Sixteen years of life in Spain: a short recap of 2020

This week I celebrated 16 years in Spain.

A quick calculation tells me that 16 years is around 42% of my life so far.

That’s a long time. I guess I’m as Spanish as a rabbit paella at this point.

My younger self, back in 2004, had no idea what he was getting into, as he got off the metro on a rainy October morning to start his new life in Madrid.

Back then, I wasn’t honestly expecting to live past age 25. I didn’t have a lot of examples in my life of successful “adulting”. Most of the adults back home were pretty miserable. And the American public education system had failed to instill in me any sort of optimism about my future as a human being.

So, having never seen an example of competent adulthood, I just failed to imagine it was possible, and assumed I’d die young.

16 years of life in spain

Flash forward to 2020. I seem to be an adult by now. Hell, I’m almost 40. Whether or not I’m successful at adulthood is debatable.

In any case, here we are. Adulting.

A short recap of 2020

This year’s been weird, to say the least.

The last few months of 2019 I was preparing to go to Asia. I spent Christmas and New Year’s in some random dusty spot in India, and then a couple of weeks in Thailand. I loved it. And I came back to Barcelona thinking that travel to Asia was going to be my new expensive hobby.

2020 was set up to be a pretty cool year.

Of course, like everyone else, I was completely wrong about that.

In the meantime, let’s just say I’ve learned a few things, and gotten back into some old hobbies.

So let’s talk about the good, the bad and the ugly of my 16th year in Spain.

First, some of the good.


When I was a kid I’d go wandering around the desert for fun.

It was way better than sitting at home. And apart from the snakes, scorpions, cacti, sunburns and constant threat of heatstroke, it was a mostly safe hobby.

(Pro tip: don’t grow up in Arizona.)

By the time I was a teenager I was sneaking out at night and wandering through neighbors’ yards. Trespassing, and probably breaking some sort of curfew for young people, but really, just exploring.

Anyway, I’m not sure why, but walking is something I’ve always enjoyed a lot. Many great thinkers are also great walkers.

And all in all, it’s not a bad hobby to have. It’s free, it’s easy, and you can do it almost anywhere… Unless your country has made it illegal.

Since the end of the lockdown, I’ve taken more time to explore Barcelona the city, as well as parts of the province.

I walked all the way up the coast to a town called Mataró, about 30 kilometers. Here’s a video about it…

Another day, I walked up the Besòs river to Sabadell – another 30 km or so.

I’ve also explored some of the trails in the Collserrola park, and a couple of nearby towns as well.

It’s an interesting way to get to know the “country” – a lot of it is unspectacular industrial parks and such, but it’s a side of things that most people never see. Slow tourism, with a cardio aspect to it.

Plus – and this is one of my favorite parts – it gives me the opportunity to drink beer at old man bars in the most random of places.

These days, of course, all the bars and restaurants in Catalonia are closed. Which brings us neatly to the next thing I’ve rediscovered this year…

Cooking (and fermenting) in quarantine

Life under lockdown was great for cooking.

Not only did the search for ingredients give me an excuse to get out of the house, but making things myself is usually a satisfying experience.

And I may not be able to go out to bars, but I can certainly ferment things in my kitchen. Currently, I’m fermenting some garlic. It’s good for your immune system, supposedly.

But who really needs an excuse? Garlic is awesome. These fermented pickles are pretty good too.

I used to cook quite a bit, back when I was younger and more broke. These last few years I’ve started going out more, partially to save time on the shopping, prep and cleanup – and partially just because I like eating out.

Anyway, when I do cook, it usually turns out pretty well. I do simple things. Steak and potatoes, chicken with whatever, salmon. If it has protein, I’m all over it.

My favorite recipes these days?

These shredded beef tacos. Various types of ramen with a base of bone broth. Stir-fried noodles with beef. Salmon gravlax. And more.

Anything to fill the belly, and all the dead time we’ve had.

So cooking is another positive hobby to develop. I know some people are intimidated by it, but if you figure out a few things you like to make, you’ll eat better on the cheap and increase your enjoyment of life. I promise.

On the other hand, let’s just say this year hasn’t been all garlic and roses. There have been some bad parts, too.

Let’s talk about some…

Disturbing facts about human nature

I could go on and on about the many disturbing (and few positive) aspects of human nature that’ve been revealed by this situation.

But let’s just do one.

Here goes…

I’m continuously surprised to find that so many people are willing to give up ALL THEIR FREEDOM because of some stupid virus.

Not only do they joyfully give up all their freedom, they also have no problem with governments taking away everybody else’s freedom as well. In fact, they practically demand it!

social distancing 2020

So while I was stuck at home for 2 months, with literally fewer rights than dogs, I was pretty outraged. Turns out, though, that not everyone has a problem with totalitarian police states… as long as those totalitarian police states have a “good reason” to take away everyone’s freedom.

Well, here’s a news flash: once you’ve given up your rights, it can be a lot harder to get them back.

And of course, all the totalitarian states start with a “good reason” for going that way – the Soviets had to get rid of the bourgeoisie, the Spanish fascists had to quell the anarchist and communist uprisings, and the Nazis…

Well, you see where I’m going with this.

This time it’s different, of course, because the “enemy” isn’t some group of people – it’s an invisible thing in the air.

And I understand that people feel unsafe. But let’s not create a society that’s so “safe” that it’s no longer worth living in.

Because the road to fascism is paved with good intentions. And every shitty authoritarian government you can name is doing it all “for the common good”. Because of course they are.

En fin…

Onward towards 2021

A year ago, when I tried to imagine the year 2020, I figured it’d be basically like 2019, but with a few minor changes.

Now, looking at 2021, I have to admit that I have no idea. Anything could happen, at this point.

Will we go back to lockdown?

I hope the idiots in government don’t decide that’s a good idea. Then again, they’re idiots. So who knows?

All we can do, in the end, is work hard on the (few) things we can control, and try to tolerate the rest.

Set some goals and get to work – hopefully, goals that can be accomplished (mostly) indoors. Oh yeah, and take a few nice walks, while you can.

That’s all I’ve got for today.

Have a good autumn, y’all.


Mr Chorizo.

P.S. If things get any worse in Spain, I’m going to seriously consider finding a better country to live in. Any recommendations? Some place with a reasonable cost of living, good food, good weather… Hit me up with your suggestions, right here in the comments. Thanks!


How did I end up in Spain? Why am I still here almost 20 years later? Excellent questions. With no good answer... Anyway, at some point I became a blogger, bestselling author and contributor to Lonely Planet. So there's that. Drop me a line, I'm happy to hear from you.

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