In April, when I spoke at the Women in Tech Summit, the panel moderator asked us all what we’d do if we weren’t afraid. The first thing that came to my mind was that I’d say no more. At the time, it seemed like such a novel and revolutionary and original idea. I said something like, “This may sound weird, but…” and then someone in the crowd shouted back “NO! Not weird at all!”
After a total glut of overcommitment this summer, I’m really trying to examine how I’m spending my time and why. I want to make sure I’m leaving time to take care of myself, which includes spending time with loved ones, traveling, writing, and reading books. Leaving time to be spontaneous. Leaving time to learn new skills and get better at what I do.
A few months ago, I saw brilliant and dear Erin Anacker mention that every time you say yes to one thing, you say no to ten other things. It’s stuck with me.
What’s the one thing that sounds fun today, or that I’m committing to just to fill my time, that will inherently prevent me from doing ten other things? What if one of those ten other opportunities was a better fit?
The goal is not to second guess ourselves at every turn, rather to flesh out how to ensure that the ways we’re spending our time align with our goals. It’s to make sure we’re actually doing those things we say we want to be doing, but often get lost in a sea of self-imposed obligations.
What’s worth saying yes to if it means you’re saying no to ten other opportunities?
You guys, I feel like I am still not back into the swing of things after vacation . . . at the beginning of September. Since then, I’ve been going nonstop with the day job, freelance work, learning opportunities, and meetups. And I need a break.
A few days ago, I tweeted, “Sometime this month I am going to sit down with a book and a blanket and spiked cider and not work for a whole day.” A bunch of people got excited about this idea, and I decided to propose a holiday. So I declare that on Saturday, the eighteenth day of October in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, I will make myself hot spiked cider, curl up with a book, and not work at all. And you can too! It will be called A Book, A Blanket, A Day Without Work. Because that’s all I can come up with. If you have a better idea, feel free to rename it!
I invite you to join me! Tell me about your experience! How did it feel? When was the last time you got to rest intentionally? I want to know! Join me on Saturday, or pick your own day. Share your experience or don’t! No obligations! You do you. Just block out time to give yourself a break — whatever that looks like for you — and enjoy where you are. Enjoy the fall. Enjoy your family. Enjoy some solitude. Enjoy yourself.
In 2007, I spent six months in Spain, and only 36 hours of that in Barcelona. Those 36 hours turned out to be incredibly eventful — long enough to stand outside the Sagrada Familia and wish we could afford the small entrance fee, long enough to get tricked into eating 15 euro frozen-dinner tourist paella, long enough for me to break down and eat the first macaroni and cheese I had in six months at a Hard Rock Cafe, long enough for Chad to lose his debit card and me to get panicky and furious when he wouldn’t let me dig through his bag to help look for it, and long enough for it to become clear why he didn’t want me digging through said bag. Thirty-six hours in Barcelona was long enough to see the most heinously touristy few miles I’ve ever experienced (hi and bye, Las Ramblas), and long enough for 20-year-old Chad to propose to 20-year-old me. It was long enough for me to realize that I had just paid for my engagement dinner of Hard Rock Cafe macaroni and cheese with my mother’s credit card that I was only to use in emergencies.
This time was much different. We had more than 36 hours, and though our time there was nothing short of spectacular, it was a lot less life-altering. There was less time bickering about lost debit cards and a lot more time spent getting lost in El Born. There was less time wishing we could afford to go into the Sagrada Familia and much more time spent being blown away by its interior.
Never before in my life have I experienced architecture spiritually. Walking through the Sagrada Familia somehow feels like walking through a sacred forest. They literally had to kick us out at closing time.
There’s something so magical and natural about the cathedral. It’s highly stylized, yet somehow organic.
We also had time to briefly hit up La Barceloneta and walk towards the Olympic Village. We tried to approximate the spot where Chad proposed, but it was hard to tell. I suspect it may have been along this stretch of beach or a little beyond.
The city itself is full of art and curious nooks and crannies waiting to be discovered. It feels like everyone’s an artist, eager to share their work. Like these two, who hang out by the line to the Picasso museum.
There are so many reasons to love Salamanca. It’s just so beautiful that you can totally just show up without a plan and get lost wandering the crooked cobblestone streets through sandstone passageways and be completely content. But if you’re looking for more specific highlights, I’m sharing a few of my favorite haunts, sprinkled with a few shots from the trip.
La Malhablada — The rest of the places on this list are my favorites dating back 7 years, but this art space specializing in microtheater has only been open since the end of May. We stuck around a few extra days, in part because we wanted to see it when the owner got back from vacation. There are several floors of smallish performance and exhibit rooms, with a homey bar with basic snacks on the top floor and a balcony overlooking Calle Melendez. If I lived in Salamanca, I’d be hanging out here multiple times a week.
Enmarte — Tourists don’t know about this spot. I found it out from asking the hippest Spanish teacher I had the semester I lived in Salamanca. I wanted to find a good vintage hookup, and she suggested this place. It’s got lots of vintage, but also small independent brands that aren’t widely distributed. I still have some vintage clothing I plucked out of the 2 euro shopping cart in the corner seven years ago. This time, I picked up a couple Skunkfunk pieces that were on sale.
Croissantería Paris — Nothing here has changed. If you’re in Spain and want to feel like you’re in France, you seriously can’t miss this. Get a “blanca y negra,” a doublewide croissant filled with chocolate on one side and vanilla on the other. Ask them to pop it in the microwave for a few seconds to make it perfectly gooey and delicious.
Ieronimus — Ieronimus is a tower tour of the cathedral of Salamanca. Touristy, yes, but the multiple cathedral yield the best views of the city from every angle. It’s also an amazing workout if you run up the stairs like we did right before they had to close.
Huerta de Calisto y Melibea — This is a really beautiful walled garden in the old part of Salamanca. The garden is named after the Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea, more commonly known as La Celestina, which is a really big deal in the medieval Spanish literature world. If you’ve read anything about the play, you’ll understand why the name makes sense. There are wishing wells, and it’s built high on the edge of the old part of the city. It’s one of my favorite spots to sit and chat or wander around through the rose bushes and ivy. Chad snapped one of my favorite portraits here seven years ago; we tried to recreate it this time and got close.
Delicatessen y Cafe — We found ourselves here so many times this week. Right on Calle Melendez, it’s super close to Pension Salamanca, where I’ve stayed numerous times, so it was really convenient. They do great Spanish interpretations of American breakfasts (breakfast as we know it does not exist in Spain — getting a ham and cheese sandwich for breakfast is a victory), have excellent chocolate con churros (from what I remember; we didn’t have any this time!), a full bar, and a solid menu del dia.
We’ve been back from Spain for a couple weeks now, but I immediately dove into a barrage of freelance work and trying to put the (not-so) new place together, which left little time to reflect and craft a story worth telling. Still, I wanted to share some snippets of our trip. I’ll follow up with a fuller guide to Salamanca in a few days, but for now, this is what I’ve learned.
I like to introduce Chad to new places. Often when I’m in a new situation, I let him take the lead until I get my bearings. This time, I really enjoyed pulling him along and reintroducing him to different vocabulary words, my favorite nooks in Salamanca, and funny Spanish idiosyncrasies. Perhaps I should lead the way more often.
I love my Swedish Hasbeens, but wood sole shoes do not play nicely with cobblestone.
My favorite drink at my favorite dive bar is still delicious and still embarrassing (Agua de Valencia — vodka, champagne, and orange Fanta. Remember, I was 20 when I studied there. It’s better than it sounds, I swear), though the clientele is no longer 18 year olds. It feels like the same people who went there 7 years ago are still hanging out there. They’re just older now. The vibe is still plenty grimy.
I need to figure out how to eat more Spanish tortilla & ham croquettes on a regular basis.
I can still speak Spanish well. My accent had gotten worse, but it came back by the end of the week and I was very comfortable conversing with anyone.
My favorite vacations include lots of walking and eating.
Spanish trains are awesome, but when you can afford it, it’s sometimes nicer to fly. It maximizes exploring and relaxation time.
Salamanca still feels like home 7 years later. The same man with the same scruffy dog still plays the same beautiful violin in the same plazas every day. The crooked, nonsensical streets are still imprinted on my heart. The things I loved about it then are the things I love about it even more now.