I remember it clearly, standing next to a woman in Barcelona at a dinner party, chatting about the upcoming vote. Even though the event which should have decided Catalonian independence came and went, it was all we could talk about. The big question I had was, “how much better could life in Barcelona get by being separate from the rest of Spain?” Her answer was simply, “why not give it a try?” It is hard to argue with that.

Elsewhere in the world, it seemed the battle cry for nationalism was on the rise. The Brits had voted for Brexit and America needed to be made great again. The back half of our time living in Barcelona was full of repercussions of the illegal vote fallout. Officials were being arrested, some were even fleeing Spain. A snap election was called. The whole process seemed strange to us, but we were beginning to learn new ways of being in the world.

It was at the invitation of my friend where we experienced our first All Saints’ Day celebration. Being based on a religious tradition of honoring saints, we had no idea what to expect. We had as much to learn about Catholics as we would Buddhists in Cambodia or Muslims in Turkey. Were we going to be attending mass? Was it a somber affair? Was there a particular way we needed to dress?

Knowing my friend, I hoped the event was similar to the many others we had both attended in the days we worked together. After all, our family had very limited choices of formal clothes. That was not how we were travelling. Casual was our go to, each and every day. When I saw the list of around 2 dozen people attending, and the amount of food and wine being brought along, I knew we would be OK.

It turned out to be a regular type of get together for a group that size, in Barcelona. Instead of a big barbeque in the back yard, there was a massive gas ring which held the largest pan I have ever seen. The set-up was dedicated to paella. Started in the morning, in order to have enough time for the delicate flavors to develop properly, this was the real thing. I was so excited to see the photos, sent by my friend hours before we were invited to arrive.

I knew the restaurants along Las Ramblas, offering their ‘traditional menus’ were anything but authentic. The food and drink on display, in menu’s with photos, were versions made for tourists who wouldn’t know the difference. Which is totally fine. There is a time and a place for such things. But we were getting a taste of the real Barcelona, the way families actually lived. I was thrilled to have the opportunity.

The evening, which started at 2pm sharp for lunch, turned out to be the best meal we had in our time in Spain. The paella made me love the dish, where up to that point I wasn’t too keen. The wine flowed, the tapas, the salads, the conversation – all of it was excellent. Even the ambience of the residential building, tucked away in an old neighborhood, was so full of history.

At the end of the night, my son happened to be in the right place at the right time. The daughter of the party host invited my son out for coffee to meet some of her friends. A fellow teenaged, digital music aficionado was one of the group. My son came home that night, amazed at his luck for having met this new person, who enjoyed so many similar interests. It would prove to be a lasting friendship.

If we had not ‘given it a try’ we would not have ventured out that night. My son would not have met the friend he would go back to Barcelona to visit, months later. I would still not care for paella. Our trip to Barcelona would have been a little less wonderful. Maybe the rationalization against taking an action should be turned on its head. Instead we could ask, “why not give it a try?”

Spreading our wings, as we flew around new places was the easier part. We knew the next place we would land, we had some idea of what to expect. Actually trying to experience life in a different way, turned out to be far more challenging. When novelty is so high, when nothing is ‘normal’, we tended to crave familiar comforts. That was why my husband would end up eating at McDonalds in every country we visited. As well, he would carry around a jar of peanut butter, always looking for a place to make toast. But, that would come later.

We learned that even in travel there is a place and a need for creativity. Moving from place to place, a new grocery store and kitchen set-up with each turn meant a constant need to invent meals. I would try to use the freshest local ingredients, but in a way that my family would be comfortable with. This was not an easy task. We were not being paid to try all sorts of new and crazy things to eat in top restaurants. We knew it was time to move on when we started to tire of a countries cuisine. I never thought I would grow weary of chorizo, olive oil and rose wine, yet it came the time to ‘give it a try’, in another place.

Check out the roundup video #2 from our time in Barcelona. It includes a cooking demonstration from our apartment and top things about our time there.

Thank you for reading my thoughts on creativity. Each day, I hope to get a little closer to understanding how to design a lifestyle I don’t need a vacation from. I believe that focusing on the importance of creativity in our daily lives is an important aspect of happiness and ultimately wellness.

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Christine Westermark

I am a world traveller, lucky enough to have a loving family who support my dreams to learn, create and give back by designing creative content which enables a lifestyle we don't need a vacation from.

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Why not give it a try?
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