Holy shit, it is crazy how time flies – I’ve just realized that I am almost done with my EVS. This realization has of course left me thinking both about how I’ve used my time here in Spain so far and what I will do in the remaining month and a half. And how did I start thinking about this? Well, about a month ago I’ve injured my knees trail running on the Vereda de la Estrella and it hasn’t really been healing very well. This lack of recovery has not only meant that I had to skip my running training, but also led to me having to cancel a bunch of plans for epic hikes that I had planned. Suddenly I had a lot of time on my hands to think about things and this idleness hasn’t exactly been fun.
It is simply difficult for me to sit on my ass for long. I love to be active, to be outside and it has really impacted my productivity and even my mood a bit for the last few weeks. For the first two weeks it was fine… I was frustrated, but also very positive that the knees would heal quickly, and things would be back to normal in no time. The intense pain with walking disappeared after a week, so I no longer needed a knee brace and you couldn’t see me limp at all. I could comfortably walk around the city without a problem. I could feel my knees being not completely okay, but it didn’t really hurt much. But then the progress plateaued. That’s where it has been ever since and last weekend, it may have even got a little bit worse, but since reverted back to normal. So, I can walk without any problems, but I can feel some little pain in the knees. It doesn’t seem to be getting much worse, but it also isn’t improving.
I started looking at the calendar, thinking that I may need a couple more weeks of recovery and I realized that I won’t be able to do all the trips that I planned, because at the end of June I will go to Íllora with the other volunteers and everyone from the organization to run youth exchanges. That leaves me with about 3 weeks to do several 1-day and one multi-day hike I planned. Of course, I also have to go to work during the week, it’s not like I have infinite holidays, plus I first have to wait for my knees to improve… So, it is pretty much guaranteed that most of those plans will be going down the drain!
What I’m Up to Now
Just to catch you up to speed if you haven’t been following along: since the end of September I’ve been living and working in Granada. I am doing an EVS project, meaning European Voluntary Service. It is like the Erasmus program for volunteers – you get a grant to live abroad, except instead of going to university, you work with a local organization or NGO. So, I started working with Las Niñas del Tul, an organization that works mainly on the implementation of international training courses, youth exchanges and other EU initiatives. My work here has consisted of helping to plan and run these activities, make photos and videos, create educational materials and content for their website and blog.
In my free time I’ve been doing a lot of local exploring, going hiking or riding my bike to nearby places. Within a few months of arriving, I am pretty sure that I knew more trails and did more hikes than 98% of Granada’s inhabitants. This of course meant that I worked on my photography skills a lot too and I also started documenting my experiences right here on this blog.
Fear of Missing Out
Now that it has dawned on me that my project is almost over, and I’ll be packing my bags and leaving Spain in about a month and a half, I am starting to think how many things I’ll be missing out on. These places will probably mean nothing to you, but I would have really enjoyed visiting them: the famous Beas de Granada – Granada route, doing the Camino de los Neveros, doing two other hikes near Güéjar Sierra that I’ve been planning for ages, going to the Alpujarras, climbing the Alcazaba, not to mention the million other routes I could do in some of the other mountain ranges. Then of course the world doesn’t only revolve around hiking and compared to some other people doing EVS I haven’t exactly traveled far and wide through Spain during my time here. I definitely feel like I should have at least gone to Cordoba at some point…
But I’ve decided already at the start of my EVS that I will have a different travel philosophy when I arrive here. I decided to explore the area around Granada extremely well instead of trying to get a surface-level impression of the whole of Spain. Have I seen as many places as I wanted? Probably no, but I have sure as hell explored a lot! And the thing about travelling around is that once you go to one destination, two more pop up in its place on your list. Although to be fair, I have already done a big trip around Spain a couple of years ago on a university travel grant, so I have seen a lot of places already before my EVS.
Plans for June
So how will I best use my time in June to try to tick everything off my list? The answer is… That I won’t! Because as things are going now, my knee is not improving fast enough to really push any of these hiking projects. Even if I optimistically say that it all will be fine 2 weeks from now, that hardly leaves me any free time to do the routes, so I will have to prioritize and choose 1-2 good day trips. But that doesn’t mean I won’t travel – in fact in about 2 weeks I will be off on a little trip around Andalusia with my favorite travel buddy! Of course, I am talking about Aisling!
Youth Exchanges in Íllora & The End of My EVS
In the last week of June, we will pack up our stuff and move to a little village near Granada called Íllora. That is where we will be running back-to-back youth exchanges until the end of my EVS project. While I may have made it sound like it is messing up my hiking plans, I have actually been looking forward to this month for my whole EVS. It means spending a month with awesome people, doing really cool activities – it will be 24/7 madness, but I love it. These Erasmus+ youth exchanges bring together young people from several European countries to work together for a week or so on a specific topic, doing a ton of creative work and learning new skills.
My EVS ends on the 21st of July, but of course I don’t actually have to leave on that day. I plan on staying for about a week extra. Fingers crossed that my knee will have fully healed by then and I am back in shape, because if that’s the case, I will attempt an epic multi-day hike through the highest peaks of the Sierra Nevada, before catching a plane back to Hungary. If I don’t feel confident about doing that, I will just spend an extra few days in Íllora and a few in Granada, just saying goodbye to my favorite places in this amazing city!
So many plans, but my knee still isn’t cooperating… Even if the doctor tells me not to push running so hard and maybe skip the marathon I signed up for, I still want to be back at hiking as soon as possible. 1.5 months from now, I will be back in Hungary, so my opportunities for mountain adventures will go down to zero. Hungary has some nice hills, but the landscape is not exactly what you’d call “epic”. The highest peak in Hungary is 1015 meters. For comparison, the highest mountain near Granada is 3478 meters. That’s the Mulhacén, which also happens to be the highest point of mainland Spain. While I know I’ll be back to Granada in a year or two, probably it won’t be all about hiking and outdoor adventures.
But I have also come to accept that I need to give my body the time it needs to heal and to be okay with not visiting every place that I wanted to visit. After all, it will only give me a reason to want to come back and spend a lot more time in Granada!