Advice From A Stranger Spain

Couchsurfing with “Musician on the Hill” in Granada, Spain

I woke up this morning outside of Granada, Spain and something just felt right. I felt happy.

I quickly ran around my room packing up my things at Tom’s house. I had about 15 minutes to leave and catch my bus. This was my style, leaving things for the last minute–Living rushed, living slow. As I stuffed a wrinkly wolf shirt into my bag, I made small talk with the Couchsurfer who would be replacing me, a girl from Berlin.

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Tom, our Couchsurfing host, was a 59 year old man with a young heart and a good mind; a fellow American who moved to Spain 27 years ago. What he thought would be a 1 year sabbatical turned into a great story of how his Spanish life began: a story filled with music, romance, good (and cheap) wine, travel and most importantly for Tom, one decision that would affect the rest of his personal storybook.

Rather than going to law school or furthering his philosophy career back in the States, Tom fell in love with the Spanish life. When the time came to go back home, he didn’t want to. It just didn’t feel right; he had never felt so happy, so free.

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In a little village on the outskirts of Granada, Spain lives a man named Tom.

You see, life in Spain is much different than we’re used to back in the US.

In his younger days, Tom was living off less than 1k/month as a translator, teacher and musician in Madrid. He had found a group of international musicians and started a band. Unlike his peers back at home, his life was no longer focused around work.

Tom in his element outside his home in Granada, Spain. Photo: Tom Lardner

Tom in his element outside his home in Granada, Spain. Photo: Tom Lardner

He lived like a Spaniard: Slowly waking up, olive oil on toast, working here and there and going to bed late. In between, the Spanish enjoy their café con leches, take siestas, and slowly walk down narrow alleys hand in hand to eat dinner at 10pm. They enjoy life–the simple one–and it had captured Tom.

It had captured me. This “unconventional lifestyle” had an effect on my friend, Tom. You could tell from his appearance, but also his morale. Tom was 1 year away from 60 but he could have been in his late 40s.

“You look so young,” I told him, “Great for nearly 60.”

“Well,” he answered with a smile, “I haven’t lived a normal life, have I?”

Tom was right, he hadn’t. Moving around Spain, making his money in funny ways, multiple long term lovers. He was a free bird, he had escaped exceptions and should- do’s. He was the musician living up on the hill. He was my inspiration.

I quickly gathered my shoes, tying the strings in a bow to hang off my pack. I tried to concentrate while chatting with the new German backpacker and said bye. I left Tom a little note but I had a feeling I would be seeing him again. I put the note among the other things on his desk (trinkets, music pages, cynical comics) and headed for the door.

A peak into Tom's living room; The place where he drank his coffee and wrote his music.

A peak into Tom’s living room; The place where he drank his coffee and wrote his music.

I walked down his hill, past old women watering their plants and empty fields. Horses took a break from their breakfast and looked up at me as I passed. I followed my shadow as the sun shined behind me. I looked at it. This was me, this was my life. Somewhere in the northern slopes of the Sierra Nevada, in a small town miles outside of Granada, Spain, I was moving on to the next place, leaving another priceless travel memory behind.

Lately, I have felt lost while traveling. Where I’m supposed to be, what I should be doing, living this funky lifestyle… Others might see me on social media and think “Wow!” or whatever, but it’s not all happiness and rainbows. I get sad, I worry, I miss home, I lose sight…but on this day, I woke up happy.

I walked with my shadow, my pack on my back and took it in: feeling right, feeling at ease, enjoying the present moment. My only worry was possibly missing the bus, but it didn’t really matter anyway. Another bus would come.

Couchsurfing in Granada

Just down the street from Tom’s house, I walked past this wall wearing a similar explorer hat.

The neighbor’s dogs barked at me as I passed.

“Quiet, quiet,” I told them, “Why are you worried?”

In the midst of the crazy pack, I saw one puppy. He was a brown mutt jumping for joy at his mother’s ears. He didn’t even notice me passing by as he was too lost in the moment feeling so alive like most dogs do.

This puppy, this man, this moment had an effect on me. Staying with the musician on the hill: Seeing his life, hearing his stories, sharing everything from laughs, glasses of wine, and moments of heartbreak. Witnessing his enthusiasm for life, the puppy’s, too.

My throat tightened up and I held back tears until I realized that these tears swelling up in my eyes were happy tears.

I felt alive like the puppy. I felt free like Tom. I felt right.

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Photo: Tom Lardner


I met Tom through the website Couchsurfing. What’s Couchsurfing? I explain it here!


Humans inspire me! Find more advice from strangers here.

Where am I now? Find out by following me on Instagram!

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