Spain. I don’t know what it is but Spain really spoke to me. I know I joke about every beach having a bar and getting free tapas every time you order a beer in Southern Spain. But there is something very seriously right in those aspects of their culture.

I was fortunate enough to be able to reunite with friends and do a little mini vacation with them. Because of that, I got to experience the culture much better than if I had done this part of Europe alone. We spent an afternoon doing a tapas route where we would sit at a bar, enjoy a beer with free tapas and then move on to the next bar and do the same. Because it’s well paced, we didn’t get drunk. We had a lot of fun and we talked….we really talked.

My friends run their own business so they did need to address work issues on and off throughout the trip. But when we were just hanging out, we had awesome conversations. It wasn’t until having done this for a few days that I realized how few meaningful and complete conversations I have.

I have a lot of friends at work and we get to chat periodically but we are working so it can never get too in depth on any topic; whether funny or serious. There’s always another task, meeting or interruption that must be attended to and the conversation lingers unfinished. People with kids seem to desperately want to have adult conversation but can’t often complete more than a few sentences without a kid interruption. They can sit for hours in front of a tv ignoring you but the second they sense you are being fulfilled by an adult conversation not involving them, it’s over. So those conversations can go 20 years without getting past where you went for dinner over the weekend.

No one talks on the phone anymore. Guilty, as I am more than ok with this. I love the written word and prefer texts and emails but nothing in depth happens in the immediate moment. Emotions, laughter are experienced without company.

In Spain, we had conversations covering a wide range of topics. I don’t know….maybe not seeing someone for 20 years makes it easy to have topics to catch up on but I think it’s more than that. I think their culture is far more focused on community and quality of life. Not the quality of life Americans define with cars, houses, job promotions, prominent educations and expensive clothing. Quality of life experienced via the means of fully engaging with other people. It’s relaxed. No one is rushing off to a soccer game or needy husband. They love their families deeply but they don’t lose their identities in them and use it as an excuse to check out of every other aspect of living. Not our fault in the US….it’s how we have been brainwashed. We have time for nothing other than saving for a retirement which may never come and trying to get our kids accepted into colleges they may never get into.

I love my house, my cheap car, my clothes, my jewelry. I can probably never fully stop that. But I do think there are a few things I could live without in order to have whole conversations several times a week.

Today was my first day back at work after 2 weeks. I promised myself I would leave on time since my dog is legit sick. I was only 20 minutes late on that promise. Throughout the morning, I was picking up small details of all the projects in motion since I have been out….projects I would likely have led had I not been on vacation and it stressed me out for a second not to “have my name on it” or be participating because I just always participate. But then I had to ask myself why I cared so much. I am more than busy enough as it is without adding more to the list. It’s nice for other people to have opportunities. Why do I care? Why was I happy to see an email litany of things I am needed for starting in a day or 2? What does any of this really mean? I was beside myself a couple weeks ago trying to get out of the office for vacation. The neediness and lack of consideration, dignity was breakably disturbing and something I have not forgotten.

I work to save for retirement. It’s the American way. But the way I have seen it, once you retire, you get cancer. At least that’s what has happened to everyone in my family when they have stopped working. And when they look back to their working years, I can promise you they aren’t wishing they had their names on more projects. They are wishing they spent more time with family. They are wishing they traveled more or spent more time on hobbies. They are wishing they had more conversations along the years which didn’t include talking about their cancer treatments. They are wishing they had more friends around.

Until this trip, I didn’t know that my definition for life quality might actually be wrong….that the American dream might not be accurate or for our benefit. I am not naive in believing other countries don’t have problems. Of course they do.

My friends ran into a Spanish friend in Granada who joined us for Tapas. She speaks some English but veers mostly towards Spanish. I had a more fulfilling and interesting conversation involving her than I have been able to have in any given hour with anyone I know in the US. I had fun. I learned about the government and teaching systems. We laughed at how free the parents and children were to do their own thing without people calling the police on them or taking videos of perceived missteps Americans would be all over. It was absolutely delightful.

Just one of many reasons I fell in love with Spain. I have a conversation soul. I love to know you, your thoughts, your every mood and facial expression. It’s art. And I already miss it achingly.