Learning to Live Spontaniously: My trip to Tenerife, Spain

This particular trip happened in the earlier days of my study abroad experience and is one of my favorites to date. The kicker is, I had never planned to go.

Now you may be asking yourself, “well if it was so great why are you writing about it three months later?” Life gets busy man.

Also, to my defense, this trip was not on my to do list and therefore not on my list of pre-planned blog posts. I’ve saved it for my return back to the states for nostalgic purposes and I’ve had ample time to reflect on its teaching moments.

When you find yourself traveling to different countries, doing a semester abroad or just deciding to up and leave in exchange for the life of an explorer, don’t forget to take the opportunities that come in front of you.

In one of my classes called ‘History of Spain’, my professor at the time was big in giving travel advice before the start of every class. He had suggested we visit one of the Canary Islands. Funny enough, in that days lessons the island of Tenerife came up in its historical context to Spain. Ya know, because it’s a history class.

Anyway, about a week later, these girls whom I had begun to build a friendship with texted me and my roommate out of the blue asking if we wanted to go to Tenerife. Being the wonderful student I am, I had already forgotten where the hell that was.

View from the Plane Window
Photo by: Alexandra Nelson

With a quick google search I figured it out (don’t judge) and found the cheap round tickets the girls had sent to me to look at. I did what I normally don’t do and just booked the damn thing. I mean hey, I had a free weekend and had yet to go to the beach or ever visit an island.

Now to give you some background knowledge. I am someone who has always needs to be in control. It’s how I feel safe and it’s the product of some things that happened when I was younger. That story is for another time.

When life decides to take that control away from me, I become riddled with anxiety and anxious thoughts. It’s something I have been trying to recognize and actively admit to myself for a long time. No one wants to have to deal with a mental war within themselves. Sophomore year of high school was the peak of this anxiety.

I would show up to school everyday sick to my stomach, on edge the entire school day. To be honest, I still can’t quite pinpoint why I was so anxious for so long, but I knew that I didn’t want to live with that constantly. I learned to purposefully put myself into situations that made me anxious. In the beginning it just led to a lot of anxiety attacks but eventually I started not to freakout about everything. It was to show that just because I didn’t have control over the situation, that I was in any danger.

Not only was it affecting my mental and physical health, it was affecting the relationships I had around me. I was reserved and quite, not wanting to engage very often. I have always been an introvert, that’s just my personality, but this was different. I didn’t want to go out and would often stay in my room without taking to anybody. I realized I was missing out on a lot.

From then on I learned to manage my anxiety better and haven’t been like that for quite sometime now. However, every now and then I’ll have a day or week where it will come around. Usually it’s around that time of the months or a stress period so I can at least blame something.

I am definitely not 100 percent anxiety free and I will probably always have to deal with it for the rest of my life. This trip was a way to continue to combat that, to show myself that it does not and will not control me.

Coming back to the Tenerife, at this point I had no accommodations set up or really any plan at all. Neither did the women I was going with except for the housing part. They actually found a really good Airbnb in Tabaiba near Playa la Nea, one of the many black sand beaches made up of the volcanic rocks that form the island.

View from our Airbnb in Tabaiba

For some reason there was no anxiety about not having a solid plan even by the time we were boarding the plane. It seems like I was going against a societal pressure I felt day-to-day; of always having to have my shit figured out. I was flying to a tropical island off of the west coast of Africa, how many 20-year-olds get to say that.

Not only was it (in my mind) rebellious, it pushed me out of my comfort zone and taught me to be proactive about finding things to do and living in the moment. Not worrying about what’s coming next.

It helped me improve my confidence in speaking Spanish as well; having to ask people where the nearest taxi stations were because Uber didn’t exist. Even chatting with the taxi drivers after their initial surprise at my use of Spanish (albeit not fluent), or just the occasional question when needing some direction was beneficial.

Maritim Hotel is the farthest and tallest building in the back | Photo by: Alexandra Nelson

My proudest moment was when one of the girls and I found a hike on the other side of the Island through FU International Academy Tenerife’s website “12 Unmissable Hikes in Tenerife”. It took us to to Puerta de la Cruz, Santa Cruz de Tenerife (near Loro Parque) on a mild hike along the coastline of Los Realejos.

Beginning of Trail

The starting point is near a hotel called the Maritim Hotel in Puerta de la Cruz. One thing it didn’t explain well was exactly where the trail head was located. You have to find Camino Burgado right next to the hotel and walk to the very end of it to get to the trail head.

At the very beginning of the trail you will see the rock formation called “Los Roques”. It is absolutely stunning and a true showcase of mother natures beauty and power. When you walk all the way to the bottom you see just how big the waves are that crash into the rocks themselves.

Even from the top we could hear the roar of the waves as they crashed against the rocks, feeling the refreshing sea spray on our faces as we made our way to the bottom. The rocks where smooth like glass and we understood why as we watched the water force its way up the shore, beating the rocks below.

At the bottom of “Los Roques” | Photo by: Alexandra Nelson

When we were done taking all the instagram-able pictures we could, most of the trail was still waiting to be discovered.

It took us through all kinds of terrains from stone paved trails, dirt and even through towns where you will find La Romantica 1 and La Romantica 2 from the directions on the website. The foliage was thick and lush with tropical trees and beautiful flowers. All the while the ocean was never fully out of sight.

If you look closely at the trail around you, there will be signs that point to El Mirador de San Pedro which is the the end of the trail. If one ever gets confused or lost, look for those wooden arrow signs.

In the middle of the hike was the Casa del Agua. An old pump building that has since been abandoned and worn down by the ocean environment.. However it is quite the site, perched atop a cliff overlooking strong waves below.

I found it very ominous looking and thought it would be perfect for the Ghost Adventures crew from the Travel Channel to venture around at night. Wouldn’t be surprised if it was haunted.

At the very end of the hike there is the look out point, Mirador de San Pedro, where you could not only see the ocean but a vast banana grove just below. The lookout also hosted a delicious restaurant where one could get lunch, enjoy the views and wind down from the hike.

Instead of hiking back or taking a taxi, we opted for the bus. This probably wasn’t the best idea as the stop was on the side of the highway (which we had to cross because it was on the opposite side) and the bus was 40 minutes late.

If you have the money to spare, definitely call a taxi or just hike back if you can. I came to learn the buses, especially on weekends, where unreliable with punctuality. Also if you visit Tenerife, I highly recommend you rent a car or just be prepared to spend money on taxis because everything else is a headache.

In terms of eating out, we weren’t in a very culinary friendly area with our Airbnb and instead just went to the nearest grocery store and bought food to for ourselves for the weekend. This made for some fond memories of cooking and dancing in the kitchen with my new found friends. A little gecko even decided to join us on the wall of the kitchen.

The gecko definitely brought me back to my early childhood in Arizona where all kinds if critters, especially geckos and lizards, would find their way into the house.

Not only was the scenery everything I want in a vacation with the ocean waves, humid air and houses dotting the rocky terrain; I created a good friendship with some of the girls I went on the trip with.

I learned about their lives back home, the careers they were after while going to school and all the gossip in between. It was like the grown-up version of a sleepover or a girls trip I had never expected to happen.

We also all came from different places; California, Texas, Colorado, Iowa and even New York. Yet here we were, together on a tropical Island in Tenerife, Spain. How much cooler and existential can you get?

Tenerife satisfied my longing for an active and nature filled hike with all the amazing trails available up and down the island. However if you’re looking for a more relaxing venture, its beaches are a sure way to go.

Playa la Lea | Photo by: Caitlin Clement

Remember when I mentioned black sand beaches in the beginning of this article? Yeah that’s right…BLACK SAND BEACHES!!! I had never been nor seen one before but the island is known for them. The beach we went to (Playa la Nea) was big enough to have the full beach experience but also small enough and far enough away from Santa Cruz that it was quite.

When it comes to spaniards and the art of beaching, the tops come off. In fact we probably looked like the weirdos because even the little kids were running around butt naked and here we were, all private areas covered. However it’s part of the experience right? My only concern was getting sunburned nipples.

So I opted for the untie the back when laying face down option as I wasn’t quite ready for full frontal. Although, some of the girls did decided to try it.

Anyhow the black sand made it easy to see all the crevices it had made its way into and it brushed off a little easier than your typical white sand. As a result, clean up was easier. Not to mention the unique visual opportunity it provided.

It truly was one of those experiences you’re used to seeing on peoples stories while you’re working and you curse their name for having so much fun while you’re stuck doing the same old thing. It was nice being the other person for once!

Part of the trail | Photo by: Alexandra Nelson

Now, none of this would have happened if I hadn’t decided to go because of money, decided I didn’t know the girls long enough or just did my usual thing and avoided social contact. If anything, the sheer lack of planning should have sent me running from the get go.

When it comes to money, I can make more, but the memories I made there can never be recreated the same way. While my finances hurt in the moment, it hasn’t come back to haunt me either.

Now don’t get me wrong, if you are struggling to keep your apartment, or to pay your smallest of bills then perhaps save it for another time. Being realistic is important.

And your spontaneous moment may not be taking a trip to Tenerife either. It may be interviewing for that job, or asking out that special person, going to a party or taking a last minute weekend camping trip.

Whatever it ends up being, don’t be afraid to shoot your shot. If there was only one thing I learned in during my entire time in Spain, it would be that. To look at life’s inconsistencies and learn to embrace them. Who knows, you might get the job, win the guy/girl or have one of the best trips of your life.

When I say to live with more spontaneity, I don’t mean to live carelessly. Don’t go travel somewhere or do something that will put you in danger, do some research and be realistic that it may not be everything you’d hoped. And maybe it isn’t, but at least you tried and know instead of regretting having never taken the chance.

This post was meant to convey to you what I took away from this experience and hopefully convince you to take a chance. It’s never easy to take your own advice, so you can take mine and then blame it on me if it doesn’t work out.

Caitlin Clement

I am a current undergraduate student studying journalism and Spanish. When I was a little girl, some of my best memories came from helping my family in the kitchen. I loved trying new foods and dabbling with different cooking techniques; baking becoming a favorite. I eventually combined this love of food with travel after going on my first international trip in high school. There was no turning back after that: I was hooked. Food, for me, was a representation of different cultures. A plate of food in Spain is different to that of England. It lets you look into the typography, the traditions, and the community of the place you're visiting. This blog is my attempt at following the trail of bread crumbs life leaves out for us. Not being afraid to take the bate even if it’s out of my comfort zone and maybe inspire a few of you to do the same.

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