I will never forget the first time I arrived on Tenerife. The unbelievable warmth of the wind, the blaze of the sun, the unique smell of salty air mixed with the dust from the roads. It was the first minute upon landing I knew I wanted to live there, at least for a while. And I did. Being the stubborn restless girl that I am, I packed my bags and was off to study Spanish nowhere else but on the coolest of the Canary islands. So there I was, standing shyly at the burning airport with a hilariously huge suitcase, looking up the address of the place that would become my new home. I was nervous, I was lost, I was scared and I was overwhelmingly excited, all of the above mixed together into a cocktail of emotions I was not sure how to deal with.
It’s hard to put in words how crazy the experience was or how much it taught and changed me. Finding yourself on a tiny piece of land somewhere in the Atlantic ocean, not speaking the language quite well and knowing you have to make it somehow makes you feel terrified and beautifully liberated at the same time. It challenges so many parts of you, even those you didn’t know about. I remember vividly the first people I talked to, their (and mine) confusion as we had no idea what the other person was saying. I remember running around town trying to find a post office, a pharmacy or, well, even my apartment way too many times. I remember the feeling I had the first night on the island, the thoughts that were circulating through my bemused mind, the tears running down my cheeks. I remember the first lecture at uni. The first grocery shopping I did. The first meal I cooked. The first letter I wrote, sitting at a café in front of a beautiful cathedral listening to the chime of the bell as I was pouring my heart out onto that little piece of paper. I remember the first person I was able to have quite a meaningful conversation in Spanish with. The first swim in the cooling sea. The first hike I went on, the first car I rented for a trip. The first time walking through the beautiful park in Santa Cruz that looked like a little jungle to me. The first time trying patatas con mojo. The first time listening to (my now favorite) local band performing in the streets of La Laguna.
I remember chilly mornings and warm nights. I remember waking up at the beach to the sound of waves crashing onto the shore. The joyful feeling of driving with the windows down and singing with new friends and old friends and sometimes with people I didn’t know at all. I remember the first time I danced at a full moon party. The first time hiking to the highest mountain of Spain and seeing the most breathtaking sunrise from the top. I remember the smell of the volcano and the surprisingly brutal cold up there. The gleaming stars that shine so bright it makes you wonder if what you see is real, the feeling of being so close to them it seems like you can touch them. I remember spotting the constellation of Cancer in the sky you can only see when close to the equator. I remember the vivid colors of nature, the amazing contrast between the emerald blue of the ocean and the reddish brown of the rocks. I remember meeting people with lives totally different from mine, people with interesting outlooks and opinions on our existence here, people who ran away from what hurt them, people who were lost and hoped to find themselves. I remember feeling alone in a crowd of people and feeling at home among people I have only known for a few minutes. I remember stressing about exams and missing my friends and family but most of all, I remember feeling absolutely, liberatingly and undeniably alive. Tenerife was, is and always will be the place that taught me you don’t need much to live fully and that it does not matter where you are as long as you carry your happy place within yourself. Dear blue island, thank you for everything. We both know that one day, I’ll be back.
Words & Photography by Tereza H.
© 2017 Reef Magazine