Living in a Small Tourist City

I’ve been living in Malaga for six weeks.  It’s the sixth largest city in Spain, but small in regards to the size of other worldly cities.  Malaga sits in the Costa del Sol, home to Pablo Picasso and Antonio Bandera.   Over time it also has become a port stop for cruise ships.  Several days a week, hundreds of tourists step off the boat, pop into the town to squeeze in the most they can out of their half a day on land. They will partake in walking tours, food tours, and bicycle tours.  Eat paella and drink sangria, as they relish in the Spanish atmosphere for the day. 

My dog Bella and I choose to take a walk daily on the same path along the Calle Nuevo.  A new street that parallels the port filled with cafes, tourists, street performers, and dog walkers. When you walk at the same time every day, you notice what time artists have their gig on a particular corner or when a local older man singing his heart out gets a haircut.  I see the same DHL man on his bicycle delivering orders throughout the city.  You notice the smallest of things.  

Prior to moving here, I had visited six times.  This is the first time I stayed more than several days, and it was interesting to see the fadeout of the holidays after 3 Kings day to early prep for carnivale.  Although it is over one month away, it seems Malaga always wants to be ready for the next reason to party.  And why not? The city seems to ooze with joy and wants the exclaim it to all the tourists who are here for a sneak peak.  

At the local market, I tend to go to the same grocer weekly.  I know most of the words for the vegetables and fruits, but I guess not for cucumber.  I tried to say it in English and French, and they played along.  But after the third time, they kindly corrected me with “peppino.”  I appreciated that, small lessons to be learned each day.   Peppinos always seem to run out of by the time I arrive. 

Malaga is filled with new people day after day, but now Bella and I are slowly becoming staples that fill the background.  I must be the crazy dog lady who goes to the beach, sits in the sun, and carries her 14 year old dog halfway home due to her tired stubborn legs.  And that is okay with me.  

There’s something comforting with smallish cities.  Other people travel here to escape their winter blues.  I take a daily walk to the beach and run into acquaintances on the street.  I asked a local how long does it take to become a malagueno, she said three years.  Let’s see if I make it to that status.   

Sunshine is Healing for All

Sunshine is my quest.-Winston Churchill

Currently I live in the Costa del Sol also known as the Coast of the Sun.  I have heard that in a nearby town Rincon de la Victoria, was named after Queen Victoria.  She who would come to the area for the healing vibes of the sun. Perhaps this is legend, but I wouldn’t put it past royalty to head to warmer climates as a way to improve their health.

My home in Malaga has minimal windows and therefore lacks natural lighting.  I think this is how many homes in the Andalucian area are.  Since it gets so warm during the summer months, homes are a place of cool refuge.  But to counter that, Bella (my dog) and I will go on extended walks in the morning and afternoon to breathe in the sun’s rays. 

It’s a January morning, colder than usual.  I walked my dog to an area where we can sit on the park benches and feel the sun on our faces.  We are not alone.  Although we all have our winter jackets on, many of us are simply letting the sun kiss our face.  I see parents with their children or grandparents with their grandchildren in strollers.  I notice a caregiver sitting with an elderly woman in a wheelchair, taking in the sun.  There are some homeless people, tourists, and us.  We all are inhaling in the nature that is being granted to us at this moment. 

It doesn’t take much to feel refreshed by nature.  We may not all live by a lush countryside, the beach, or a refreshing lake.  But we can have momentary interludes with the sun.  Today, as I sat on the park bench with all these people, I realized one thing.  We come from different backgrounds, ages, ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses, but were all seeking pleasure from the sun.  This is available to us all. 

Our Mysterious Dance with the Sun

t was only several weeks ago, that the majority of us were fleeing the sun.  Her rays were so intense, we had to sneak out to get fresh air before she awoke.  Our working hours were spent seeking refuge from the power that emanated from her and remained stagnant in our homes.  There seemed to be no escape of her presence.

And just like that, things changed.  

She appears in our lives for less hours each day.  Her beams are hidden among the clouds.  The more she leaves, the more attracted we are to her.  Her absence profoundly impacts our lives.  Dynamics are turned.  She’s become that unrequited love we seek.   And she responds with going further into hiding.  Knowing this, how can we long to stretch each moment in her atmosphere? 

This is our mysterious annual dance with the sun. 

And this is what I witnessed each day at the park now.  People squirming to get every last bit of love from the sun, including me and Bella.  With a drop in temperature, some rainy days, and an earlier sunset, the beauty of the sun has increased it’s value in our hearts.  

Small Home Treasures

         “Tiny houses empower you to more specifically choose how you want to live.”-Ethan Waldman

         Anyone close to me could tell you, I am not much of a detail-oriented person.  I see the big picture, but not all the little pieces.  Yet with living in a small home, there is not much space to roam.  One cannot help but see the nuances that arise. 

         I can notice when new dust settles into a certain area, and for some reason I take more pride in ridding that dust.  Even though I have no current visitors to my 290 square foot apartment, it’s important that it stays as clean as possible.  There is not much space for excess food, toiletries, or clothes.  All that is within these four walls must have a purpose.  I do not buy more than I need, because there is nowhere to store this.  This must be a combination of tiny home living and not living in America, where I can feel compelled to buy all shiny objects that are within my sight.  

         I’m learning the difference of want and need.

I also have been home more to recognize how the atmosphere of the room shifts throughout a twenty-four hour period.  When I first moved here, it was dark until 800 am, but now the sun seems to rise closer to 700.  My two dogs and I notice how the minutes of daylight have extended.  Puzo and Bella shift their bodies with the sunlight, almost as if their torsos are hands of a sundial.  I have made makeshift dog beds for them to pivot towards the rays, tanning as tourists do on a summer holiday.

Could I use more space? Oui.

Do I need more space to make me more happy? Not necessarily.  

There is a sense of contentedness here.  I have time.  I have all that I need.  I take pride in what I do own.  And I can simply be, as I also shift my body towards the sun with my dogs.

What Are You Going To Do?

I’ve been in Southern California for nearly three weeks, a place I have lived for seven years of my adult life.  My purpose here hasn’t been to site see but to help a person post surgery recover.  Many friends have been asking the following: 

How have you been spending your time?  

Where have you been going? 

What have you been eating?  

What have you been doing?  

And I think my answer surprises them.

I haven’t been doing much, except being available for this person.  I walk the dog twice a day, up and down the hilly streets of Los Angeles.  I do my morning spiritual practice of meditation, writing, breathing exercises and yoga.  I sit in the sun.  I read a little, write a little, play my new monochord a little.  We’ve been catching up on Netflix shows.  I’ve been meeting with friends I haven’t seen for years for coffee or meals.  But that is it.  And I’m satisfied.  I don’t actually have to “do anything.”  I’m content. 

Many people have said I should go to this restaurant, or this store, or that area of Los Angeles.  But I’ve lived here before, have lived in England for the past 8 ½ years, and now I live in Paris.  What I need most in the winter is the sun and simplicity.  I have mostly been limiting myself to the confines of where I am residing.  This includes the exciting festivities of walking to a local café, farmer’s market, and 99 cent store.  It surprisingly is enough.  I do not need more of anything to fill my days.  I’ve been grateful for my friends who have met me where I am staying, as I’ve been minimizing my drive as much as possible.

I have been finding pleasure in the simplicity of routine, the sun, my practices, and the strolls each day. In one of my virtual yoga classes this past week on the app Glo, a teacher Stephanie Snyder shared some bits of wisdom: “Remember you are here to influence the world, not to be influenced by it.” I do not need to find entertainment.   Each moment has been entertaining enough.  Being alive, having sun, my daily discipline, and loved ones have been enough.  And I feel satisfied.