The 11 Things I Learned from 11 Months in Spain

11 Months in Spain - Small Spanish VillageYup, I’m back in Finland with the snow, reindeers, and polar bears.

Okay, we don’t actually have reindeers or polar bears roaming the streets, but everyone seems to think otherwise, so I’m happy to play along.

Time seems to be going faster and faster. I hardly noticed the 11 months spent in Spain. I experienced, learned, and grew a lot during this time, but it all seems like a dream.

Our dog almost died, I learned a new language, I made new friends, I solved new problems, and I got an earplug stuck in my ear. You know, the usual stuff when you travel.

Why I Left

I left because I felt like returning to Finland. I also realized that traveling from Spain would be harder because I had rent to pay, and a dog to take care of.

Moving back to Finland not only gives me more flexibility, but also cuts my expenses in half, which is always a nice thing when you’re fond of minimalism.

As the years have passed, I’ve learned to trust my intuition more and more. I do what feels good, and above all, I listen to my heart. That doesn’t mean I run away from fear and eat candy, it means facing my fears and giving my heart space to communicate.

It’s something you learn with time. The more you trust your intuition, even if you misinterpret it, the more you realize that you can put faith in yourself, and you can listen to your own self for guidance.

The 11 Things

1. Openness. It seems Spanish people smile, talk, and say hi more than Scandinavians do. Don’t get me wrong though, the Finnish (and Swedish) people are pretty damn nice, too. I tend to be reserved myself when I meet people for the first time, because I never know if they are ready to meet the monster that is me, and I suspect many Scandinavians are the same way.

2. Breakdown. When I arrived in Spain, I wasn’t comfortable with the budget I had in the bank. On top of that, opening up bank accounts and getting the paper work done took longer than I expected, but through all this I learned a thing or two about myself, and collected vital experience points along the way.

3. Traveling? Easy! The more I travel, the easier it gets. I always propose massive action, because when you do stuff, you get an accurate view of reality, and you know what to expect. You can read all you want about travel, but it still won’t matter, because your experience will be different than everyone else’s.

4. Making Friends. I enjoy being alone, reading books, thinking, writing, and creating, but I don’t mind making a few friends here and there. I attended CouchSurfing language exchange meetings, where I met tons of new people. I took trips with a few of them, ate dinners, and had a lot of fun. Making friends is easy. How easy it is depends on you. Just look at Benny, he travels the world, learns new languages, and has no trouble making friends without drinking.

5. Breaking Patterns. Whenever I travel, my mind changes as much as the landscape around me. I get new ideas. I meet new people, and I learn new things. It forges new pathways in my brain, which in turn spark new, innovative, and brilliant thoughts. If you’re stuck working the same job, doing the same stuff, and eating the same food, chances are you will stay stuck ;).

6. New Language. While in Spain, I picked up a nice level in Spanish. I spent three months obsessively listening, writing, reading, and speaking Spanish, then I woke up one morning and decided I had learned enough. That’s just how I roll. I like to focus on as few things as possible, or in other words, I like to eliminate and discriminate.

7. Overcoming Fear. Moving to a new country, doing new things, and facing the unknown is scary. During the past 11 months, I ran into obstacles I hadn’t run into before, and I had to solve problems in new ways. Luckily, I quickly adapted everything was back on track in no time.

8. Minimalism. I lived for almost a year with very little. In my post radical minimalism, I wrote that I had 43 possessions, but I threw and gave a lot of stuff away, so I was probably close to 30 items for several months, and towards the end, I realized that I could’ve lived with even less clothes, as many of my shirts were only used a few times during the whole year. Now that I’m home, I have a lot of uncluttering to do.

9. We Are All the Same. When you meet people that are open, happy, and most of all, sane, you notice that there really are no differences between us. We may have different shells, come from different parts of the world, and have different beliefs, but deep down we’re all the same. Everyone is curious about you, and everyone wants to get to know new people, just like you do.

10. The Heart. Getting through more obstacles, fears, and puzzles will spark new growth on many levels, but above all in the hart area. I learned to trust my heart even more during this time in Spain, and I learned to follow my intuition just a tad more. It’s a slow, highly fascinating process.

11. Appreciate Home. Spain is cool and all, but when I got back home, it was awesome. The mundane things suddenly seemed special. I’ll get used to this soon, but right now it’s magical, especially with snow on the ground. Traveling not only teaches you stuff, but it also helps you appreciate what you already have.

What Happens Now?

I’ve been asked this questions so many times, and to be honest, I have no idea. I’m as curious to find out what I’ll come up with as you are.

But one thing is for sure, traveling will be much easier from now on, as I can leave whenever I want without having to juggle rent, the dog, and, well, stuff.

I may decide to leave for Thailand next year and spend a few months there, I may come to the U.S and explore, or I may stay put and enjoy the north. I have no idea.

That’s one of the advantages of running a lifestyle business.

As far as I know, this is the only way life should be lived.

Update: I became a father in December, 2011, so I’m enjoying seeing my son grow up.

Image by Jon

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  1. Martin Mikušát says:


    I have to say, that from all blogs I follow, you inspire me the most. I’m always happy to see new article from you in my e-mail. I just hope, that sometimes in the future, I will achieve similar lifestyle as you have.

  2. Henri,

    Welcome back to Finland! I just realized, that you actually moved back here and weren’t making a quick visit.

    I agree with the points you gave. Especially the appreciation towards your home is definitely different. Although I haven’t lived abroad, I know the feeling. When looking things at a different perspective, you are truly able to understand their true value.


    • Yup! I’m back, and it definitely gives you a whole nother point of view when you’ve been away from your home for almost a year.

      Great to hear from you, Timo. I hope you’re doing well!

  3. And, it is nice to be with family during the holidays no matter if you have any religious affiliation or not. Thanks for the nice post. Enjoy home and come to the US when the spirits move you!


    • Couldn’t agree more, Gayle! I’ll definitely come to the U.S, I just don’t know when. We shall see, we shall see 😉

  4. Martin Stellar says:

    Hi Henri

    All good reasons that you mentioned, but I still disagree with you leaving Fuengirola. It was an honour to meet you and I hope you’ll back. Sir.

  5. Great observations Henri.

    Travelling for me has definitely show me that I don’t need many things to be happy. I also have a much great appreciation for home.

    One thing I would add to your list is that travel or living abroad actually brings you closer to your family. When I return home to Canada, everyone makes a special effort to meet my wife and I because they know we will be gone soon.

    Also, staying with friends or family for even a few days can build much closer relationships than the occasional visits of people living in the same city.

    • Great points, John. It’s funny what a bit of scarcity does, even in real life! It seems traveling gets an all-around thumbs up in almost all areas.

      You live in Canada? Must be almost as cold as up here in Northern Scandinavia 😉

  6. Henri you are a true inspiration. I have decided to become a minimalist myself. I spent the afternoon counting my posessions and I’m offically at 6,689 things. It will take me another day to two to finalize the count in my home and then I will start on my 14 x 20 foot storage building. I know that I have slightly over 4,000 LP albums, the hard part is getting the door open and getting inside without the two bicycles hanging from the rafters hitting me in the head. Once I get the total number of my posessions counted then I have to make a plan on passing them on to others or making some money from selling them. I might be able to retire on the proceeds from this sale.

    Congratulations on making it back home, sounds like you are already settled in.

    Thanks for the list of 11 things you learned in Spain. There are really some good tips in this list.

    • Wow. You counted to 6,689? That is impressive in and of itself. I think you may indeed be able to retire after you’ve sold all of that extra.

  7. Wow, sounds like you had some experience. I have actually never traveled out of the US myself but have heard great things about it from people such as yourself.

    I’ve been busy working on niche sites but got a break and thought I would see if you had anything new up on the blog and what do you know, you did! 🙂

    Btw, it’d be awesome if you came to the US and some how, when I start making a living on the Internet it would be really cool to meet you in the future.

    Keep inspiring and keep the passion alive man!

    • I hope your niche sites are coming along well. I know you’ve been working on them for a while. If I ever do get there, I’ll let you know!

  8. Spain will always have a special place in my heart! I also spent precisely 11 months there the first time (in Valencia) and that kicked off my almost decade of travelling and learning languages. Spaniards are awesome and really helped me become more open as a person!

    I’m also looking forward to going home and always do! Although my stays are only ever a week or a few weeks long, so I can’t really get bored and do genuinely appreciate everything so much more.

    Great post! And thanks for the mention 😉 Making friends isn’t that bad – we say in Ireland that “a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet”

    • I’ve heard that saying before. Never knew it was Irish, or maybe it isn’t, but oh well.

      Yeah, Spain is definitely awesome. I know some have horrible experiences there, but I guess some people have “bad luck” 😉

      Cheers Benny!

  9. If Thailand or the south east asia is a serious contender for your next travel chapter- consider Singapore. As a local I am not sure how the visitors really make their homes here but we have an increasing number of foreigners making home here. Its tropical climate almost throughout the year! Connectivity, accessibility and convenience are tops in this sunny island, if I may trumpet about my homeland ;p

  10. I love how you live..when someone asks where do I see myself in five years, I have absolutely no idea because I open my heart to the moment as it is presented and to natural flow..Kind of like when I sail, I often let the wind pattern and current flow help me to decide my destination..

  11. Paul Carlson says:

    Henri, thank you for this post, I enjoyed reading about your travels and the things you have learned. Look forward to reading more.

    Congratulations also on learning a new language! What a great asset to have, to be able to communicate with those from other cultures. Well done.

  12. Hola Henri! I loved this article, maybe because I have a little bias – I’m going to be living in Malaga, Spain for a year starting January. I’m from Australia so it really is half way across the world for me and the first time I’ll be living out of home. Really enjoyed your 11 things and I might just have to backtrack through your posts to read more about Spain.. I’m nervous, scared and so so excited! Good luck with all your future travels, it’s great to hear your living the life you want.

    • Very cool! Make sure you check out the Couch Surfing groups that exist in and around Málaga. You’ll meet a lot of cool new people, and get a chance to practice your Spanish 😉

  13. manelgarcia says:

    I’m from barcelona, where were you?

    I like that u like spain, is one of the better places to live!


  14. Hi Henri, I’ve been reading “Passionate Living” and really enjoying it. You have so many good ideas, and I love your writing style. Finally got around to checking out your blog and look forward to spending some time here exploring.
    Thanks so much for the inspiration! 🙂
    Laurie in Michigan

    • I’m glad you’re digging Passionate Living. Thanks for the kind words. They are truly appreciated!

      Thanks for rocking, Laurie!

  15. Great post Henri! I couldn’t agree more. I studied Spanish in College and use it a little. Learning a new language (well) requires complete immersion in the culture…Kudos to you, my friend!!

  16. Its time to go to Brazil! Ask the Irish, he loves it here.

    And one day I will go to Thailand, for 3 months. Maybe next year, who knows!

    great article!

  17. Wonderful observations Henri. Change is such a good thing for our brains, yet we go kicking and screaming into it. I also love the statement how we are unique as individuals, and yet share so much in our journey as mankind. If we looked more for what we hold in common rather than focusing on our differences, the world would be a different and more kind place.

    I did like the polar bear and reindeer image and am disappointed to find there aren’t any.

    I am beginning a new journey of my own as my husband and I have temporary jobs in Shreveport Louisiana. He is there now and I am going in three weeks. We are from Colorado (no polar bears here either), but one of the most beautiful places in the United States. People have given me condolences on going to Shreveport. But I am looking forward to the adventure for many of the reasons you listed. Wish I was going to Spain for six months, but plan to make the most of Louisiana and look for the beauty, the good things, the southern people, and embrace it all.

    May your life overflow with blessings. Enjoy the re-discovery of Finland.

  18. You always write inspiring posts. Thank you. And good for you for being home for the holidays.
    I think I’d have to do what you did with all the stuff I have. It’s gonna be hard, but if you say it’s going to help a lot, I’m all for it.
    I’ve always dreamt of studying and living in another country but I don’t know how to do it. I hope you can share some tips on how you did it so I can try it out for myself.
    Looking forward to more inspiring posts.

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