I have heard it takes 21 days to create new habits. I have never intentionally tried to form a new habit to where I studied how long it took, but that theory is spot-on based off my timeline from when I arrived in Spain.
After three weeks, I have found my favorite cozy cafes, a not-so-reasonable bedtime, and peaceful places to study. My apartment is finally starting to come together after I finally got my roommate to fix the internet, bought myself some cooking utensils, and learned how to turn the heater on. My language is improving as I can now order food without receiving a blank stare, ask for directions, and tutor children in English who only speak Spanish.
But my favorite new habit is living without the Internet. In the States, I was a college student with multiple online editorial internships and jobs. I relied on the Internet for research, work, and most importantly procrastination. A college student without Internet was near impossible, or so I thought.
I have finally graduated from the University of Facebook and enrolled at a real college with books full of real-world knowledge. This transition, however, did not progress easily.
There are no perfect sleeping habits in Europe. Early mornings and late nights have a bitter relationship. My 8:40 a.m. class requires me to leave my apartment at 7:40 to reassure I can get to school on-time. I live about three minutes from the Algorta Metro in Getxo, but it is about a 30-35 minute ride to my stop in Bilbao. From the Mauya stop in Bilbao, it is another five-minute walk to class. Plus, let’s incorporate waiting for the Metro, which can be up to ten minutes but I have seen it up to fifteen minutes in the morning. So to ensure promptness, I give myself an hour to get to class, even though it could only take 38 minutes at the shortest.
When I first arrived in Spain, I thought the thirty-five minute Metro ride was mundane and repetitive. My first few rides passed quickly with the help of my iPod. I did not have access to downloading music and my playlist was getting old. I quickly cycled through my playlist multiple times with my (at least) 70 minutes-a-day on the Metro. What was actually 30(ish) minutes-a-ride felt like an hour.
As I started my decent away from the Internet and electronics, I learned to really love and understand all that my Kindle offered me. After the recent hype with the upcoming movie, The Hunger Games, I finally gave in to read the book before seeing the movie. Even though I feel like in might be another Twilight (ugh), I have to admit I got lost in the book and it made the Metro ride fly by. What once felt like an hour now felt like ten minutes.
My rekindled passion for reading extended past the Metro rides. Once I reached my Metro stop, I found myself not wanting to go home or to school, but wanting to go to a café and continue reading while sipping on some, you guessed it, café.
I have found a few cozy cafes in Bilbao next to my school, but the cafes in Algorta are more like bars. In Spain, many food places are cafes in the morning and then bars at night. I cannot say the bar stools are as comfortable as a couch in a warm café but wherever you go, you will be sure to find a croissant and a café; my favorite new couple. Curling up inside a café while it’s raining outside (or snowing) with a croissant, a café, and a book is just as romantic as it sounds.
I learned to “unplug” myself from all of my electronics. I can’t imagine that I would have ever experienced this in America because I would probably have my phone glued to me. Here, I also have my phone, but I do not have service or Wi-Fi for it to distract me.
After a certain amount of time, the cafes become less cozy when it turns into a bar atmosphere and it is time for me to go home for a little while. I go home around 15:00 and do what little homework I have (so far). And yes, I cannot rid myself completely of Facebook because it is my only means of communication with my USAC group.
Our group Facebook page is constantly in use as we all discuss which bar we will take over that night. It is also a place where we ask for help or advice, share stories from the nights or weekends before, and suggest ideas or tips for upcoming travels.
On the weekdays, the group does not go out to the bars until about 22:00. I found myself not going out very often unless it is close to my house because the Metro closes at 23:00. I cannot say I would enjoy walking home in the rain, especially when I have to leave the next morning for class at 7:40. This past week, however, I learned that we can all take a taxi home for only a Euro each. This is going to be trouble because the USAC group goes out every night.
The Metro provides us with a little more flexibility on the weekends. The Metro closes at 2:00 on Fridays, which is still very early in Spain when the night life does not begin until :30. But on Saturday, the Metro never closes allowing me a night out until 6:00 a.m. if I please.
And when I arrive home at 6:00 a.m., I don’t awake until 11:00 a.m. and find myself very unproductive on the weekends. So far, my weekends consist of a lot of sleeping and reading. The weather has not been nice enough to explore and it keeps me inside until I leave for the next night out or school on Monday morning. I feel like the weekend-days offer me time to catch up on my sleeping, but I become brutally aware that I am wrong when it comes 7:40 a.m. and I have to go to class. Oh so very wrong.
I do not think my sleeping schedule will ever agree with my new social habits and the 21-day theory will never work for this type of situation. For now, I think I am okay with that. After all, I only have three more months with my new best friends that I will never be able to get back.