From: Alicante, Spain 🇪🇸
Who: Financial analyst (or the funniest guy I know – author’s remark)
Quote of the interview: Always be open to listen to different cultures, people, opinions and stories. Hang out with an international crowd, don’t get stuck only with the people from your country.
I currently work as a financial analyst for Iberia (IAG group) in Krakow. I moved here 4 years ago as Spain was in a huge economic crisis and as I was looking for a change.
Back in Spain most of my time after high school I was studying architectural technologies and management. As the market was in crisis I mainly worked in random part-time jobs – I was an animator in the kindergarten and a referee in basketball matches among other random jobs. In Poland I did an Erasmus in exchange and I decided to stay because I really enjoyed the place. Before I moved to Poland I lived in England for about 10 months, I was working as a waiter there and learning English (wider chances in life).
My family lives in Alicante, a great place with nice weather. My parents are teachers, they are now retired. My mom worked as a teacher for adults who came to finish high school at the age of 30-35. My dad was a principal in the school. I have to say they worked in school for almost the whole life.
I love sports, I play basketball and regularly train in the gym. I also enjoy traveling – whenever I have holidays I am looking for new destinations to explore. Every couple of years I try to take 5-6 months off and travel. This is how I did my round-the-world trip in 2016-2017.
I am a very social person, I hang out with friends very often – be that sports, partying or anything else. I am a realist more than a dreamer.
Have you found your way in life?
There is no specific way for anyone, I think. I’d say I didn’t find my way – I am just trying to be happy and to do all things in my life that I want to do within the time I have.
At some point I realized life has an end, I am not going to be 25 or 30 anymore, so it’s here and now. Kind of now or never. I try to not plan long-term, I sometimes thing mid-term, but mostly I am just crossing off the things from my bucket list.
What’s your story?
The whole time starting with the school years I was a really social person, I did lots of sports. My parents were very demanding with studies, however, they taught me to think that studies are for me, not for them or anyone else. My parents’ point was that my life will be easier if I study well. I also had a good motivation and as I was a competitive person I did well at school. In general, I’ve always wanted to do what I do well. This effort to study, the mindset I adopted back then really helps me until now.
High school time was pretty chill – half-day studies and the rest half of the day doing sports or hanging out with friends. I played for a basketball club, so I trained a lot and kept myself in a good physical shape. I remember I was never spending even 1 h/day on studying after school on a regular basis, most of the time I didn’t spend any time on that :D. It usually was a bit more intense during the exams period – maybe 3 hours a day out of school.
In the weekends I was doing sports and I also partied as much as my basketball games allowed me. In Alicante there are some clubs where you can go in even when you are 14 (obviously they are not opened not till late hours).
In Spain people usually join the university in their city – it’s easier, cheaper for the family and lets people keep their regular social setting. The final school exams are not extremely hard (if you just want to pass them), they don’t require too much special preparation unless one wants to get into a highly competitive program (e.g. medical school).
In the last year of school I was thinking of doing a degree related to sports, however, this idea didn’t land with my family. As I was good with numbers and physics, my parents suggested that I do a technical degree. They thought it would be better for my life to study something like that. Architectural technologies seemed like a good choice (honestly, for me kind of random), so I just went for it. I didn’t have a strong preference, I just thought I could have sports as a hobby and work in the future as an architect, earn good money and have a decent and easy life.
University time was a really chill period of my life, I took it very easy in those years. There was never too much homework – max 5 hours a week. I had average grades as I wasn’t too passionate about studies and only did what it took to pass the exams. I spent a lot of time meeting new people from all over Spain, I learned a lot of new things about different cultural peculiarities of other Spanish regions. I kept playing basketball and had a lot of training – those excited me more than university studies. This also taught me to have some discipline, to be committed to hitting a target. I’ve always had my goals, but the commitment was something I learned to have on a new level – to me it is a very important thing.
University was a great time for partying – I was meeting friends almost every single day. In the weekends we did botellón – a typical Spanish thing where we would meet in a public place and all the people would bring the drinks from the supermarket.
We’d talk about life and just chat with the young crowd around. Botellón in that time gathered many hundreds of people in one place – it was a fun way to warm up before going to a club.
In high school I had some kind of regular life, actually also in the university – until I was 26. Back then I imagined myself at the age of 25 like a man with a house, a wife, and a good car. I had been thinking to find get a job for life until I was 35. My picture of my adult life was simple: chill at a good home, have a nice job, buy a house. But life circumstances turned out to be different and that was the moment what I got a little lost.
So it was impossible to find an internship relevant to my degree. I started working at a kindergarten as a kids animator – I had to take care of the children, feed and entertain them. I really enjoyed my time with children, it was super fun!
Around the time I graduated high school I met my first serious girlfriend who I dated for 5 years. This relationship really helped me become a better person, it made me grow, be more mature and less egoistic. We dated from the age of 18 to 23 and then we decided to break up – by the end of the relationship we felt like a brother and a sister more than like boyfriend and a girlfriend.
We obviously changed a lot during these 5 years – we were just different people by the end of it. Soon after the breakup, I started another relationship – I just couldn’t live alone anymore. The second relationship lasted 2.5 years until my ex-girlfriend decided to relocate to London.
After almost 8 years in several relationships, I realized that to be happy with someone one needs to learn to be happy with him/herself. I observed a lot of my friends getting attached to new partners quickly just because they felt bad being single. So after the second relationship, I decided to see what it’s like to be single, I wanted to take it naturally and not rush into a new relationship. I didn’t want to be with a girl just because I wanted a girlfriend, I wanted to be with someone who I truly was into. So I decided to learn how to be happy myself and then, I believed, I would find the right person.
When I graduated my bachelor’s degree Spain was still in crisis, there were almost no jobs available for my occupation (as the crisis hit construction field super hard). I did a short internship in an architecture buro, but it didn’t last as the company closed down – there was simply nothing to build, the economy was in the downturn. My advisors in the university recommended me to do another degree to increase my chances of getting the job and just to be a better professional. That’s how I started my Masters in building management.
When I was 25 my friend invited me to join AEGEE – a European students’ association that does cultural exchange programs for people from all over Europe. My other friend invited me to tag along as he was going for a 2-week exchange summer program in Czech Republic-Slovakia and I joined him. At that program I met people from more than 15 different countries – we had participants from all over Europe.
The only problem I had there is that I couldn’t speak English – I could speak just a tiny bit. Regardless, I had lots of fun! I met really nice people that became my friends. Luckily we were just 2 Spanish guys there so we couldn’t do the ‘Spanish crowd thing’ (when Spanish people hang out just with Spanish people and everyone else is separate). As I came back from the summer program I was very determined to learn English – people in the program younger than me spoke fluent English and I couldn’t! I just needed to fix it.
This trip really changed a lot of things for me, it changed my view on life and my view on Spain. Before that summer I used to think that we had everything I’d ever want in Spain. I thought that I didn’t need to speak foreign languages – I imagined I could just travel as a tourist, buy package holidays and have everything organized.
This summer program made me realize that there are a lot of great things to explore, I felt like I really wanted to find my way on my own. I got a really strong desire to discover more places in the world and see how other people live. Before that trip, I could only think of going to Italy, UK and so, but never to places like, for example, Slovakia or the Czech Republic. Visiting Eastern Europe (or Central Europe if you will) taught me that it’s also fun there and it’s a lot of joy to explore such a different place. I’ve always loved Alicante, but after that trip, I felt like I was just stuck there. It was kind of clear that the future I imagined wasn’t coming as planned as the crisis happened.
One night a friend of mine told me that he was moving to England. This really got me thinking that I should try to go abroad, get out of Alicante for a while too – I could study remotely anyway. I found a Work-away website and applied to a number of programs. Work-away is a volunteering program where one can work in exchange for food and accommodation. I ended up in the south of France for 1.5 months reconstructing the medieval castle located next to a tiny village in the Pyrenees. After this period I felt that my time in that French village was over (I had nothing new to learn there) and one of my colleagues in this experience suggested that I move to England and try working there, so I just went for it.
I moved to Sheffield in November 2014 and started working as a waiter in an Italian restaurant. This experience in England really made me grow – it was tough getting out of my comfort zone, out of my family environment. I was in a different social circle, some people liked me, some didn’t. This experience also made me realize that life in Spain wasn’t the best ever place one could imagine. It made me see how life works.
In England I somehow avoided hanging out with the Spanish crowd – I knew that most people would organize a ‘little Spain’ just located in England. That wasn’t what I wanted – I wanted to truly experience a different life. I played basketball with people from different countries, worked in an international restaurant crew. The year I spent in Britain also helped me tons in learning English – I was pretty fluent at the end of my time there. England taught me I can be out of my comfort zone and be successful on my own. As I said It made me grow a lot.
The whole time in France and England I was studying remotely. As I came back I had an opportunity to do the Erasmus. I couldn’t do that before because of my relationships and other arrangements (later I realized they were simply excuses not to move). So I took the chance and went to Krakow to finish my studies.
The Erasmus time was mostly about partying and traveling – Krakow is well located and it’s easy to visit many different places in Europe. I spent almost no time studying (I just had to develop one little project) and was hanging out with the international crowd most of the time.
The Erasmus was done, it was a short experience, just for a semester, however I had made good friends in Krakow, had a girlfriend there and given that Spain was still in crisis going back would mean I would end up in the same place I was when I left, in the same kindergarten kind of job. It felt like a step back in my life.
So I decided to stay and found a job in IBM’s financial department. I was not so ambitious for a career (I never planned to be a manager or a CEO), so I just went for something that worked for me, something that let me earn normal money and live the life I wanted to live.
You know, I am working for life, I am not living for work. I am ambitious with my happiness. I want to do the things in my life that I want to do. Job, to me, is just a thing that I have to do if I want to have my happiness close.
Since I was 26 I’ve been continuously traveling, I continued that as I moved to Krakow. At some point, the things got a bit static. At the same time, I had a conversation with a friend in Moscow and he suggested to join an AEGEE group for a trip on a Trans-Siberian Railway. He mentioned that if I do that trip (even if I quit my job), it’d make me feel happier and would eventually help get a better job. So I decided to go, actually go even beyond that and do a round-the-world trip.
In August 2016 I started from St. Petersburg with AEGEE crowd – we took a train to Baikal lake stopping in multiple cities in Russia and then I went on traveling by myself.
As I started traveling alone I was feeling awesome, I was out of my comfort zone again and I had to figure things out – I had no plan, no plan even for the following days. Somehow I was never alone – I always managed to find people who would be in a similar situation, so we’d team up and do stuff together.
I was traveling for over 8 months and visited more than 20 countries – starting from Europe and then going to Asia, North and South America.
This trip made me face my fears. I always had a choice – to do a regular thing or to take a difficult way, but have an adventure. I always chose adventures, I loved that and learned a lot about myself during that time.
I was traveling, I was an explorer, but not a tourist. This was my opportunity to really open up the new sides of myself. This is why, for example, I decided to do hitchhiking in Latin America instead of taking a bus or a plane which was easier. I had no idea where I’d sleep each night or when and which city I’d reach.
This whole trip was getting out of my comfort zone, it made me happy and proud of myself, more self-confident.
When I decided to do the trip my parents were very worried but as they saw how I was changing and developing they got really happy and excited about me doing that, they said they felt very proud.
Many people always give a lot of excuses. They are postponing the moment to do something really life-changing. They are scared of getting out of their comfort zone. They are somehow a bit lost because they don’t want to leave what they know. After this trip my point when I talk to people is – don’t wait for it, just do it. Stop looking for excuses. The best way to be happy and honest is to do what you want to do. All the things you want to do don’t need to depend on other people, make them truly depend on you – that way your happiness is in your own hands.
I keep traveling as much as I can. I work hard to earn money and cross off more things off my bucket list. Isn’t that the goal of life?
3 key realizations
Getting out of your comfort zone is the best thing if you want to grow as a person.
Open your mind to different things, learn from your own experience and build your opinion from it. Get out of the matrix, don’t get stuck on what people around you and the mass media are telling you. Hang out with an international crowd, don’t get stuck only with the people from your country.
Always be open to listen to different cultures, people, opinions and stories. This is what will help you broaden your point of view. Many times reality will be different from what you imagined, so you have to be flexible and evolve your point of view over time.
Who helped you most along the way?
My family who was very supportive at all times. Belen, a friend who invited me to join the student association. Jaume, my other friend who invited me to the summer exchange program and pushed me to do many other cool things. My teammates in basketball, my travel partners.
But honestly, I helped myself most. My determination to follow what I wanted played a key role in all this. Eventually, it is your own decision to change your world.
What are the top books/videos/movies that inspired you?
- “Into the wild” – movie
What does it mean to be lost and found to you?
To be lost means I don’t have ‘holes’ – I can see my future and it looks very similar to my today’s life.
To be found means I feel like I am learning, like I am growing and having new experiences.
Do you think you’ll be doing what you do now for the whole life?
No way. 5 years ago I didn’t even know that I would be in this job. 10 years ago I could hardly point out Poland on the map.I don’t mind doing this for a while more. I will adapt my life to the circumstances, but not adjust it to any external ‘should-s’ or ‘must-s’. I will change what it takes to keep moving towards my happiness.
What’s your purpose?
Learning and happiness. Learning is the base, it lays the ground for the willingness to do new things. Being happy, to me, is the best way to make people around me happier and the whole world – a better place.
Get it touch
Feel free to reach out to Alvaro on Facebook.