Moving to Spain without speaking Spanish – What’s going on after 4 months
From Australia to Spain

Beginning of this year, I moved from Australia with half of my luggage to Spain making a complete change to my lifestyle. This time it was not the job that brought me to this new place. No, this move was much simpler (but harder) than that. I literally just looked at a map to find an ideal cycling place to live – always sunny and warm, varying terrain with a great cycling culture. And Southern Spain looked like it would tick all boxes. I did not know anyone in Spain, didn’t speak Spanish and had never been to this region, so for someone who is constantly looking for the next adventure, this would be a big one.

I booked a one-way ticket, a rental car and a hotel for one night and started a new chapter in my life. What would happen after that? I had no idea.

Four months later…

I cant believe it but four months have passed; time to talk about one of the big challenges when I arrived in Spain – the language.

In January, I did not speak any Spanish. The realization that I really didn’t speak any word came when it was brought to my attention that the few words I was saying were actually Italian.

So how would I learn Spanish and communicate in a town where no other language was spoken?

Language school was not really an option as I was not sure how long I would stay.

That question became never a problem as the Spaniards made it very easy when it comes to communicating. They would try everything to understand me and vice versa.

There were a few options to communicate: 1. Gesturing, 2. Google translate 3. Using French, English and German and hoping that one of the words sound familiar (caution, this could also lead to some very awkward situations as some words mean something totally different in another language).

Despite the communication options and the helpful Spaniards, it was still a rocky start.

There were times I just wanted to say something and wanted to be understood right away. I did not want to think extensively how to get the message across. Sometimes, I just didn’t say anything to avoid the hassle.

The cyclist’s way to learn Spanish

I had no idea about the Spanish grammar, let alone any vocabulary so I downloaded a few apps to get a grasp of the language structure and some very essential words.

Although the app helped a bit, it was a minor step compared to actually getting out and interacting with people. The most helpful communication was on the bike. When I am riding 3-5 hours a day with the guys and they talk, laugh, yell and ask – I am constantly trying to figure out what is going on.

In the first 2 months, I was a quiet listener. Some people interacted with me on occasion, some not at all. And not because they were trying to avoid me but because it was hard to communicate anyway; it was even harder on the bike.

But with time and patience of the group, I could understand increasingly more and started to speak. First, just the basics but soon enough, I could hold a entire conversation.

It was an interesting development because the group was never so sure how much I understood. Sometimes, at random I could answer a question that was asked or I laughed at a joke I would have not understood a week prior.

It also has been a fascinating experience how differently people respond to someone who is learning a new language. Some of the guys speak very slowly to me so I can understand every word, some of them just talk to me as I would understand everything.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still at the beginning but the biggest hurdle of basic communication is behind me. Once a certain level of language skills is reached, it is an exponential improvement to learn a language from there.

Don’t let the lack of the language prevent you from travelling to a new country

Some people might avoid travelling to a country because of the lack of the language. But I can only encourage to go. There is absolutely no replacement for learning a language than visiting that country and constantly interacting with it. And especially when you are completely new to the language, you can see your improvement day after day.

Enjoy your travel!

Have you had a similar experience? What do you think is the best way to learn a language?

Four Useful Tips for Brilliant Cycling Holidays at Costa Tropical (Spain)

In my last post I wrote about all the reasons why you should come visit Costa Tropical.

Here, I put a list together that aims to help you to make your trip planning easier. I am suggesting the ones below because I either have used them myself or have taken a close look about their services. (Disclaimer: For some of the services I do receive a small commission if you book the services with the given promo code. I chose to partner with the companies because I feel comfortable recommending them and it allows me to give you a good deal). With that being said, here is the list:

Car rental. When I first came to Andalusia and landed in Malaga I used Record Rent a Car. I paid 4 Euro/Day! Now, I just looked at the prices and they go as low as 0.99 Euro/Day. For some of the cheaper car rental places you have to walk miles around the airport before finding them. Not in Malaga for Record Car, it is located in the basement of the airport. The desk lady even gave me suggestions where to ride my bike around Malaga. I felt immediately welcomed. I am glad I took an insurance on top of the normal price. The roads can be very narrow in Spanish towns and if you want to park somewhere, cars stand as close as a few centimeters apart. A little nudge while getting the car into a tiny spot is not unusual.

Accommodation. When I am travelling and staying somewhere, I want to feel at home and not closed up in a hotel room, especially with a group. When I met Manuela from Casa Roja in Almunecar, I found exactly that! A house that makes you feel at home. You have a common area, plenty of terraces and nicely furnished rooms that give you a welcoming feeling. Three features that convinced me as a cyclist about this B&B place included that Manuela understands the needs of cyclists whether you want to put your bike into the room or clean it outside. Another feature about this house is the swimming pool within a few meters from your room! So after a tough day on the bike, there is not much needed than just jumping into the pool. And then later over dinner you can take a look at the mountains to see where you rode that day. If you mention “Rad Monika” at your booking, you get early check-in and late check-out for your stay.

Cycling. Now, since we have taken care of transportation and accommodation, we are getting to the most important part: Cycling! I have put a few rides together here and a friend of mine has a website with great cycling routes. All my rides are on Strava as well. In case you are looking for a guided tour, I would highly suggest Paul from Sierra Sports and Tours. Originally from Australia, he moved to Spain six years ago. He has a established cycling tours company based in Andalusia. I had the opportunity to go on a ride with him. Having moved from abroad, he understands what visitors are looking for. He always has an interesting story about the region at hand and really adapts to the pace and needs of his clients. Since I enjoyed it so much, I started working with him offering collaborating training camps. We just completed our first camp in Ronda, Andalusia. Our next one takes place in Granada from 22-25 June. Use “Rad Monika” to get a 50 Euro discount for the Granada camp and 100 Euro for the tours.

Rent a bike/Bike shop. Although 20km from Casa Roja, I suggest Bull Bikes in Motril. When a creaking noise brought me to the bike store, my bike was at the bike stand in the blink of an eye. They took everything apart that needed a close look and gave me a very fair price. You can also rent a bike from them. It cost 35 Euro/ Day or 195 Euro/ week according to the website.

In case you all love it but don’t want to book everything yourself, feel free to contact me for all-inclusive offers.

If you have any questions or comments about a cycling vacation at Costa Tropical, feel free to send me an email or comment below.

I hope this post was helpful to you!

And a bit of a teaser at last:

Stay safe and talk to you soon!

Five tips to make travelling your lifestyle

In the last 10 years, I have lived on three continents, five countries and about 30+ places. Some of them weren’t longer than a month, one lasted for an entire six months. It was almost worth noting down the address. I truly love travelling, moving around and meeting new people and cultures. I am not afraid of moving to a new continent without knowing a soul, the language or the culture. In fact, I thrive on the excitement of experiencing new adventures.

Rather than travelling, I call it moving because I do immerse myself into my surroundings, in fact that is a must for me. I don’t like to be a tourist and prefer to stay where the locals live and do what the locals do as told here.

Although moving to an unknown places seems scary at first, there are ways to make this an amazing adventure. Here are few tips:

  1. To make moving easy, I own just enough stuff that I truly need, nothing more. Despite being an absolute bike addict, I only have one bike. Carrying extras of anything makes me feel weighed down. The adventures I am experiencing discredit any materialistic belongings. Stuff weighs me down. Experiences lift me up.
  2. Be happy with yourself alone. Don’t be afraid to be alone in a new country where you don’t speak the language or understand the culture. Yes, it seems at first overwhelming and scary but exactly those intense emotions you will never forget and appreciate even more because they make you feel alive.
  3. Smiling opens doors. There is no better way to communicate. Enough said.
  4. Be proactive. Moving into a new country but then hanging out in front of the TV is not worth the effort. Get out with or without a plan. You learn so much from looking around.
  5. There is no better strategy to learn than observing. Find out why the locals do certain things. How they behave. How they interact. What is different than what you are used to and why could that possibly be?

Travelling is an enriching and rewarding experience. Just buy a plane or train ticket and get out! With or without plan.

Because life is a journey!

From Australia to Spain – The only language you need is Cycling

I love travelling, moving to new places, discovering different cultures.

My friends who know me are not surprised when I tell them about an upcoming move around the world. My family gave up noting down my current living address. That’s me. I love the adventures, the new experiences. Boredom is definitely not on my agenda.

Beginning of this year, I decided to move to Europe after having spent two years in Australia. I say Europe, because I wasn’t sure where to move to. But then I had to start somewhere. I looked at a map, talked to a few friends and decided my first stop would be Andalusia, Southern Spain.

Awesome weather. Amazing cycling terrain and friendly people. That sounded like a great promise!

A month later, I landed in Malaga with only my bike bag (Turkish Airlines wanted to charge me 1000$ for my suitcase so I left it in Australia) hired a car and hoped for the best driving on the other side of the road after a 30 hours flight.

I don’t speak Spanish. I don’t know anyone and I have never been to this region.

Yep, it would be an adventure.

I was welcomed with a cake by my new cycling group!

Through a friends’ connection, I got to Motril, a small town 90km East of Malaga – away from any tourists and international industries. It was a very, very Spanish place. English would not get me anywhere.

I learned about a group ride that starts every day at 9am from the church in town. The next day, I showed up and met the group. No one spoke English. Everyone smiled at me and had a very Spanish conversation. I smiled back. I had absolutely no idea what was talked about.

But once we started riding, the language barrier became smaller and smaller. The way of cycling is the same anywhere I have ridden in the world. Tactics, attacks and heavy breathing are pretty clear ways to communicate. We spoke cycling now.

I loved it. Since that day, I showed up every day at 9am at the church in town. I slowly got to meet the entire group (All men). We did easy, hard and epic rides. I learned the strengths and weaknesses of every rider. I could guess from the intonation of the voices what was said. I was learning cycling vocabulary and surprised the group when I could answer a question.

Once, I heard a word over and over. I became too curious and asked them what it meant.

Bingo! It was one of the rougher cursing words.

The remainder of that ride, the group made sure I would learn all other cursing words as well.

Training with the group.

By solely watching the group, I learned so much about the Spanish culture, the interactions and the mentality. I got to ride to places that only the locals knew. I learned things about the area I would never otherwise have guessed.

Cycling with the locals is a great way to immerse oneself into country’s culture. I would strongly recommend to try it out! It gives you an immense sense of adventure and cultural experience!