Jen Vennon: Spanish Limestone Saves The Psyche
A Vacation from Life
By mid November the school year is in full swing. The children have grown comfortable with the daily routine, their classmates, and with their teacher. Long summer days are a distant memory. This time of year I’m lucky if I make it out of the building before darkness completely sets in. November also brings unpredictable temperatures and conditions. I might be able to sneak into Rifle for a few more prefect days. But nothing is guaranteed. I’m just as likely to wake up to a foot of snow.
On top of the normal ebbs and flows of the year, I was also up to my eyeballs in wedding planning. What had started as something extremely exciting had, with the cancellation of my dream venue just weeks before the holiday season, turned into something stressful and all consuming.
Schoolteachers have an amazing schedule. We get time off for Thanksgiving, Christmas, spring break, and of course SUMMER. The only trouble is, none of these breaks allow for amazing climbing trips. It’s always too hot (summer), too short (Thanksgiving), too guilt ridden (Christmas), or I’m completely out of shape after a long winter of no climbing (spring break).This year however I’d devised a plan. I’d been saving my personal days for two years and with some finagling had managed to get an extra week tacked onto my Thanksgiving break. For the first time since I started teaching I’d be able to go on a climbing trip, in the fall, when I wasn’t completely out of shape. All I had to do was write a week’s worth of sub-plans… oh boy!
Look out Spain, here I come!
I spent the week before my departure writing sub-pans, looking for a wedding venue, and taking care of the dog. Thursday night at 10:00pm I finally started packing. If I could just make it through the next day I’d be on my way. As I boarded the airplane I quickly felt the stress of the past few months lift from my shoulders. I’d never felt so happy to be squeezed into an uncomfortable seat next to hundreds of strangers. I was on my way to Spain!
My fiancé Andrew met me in the Barcelona airport. He’d been in Europe for about a week and was adjusted to the time zones. I however was a complete zombie from lack of sleep. Luckily Andrew would be doing the driving.
On our last visit to Spain we quickly learned that you CANNOT find food in Spain on a Sunday. On that trip we’d spent a whole day looking for food, we weren’t going to make that mistake again. So we did what any desperate American would do and headed strait to McDonald’s. A nasty McDonald’s burger and some fries would be better than nothing – but barely!
After our little pit stop we headed strait to Chris Sharma and Daila Ojeda’s to meet up with the crew and get settled in. We were staying with Joe Kinder and Colette McInerney this trip. They are in Spain for six months and have rented a completely awesome apartment just two minutes down the road from Chris and Daila. We wasted no time trying to sleep off our jet lag, instead we headed strait to Santa Linya to do some climbing. After a complete day of travel, I was more or less worthless on the rock. But it was great to be out in the air and moving.
The next two weeks in Spain took on a comfortable routine filled with sleeping, climbing, eating, and spending time with amazing people. We climbed at 4 or 5 different incredible limestone crags. Each having it’s own feel and it’s own style. After spending months and months in Rifle, it was wonderful to put some long forgotten muscles to work on new climbs. I tried a number of routes, some hard, some not so hard. While I didn’t send anything super hard, I had a blast projecting some incredible routes. My body was growing exhausted from all the climbing, but my mind was stimulated in a way that only climbing can bring. Climbing helps me step back and get a perspective on my life. It helps calm my mind and reminds me of what I really love and what I really need.
While this was intended to be a climbing trip it was also a chance to see some of my favorite people and meet new friends. Each night was filled with wonderful dinners with the climbing community that inhabits Catalunya. Perhaps the best night of the trip was when Joe and Colette hosted a surprise party for local climber Ana. Because Colette and I are both planners by nature, and can’t stand the idea of not being prepared for a party, we spent the afternoon trying to read Spanish directions for cupcakes and guessing about the metric system and the many function on the Spanish oven.
The night was wonderful. I speak very little Spanish and many of the guest spoke very little English. The whole night was spent trying to communicate with people through very simple sentences and exaggerated gestures. Luckily my Spanish always improves as the party progresses. I like to think the wine helps! But it probably just helps me not care that I sound like an idiot.
By the end of our two-weeks in Spain I felt like I was home. It was so easy to pretend that this was my “real” life. The carefree nature of being in Spain and doing whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted, was exhilarating. Our biggest daily concern was what to eat for dinner and which amazing limestone crag to visit. But all good things have to come to an end. My actual real-life was waiting for me, particularly Brooklyn, our amazing puppy, who I missed terribly.
Andrew and I spent our last night in Spain having a romantic dinner and roaming the winding streets of Barcelona until we had to head to the airport. Then it was another full day of travel and we’d be home. It was hard to leave behind our friends and amazing climbing. I couldn’t believe how easily I’d slipped into such a stress free lifestyle. Their climbing season was just beginning and ours was pretty much over.
We returned home on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Brooklyn was an excited, wiggly, ball of happiness when we walked through the door. I was so happy to see her! The scent of our house instantly comforted me and I was looking forward to sleeping in my own bed. On Sunday we hosted a Thanksgiving feast. We invited lots of friends and Andrew cooked for two straight days. As I sat there eating my turkey and stuffing I pondered what I was thankful for. In that moment I was thankful for a fulfilling life, complete with challenges, AND the opportunity to escape it from time to time.
As Sunday evening drew to a close I remembered that I’d be going back to work on Monday, but I wasn’t dreading it. This was my real life and I was happy to be back. Plus I’d have jetlag on my side for the next few days.
~ Jen Vennon, prAna Ambassador
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