Living Abroad,  Thriving

Life with Visitors is Different

Dear Hilary,

I’ll never forget when you visited me and how you told me that although you were happy to see the important things you should see in Granada, more than anything you just wanted to live my ‘normal life’ with me. It threw me at first because, after quite a few years of living here and receiving a number of visitors, I had a pretty set list in my mind of all the things I would take you to do and see and nowhere on there did I leave time for going to the grocery store, practicing yoga, or hanging out at home.

Even though I want my visitors to drink all the wine and eat all the cheese while they’re here in Spain, it gives an unrealistic impression of my ‘normal life.’Most friends who visit me have limited time to travel and they often want to spend the time they have exploring a handful of places, not only Granada. Thus, I’ve learned how to pick and choose and treat my visitors to the best granadina experience possible in usually just 2-4 days. (I don’t even want to think about that time I was living in Málaga over the summer but took on the challenge of showing my visitor Granada in just eight hours…we did almost everything I deemed ‘absolutely necessary’ but we also almost died of exhaustion!)

The funny thing is, I’ve recently had more people come to visit me for a second or third time and it raises this unusual circumstance in which you don’t fully feel the need to play tour guide 24-7 and yet it doesn’t feel like ‘real life’ either. For better or for worse, your life is simply different when you have visitors! And in an odd way, this in-between when I have visitors who have already gotten the standard tour often ends up being more complicated. (Can’t imagine what I mean? Check out the intro to the article I wrote after my parents’ second trip to Granada.)

I don’t know if it’s simply a personality thing of mine, but I think it’s hard to have visitors without feeling both a sense of obligation as well as an excitement over getting to show them my home. Thus, it’s nearly impossible for me to show them my ‘normal life’ as my life has been altered quite substantially by the mere fact that they’re visiting! Even when taking them to the same restaurants and coffee shops I ‘normally’ frequent and to hang out with my friends in the ways we ‘normally’ hang out it’s simply not ‘normal’ because I would never be out and about that many times back-to-back. Try as I may to show visitors my ‘normal life’ I simply can’t over a short-term visit!

It’s hard to be ‘normal’ when you want to be able to fit in ALL of your favorite tapas…in just a few nights.In that same way that traveling is tiring, hosting can be very tiring as well! Unless I have a lot of notice and my visitor’s trip will be the exact amount of time that I can easily take off of work, I tend to work during my visitor’s stay which always creates its own stress. On top of the fact that I’m usually tired after a typical work day, I’m also trying to make the very most of the free time I have to dedicate to my visitor…day after day after day.

So, while I love having visitors I also realize that it’s sometimes hard for me to balance and it’s also really hard for visitors to understand this, as I’m certainly enjoying my time spent with them. My intention in sharing this is not to dissuade people from visiting me nor to make anyone wary of hosting visitors of their own. I simply think it’s important to recognize the ways in which receiving a visit can stretch you out of your norm, even when visitors specifically ask you not to go out of your way and to stick to your ‘normal.’ Over the past five years of living abroad I’ve come to realize this about myself and so I wanted to share in case it may be comforting to anyone else who feels ‘off balance’ despite also feeling happy to have visitors.

Pinterest Life with VisitorsDo you feel you’re able to stick to your ‘normal’ and show visitors a genuine example of your ‘normal life’ or is it inherently different for you, too? I’d love to know the ways you’ve found to thrive in this experience either way!


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