A few weeks ago, Phil and I were sitting outside of a cafe, drinking beer, and enjoying the sunshine when he started looking through the local Meetup groups in Gijon. Most groups are still meeting virtually but he found an outdoor yoga class that was meeting in the park. At that point, I hadn’t been to an in-person yoga class in over a year. I was excited to hear about it but a little intimidated at the idea of going to a class in Spanish. I decided even if I don’t know Spanish all that well (yet), I do know yoga, plus it would be a great opportunity to practice my Spanish and listen to others speak.
I attended yoga class the following Monday. It turned out I was the only student who showed up that evening. It also turned out that the instructor, Adelaida, speaks English. Since it was just the two of us, she lead the class in English, which although it did not help me practice my Spanish, I greatly appreciated it. Phil met me at the park after class and I introduced him to Adelaida. She gave us some information about the qigong class she also leads in the park on Wednesdays and told us she sometimes offers weekend excursions near Gijon.
The following Wednesday, Phil and I attended the qigong class together and really enjoyed it. Adelaida also told us about another Meetup group of folks who get together to speak English (typically native Spanish speakers who gather to practice/learn/retain English). She indicated it might be a good opportunity for us to meet folks we could practice Spanish with. The group was meeting in-person for the first time since Covid that Friday night.
Phil and I were both excited for the opportunity to meet more people. Going to socialize with a group of people we don’t know has not historically been my idea of a good time, however: 1. When in Rome 2. After almost no in-person socialization for over a year, my introvert energy tank is all filled up 3. I’m a big believer that you have to get out of your comfort zone to make the magic happen. I don’t always follow this and often it requires an internal pep talk with myself (or an external pep talk from Phil) but I do believe it.
Uncharacteristically (according to Adelaida), almost everyone who showed up for the Friday night Meetup was new to the group. Everyone who attended was also fluent or a native English speaker. We did not get any Spanish practice in but we did have a good time.
Making friends as an adult is hard. All of my close friends are people I’ve either known from childhood or met in college with the exception of a handful of women I befriended at different jobs during my professional career. You could tell everyone at the Meetup was a little nervous but we were all trying, dammit. We put ourselves out there to try to connect with our fellow humans. It was nice. We’re going again this Friday.
At the Meetup group on Friday, Adelaida told us she was leading an excursion to the Austrian village of Villamayor for a hike on Sunday. She even offered to drive us! We were so excited for the opportunity. We have been wanting to explore the Austrian countryside but not having a car makes it a little more challenging. So, Sunday morning, we packed a lunch and off we went!
We arrived at Villamayor around 11:30am and walked a couple of kilometers to the area de recreativo. There was a lush, green (everything is lush green) grassy picnic area with tables, near a running stream. There was even a small refreshment stand selling sidre (local, hard cider) and sandwiches. We passed through the recreation area and down a small path leading to a waterfall and then onto the hiking trail, leading up the mountain. Phil and I walk A LOT but we have not been on a proper hike in quite a while and let me tell you, it was not easy. It was, totally worth it through. Along the way we saw a goat herder with his herd, a few horses, a couple of dogs, and some cows. Oh, the cows.
We stopped along the way to meditate in a small, grassy clearing. During the meditation we concentrated on being one with nature. Being surrounded by the fresh air, trees, grass, and singing birds, it was easy to feel grounded and connected to everything.
We continued on up the mountain after the mediation. Adelaida had told us when we started that we could turn around any time and go back. I was a sweaty, huffing, puffing mess for most of the hike up. I pushed through because it was so beautiful, every turn more so than the last. Finally, however, after crossing over a fence and reaching a field with a few cows, I told her and Phil I was pooped and ready to go back. We were preparing to do so when we ran into some other hikers who informed us that the peak vista was only about 600 meters more on up. I did not care at all and was keen to turn around but after some come on-ing, I conceded and was ready to go for it. We started up the hill and immediately ran into another group of cows, laying directly in our path. Those other hikers I had mentioned had obviously walked right on through the bunch of them. Some of the cows had horns and while I was feeling totally one with nature, I was not down to walk through the cows. I let Phil and Adelaida know I would happily wait for them on the other side of the fence if they wanted to venture on but I was done. Lucky for me, they were both fine with heading back. Everything we had seen that day was so beautiful, we certainly did not feel robbed by not seeing the final vista.
The way down was even better. Not only for the not going uphill anymore part but we also noticed a few things we hadn’t on the trek up. Phil even found a cave that Adelaida had read was on the trail (the summer overgrowth concealed it a bit).
We arrived back to the area de recreativo after the 7.5 mile hike and sat at the picnic benches and ate the lunches we’d packed. Then we finished our time in Villamayor with some more meditation. Listening to the flowing water of the stream and feeling the wind blow, you can’t help but be reminded to go with the flow. I am someone who can easily lean into feeling tight, tense, and anxious. When you are in nature, just breathing and listening, you’re reminded of how insignificant your worries are. We are a small blip in the grand scheme of this glorious, 13.8 billion year old universe. I’m not going to waste that blip on feeling anything but incredibly lucky to have bleeped (well, now you’re just being silly, Jess). So, put yourself out there. Do the thing you’re scared of and don’t be afraid to look foolish. These are all bits of my previously mentioned internal pep talks but if you do something you’re afraid to do, that you just don’t think is in you, I promise, you won’t be disappointed. There’s no better feeling than surprising yourself.