.


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Long time, no post! Sorry about that. I hope you’re all enjoying summer and staying relatively cool wherever you are. Europe seems to be completely en fuego lately; I don’t think I’ve stopped sweating since July 1. It has been a fun, busy, very memorable summer thus far. I’ve had a couple awesome visits from friends from back home, attended my second Bilbao BBK Live music festival, enjoyed several beach days and thoroughly enjoyed the company of my “abroad family”: the many amazing friends I have met these past few years.

jammin' to Depeche Mode at BBK Live

jammin’ to Depeche Mode at BBK Live

And the goodbyes have begun. I’ve said goodbye to all but a couple of my private English lesson clients as most of them have headed out on their summer holidays. These people were more than students to me…many of them opened their homes to me, gave me gifts on holidays and invited me to dinners. Many of these people certainly became a part of my aforementioned “abroad family.”

Today I said goodbye to my lovely downtown Bilbao apartment. I can’t believe I’ve been here almost another whole year. This really has become my home, and at the moment I’m not ready to say goodbye.

And I don’t have to…yet. Tomorrow I embark upon a two-week journey through central and eastern Europe. I’m starting in southern Germany, the land of my ancestors, marking my 3rd trip to Germany this year. Then I’ll jet over to Croatia for a few days. I really have no idea what to expect, which I find very exciting. I’ll wrap up with a few days in Venice and just a day in Milan. The only place in Italy I’ve been is Rome, and I wanted to see more of the country on this trip, but if I’ve learned anything in these past few years of Euro-travels, it is to not try to do too much in a short time. I’ll leave the rest of Italy for my next trip.

I’ll be back in Bilbao mid-August just in time for Aste Nagusia, the big yearly summer festival that I’ve never been around to take part in. It will be madness, as you can see in this video from the kickoff to last year’s festival:

Next,  I’ll head west to walk the last 200km of the Camino de Santiago before returning once again to Bilbao to say my goodbyes. I’ll be Stateside in early September.

Again, I hope you’re all enjoying your summer al máximo. Hasta la próxima!

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round 3

I’m about to board a plane to Spain for the THIRD time. I’ve had the most wonderful seven weeks at home visiting friends and family. In fact, these past couple of months have highlighted the importance of supportive and loving family and friends more than ever for me. I’m very, very fortunate. I can’t thank all of you (you know who you are!) for all you’ve done to make my extended visit to the US so great. THANK YOU! Goodbyes are always tough, but I know they’re really just “see you laters.”

I’m very excited and ready to get on the plane today. It will be so great to be back in Bilbao, and this year will be even better than last. I’ve got some exciting new challenges lined up.

I threw together a video of random clips from my past year in Spain. Enjoy!



I write today from 32,000 feet over the Midwestern plains on my way to Chicago to catch my connecting flight to Madrid. I’ve just said the hardest goodbye of my life: to my parents. It’s different than last time. Maybe because I’m traveling completely alone this time. Maybe because I will be gone for longer this time. Mostly though, I think it’s because I’ve grown so close to them over the past summer of living with them. I really won the parent lottery.

My dad can be a little rough around the edges, but the kind, thoughtful man of integrity that lies beneath shines through if you look for it. His acts of kindness and generosity are not always outwardly obvious, but they run deep. His generosity toward me is the reason I am able to be on this plane today. Sure, I bought the ticket and made all the necessary arrangements for my visa, job and accommodations, but has been a support for me in a variety of ways. He keeps me in check. He’s the one I go to with freak-outs about anything travel or money-related. He just knows so much about so many different things. In this age of Google, we ask the internet for everything, but sound advice spoken from true experience will remain priceless no matter how advanced technology gets.

What can be said about Pam? Everyone loves Pam. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that from the numerous people who know her. It’s just true. She is the most lovable goofball on the face of the earth. We have so much fun together, and even as I write this my eyes are welling with tears at the thought of the fact that I won’t be able to be in her presence for an undetermined amount of time. We share many passions: exercising, pounding coffee (strong,straight up black, and always hot), flexing our music theory muscles by noticing the unique harmonies or syncopations in songs we like. I am fantastically fortunate to call my own mother a kindred spirit. I admire her genuine gentle kindness and patience. I also aspire to one day have upper arms as perfectly sculpted as hers.

A trembling “thank you” and “love you” was all I could mutter through the streaming tears at the Fargo airport today. That hardly suffices for what they’ve done and continue to do for me. So thank you, Mom and Dad. I can’t say it enough.

If you know my parents and happen to see them, please give them a hug from me. (Dale may prefer a high five or a handshake).

Now: off to SPAIN! Talk to ya’ll on the other side 🙂

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So, are you all packed?

Why is it that whenever you’re leaving for a trip, the only question people can think to ask you is, “So, are you all packed?” Perhaps it really is the first thing that comes to mind, or maybe it seems to them to be the least invasive question to ask someone who is leaving for a long time, but for some reason it always gets on my nerves.

What does “packed” even mean? Belongings all rolled up and cuddling in your zipped suitcase, waiting for you at the door on the eve of your departure, ready to be whisked off to the airport? I’ve been on a lot of trips, and by that definition, I’ve NEVER been “packed.”

I keep telling people that I’ve packed “mentally.” When I shared this notion with my dear friend Jackie yesterday, she chuckled and shared my sentiment that packing “mentally” is half the battle.

I’ve been paring down my clothes, electronics, books and other belongings all summer: selling them to Plato’s Closet, on eBay, etc. In a roundabout way, this is part of the packing process I am in now. With less belongings to sort through, I’m able to more easily decide what really needs to come along with me.

My packing situation couldn’t be more ideal: I’ve been able to spread my belongings into an organized mess across several hundred square feet in my parents’ basement. This has allowed me to make my bedroom my mess-free sanctuary. This is essential for the neat freaks out there (like myself), for whom this level of disorder can induce serious health issues, ranging from headaches and hernias to complete insanity.

I made my older brother’s ex-bedroom into “Pack Station Central” for my clothes. I started all items in the “Probably” pile and gradually moved them into the “Definitely” pile in order of importance as space in my suitcase would allow.

Pack Station Central

I’ve spent the most wonderful summer at home with my parents. I’m going to miss them so much I can’t even think about it. Tonight, we enjoyed a fab home-cooked salmon dinner together tonight, complete with some fine Rioja wines in celebration of my move back to the land of vino tinto.

Some fine Rioja wines

So now, on the eve of my departure, I would say yes: I am all packed. My suitcase might not be zipped and at the door, but everything is ready. And so am I. I’ve been saying goodbyes for weeks now, and it has been draining. It is time to get on the plane!

My last ND sunset