spain

Sentimental: Reflections on Spain

I'm not a person who takes a lot of pictures. And if I do, they either end up in a shoe box or in my online Dropbox folder, never to be seen again. I think that's why I love the KonMari philosophy of tidying sentimental items in your home. It's not about holding on to every little thing that reminds you of a time that sparked joy. It's about really savoring those moments, while they are actually happening.

It's been a few months since I've been back from Spain and I have to confess that I've been procrastinating on writing this blog post. If I don't take a lot of pictures, how can I tell the story? Then it dawned on me that this must be why I love Spain so much. I have very few pictures of my times there, but my memories are vivid and completely etched into my mind.

So in today's world that seems to ask us to document and post EVERYTHING in photos, how can we step back and actually BE in the moment and savor that moment?? I love how best-selling author Gretchen Rubin teaches us to squeeze every ounce of happiness out of special moments

To get the most bang for the happiness buck, I’ve realized that I should complete four stages of reveling in a moment of happiness:

 anticipate with pleasure,
 savor the moment as I experience it,
 express my happiness to myself or others, and
 reflect on a happy memory.
— Gretchen Rubin

I really made sure to follow this model as I prepared for Spain, as I experienced it, and now as I reflect on it. The way that I experienced Spain is the way that I hope to experience this summer...

Essentially: Walk, Sit, Talk, Watch, Repeat. 

Most of my days in Spain were spent walking through the city or on the beach, sitting in plazas, talking, laughing with dear friends, people-watching and stealing quiet moments to read in parks. So, as I think about those beautiful ten days, I can still feel the breeze throught the trees and hear the sound of the Mediterranean waves, and I plan to savor those memories for years to come.

I may not be a big picture-taker, but it just doesn't seem right not to share a few of those moments with you. 

Happy savoring. Happy summer.

Exploring the beautiful winding paths of one of Barcelona's public parks, La Tamarita.

Exploring the beautiful winding paths of one of Barcelona's public parks, La Tamarita.

Sparkling green water in  Tossa de Mar .

Sparkling green water in Tossa de Mar.

I could have stood and listened to this fountain for days. Watch the video and enjoy 7 seconds of Zen.

Sitting in the grass of Madrid's  Parque del Buen Retiro , enjoying some shade on a hot day. This park is HUGE, and has oodles of quiet space to escape the heat and the crowded touristy spots.

Sitting in the grass of Madrid's Parque del Buen Retiro, enjoying some shade on a hot day. This park is HUGE, and has oodles of quiet space to escape the heat and the crowded touristy spots.

Amazing pre-lunch tapas at my  EatWith  host's home. I highly recommend EatWith as a way to experience local culture, support residents of the city you are visiting and meet other travelers.

Amazing pre-lunch tapas at my EatWith host's home. I highly recommend EatWith as a way to experience local culture, support residents of the city you are visiting and meet other travelers.

Fresh ingredients for our paella after a quick trip to the neighborhood market.

Fresh ingredients for our paella after a quick trip to the neighborhood market.

The finished product!

The finished product!

Documenting a "Spark Joy" Life: Paper

A few of my favorite things ... jamon serrano, Spanish olives, wine and, of course, my Five Minute Journal.

A few of my favorite things ... jamon serrano, Spanish olives, wine and, of course, my Five Minute Journal.

It's Day Six in Spain and my mind is swirling with gratitude and joy for the wonderful experiences that I've had.  I've walked the beach at Tossa de Mar, played soccer in seemingly every corner of Catalonia and even did a 12-hour organizing marathon at my dear friend's home. I've just spent three glorious hours reading in the grass at the Parque del Buen Retiro, surrounded by songbirds and daisies. The "spark joy" senses are on overload!

So now is the perfect moment to transition to our next stop on the journey: Paper. The one and only paper item that I've brought with me (well, in addition to my Moleskin notebook) is my Five Minute Journal. One year ago, I picked up this journal on a whim at a local bookstore, and I must say, it's been transformative.

Every morning, as soon as I wake up, I am greeted by a beautiful quote, followed by my prompts to answer the following questions:

  1. What are your grateful for? (3 things)

  2. What would make today great? (3 things)

  3. Personal affirmation ... "I am ... "

Then at night, before my head hits the pillow, I answer:

  1. What are three amazing things that happened today?

  2. How could you have made today even better?

My favorite question is "What would make today great?". While in Barcelona, I asked my 7- and 10-year old hosts this question, and they answered: A walk, being together, playing on the beach, eating pizza and ice cream. We did all of those things. It was a perfect day.

I cannot overstate the positive benefits that I experience when I regularly incorporate this brief exercise into my daily routine. Based on proven research in positive psychology, this practice allows us to reap the enormous benefits of gratitude and intention. 

Living a life of simplicity means taking the time to appreciate the simple things. With that, I'll leave you with a quote from the journal, page 165:

Enjoy the little things in life for one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.
— Kurt Vonnegut

 

Now, on to appreciating my last day in Madrid ... !Hasta pronto!

 

Sparking Joy in Spain: Books

Since I was little, reading has been one of my favorite things to do. But with today's busy lives and a little one running around, I don't get to read as much as I would like. That's why when I made my list of things I wanted to do in Spain, reading was at the absolute top of the list. I am already daydreaming about reading in little cafes, outside in the park, on the train from Barcelona to Madrid, on the balcony of my little AirBnB in Madrid. I can feel the sparks of joy already!

To travel light, I'm going with my Kindle, so I'm planning to load it up with a few titles and then see what I'm in the mood for when I get there.

The List

  1. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (I think I have started this book about five times ... I'm going to have to start over, AGAIN.)

  2. Parenting without Power Struggles by Susan Stiffelman (I know, I know ... a parenting book on vacation?!? But trust me, this one is a must.)

  3. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (Bonus: it's free on my Kindle!)

  4. I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb (I read this years ago, and it's probably my favorite book of all time. I'd love to re-read it.)

I was thinking of pulling a few ideas off of this list of "life-changing" books from Real Simple (you know I love anything that promises to be life-changing!), but I would love your ideas as well, via comments here on the blog or via Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram

  • What books are you bringing on your vacation?

  • Have you read any of the titles on the Real Simple list?

  • What's your favorite book of all time?

I'm so excited for my next post about Paper, where I get to tell you all about one of my Top Ten Favorite Things of All Time: The Five Minute Journal.

!Hasta pronto!