They say every person has his roots and if you try to replant yourself in a different environment, you will always end up disappointed because you have severed your connection with your real home. What has always bugged me about this assumption is that it is perceived to be only valid in cases in which people emigrate abroad, and not move places in their home country itself.
Initially, it seems to make a lot of sense, since a foreign culture can be very different than the one you’ve grown with. But that’s just a sterile, textbook case. In reality, moving from a village to a metropolis within the same county is no less stressful and in many cases, the adaptation process is even more difficult than switching metropolises in two different countries.
Then there is this weird generation, to which I seem to belong and which has yet to be defined with a single label, and for us the term “root” is something way more abstract. Most of us have grown exposed to foreign influences long before we made our first step out of home, so the change didn’t necessarily feel traumatic. We may not blend well in a new environment but that wouldn’t necessarily be a consequence of a culture shock. We may simply dislike the place because of pretty trivial reasons.
Like I disliked London, for example. I moved there with a goal in mind but I never committed myself to really living there. Madrid is another place that doesn’t resonate with me. Travelling around Spain, seeing Cordoba, Seville, Salamanca, Segovia and a myriad of other small towns in between, I started to think I would never feel comfortable on Spanish soil.
All this changed the moment in which I set foot in Valencia. It was 1 AM when the bus entered the city. It felt calm and vast at the same time. The claustrophobic concrete atmosphere of Madrid was 350 kilometers behind me, its dry air was suddenly replaced by a humid Mediterranean breeze. This mild, refreshing wind tickled the leaves of the trees, making them glitter under the street lights. I hadn’t had the pleasure of seeing so many trees in a lot of time. The interior of Spain is primarily desert-like, especially around the capital and in the small town I lived in. It seemed difficult enough to maintain a patch of grass, not to mention something more substantial. Here in Valencia, vegetation reigned supreme.
First impressions are important but not always adequate, so I was careful not to create too many expectations. And yet, after spending months in Valencia and enduring the enormous summer heat without air conditioning, I still remain enchanted by it. Now, after I got more acquainted with it, the city feels smaller but its vast boulevards and open spaces still maintain a feeling of grandiosity and freedom that can rival those of Paris or Berlin. It’s the only Spanish city, which I could possibly call home one day, at least from the ones I’ve seen so far.
The real test for any kind of attachment is when you separate for a while. Right now, I am almost 3000 km away, back in my hometown. I came in the beginning of September to spend 20 days in Bulgaria after a long 2 and a half year absence. And nostalgic as I am, lying on my teenage bed, in the room I used to call my own, where I grew up and which walls were once decorated with posters of pop stars and blockbuster movies, I can’t help but dream about a walk around the Turia Gardens.
Could this be love?