It’s late at night in Conil when the drums start thumping.
I first feel them through my knees – then my cup of tea starts vibrating. When the windows rattle, I leap up. Is it the army? Is this the prelude to a lynching, and are we about to be dragged out of our rental flat and down to the beach where the Spanish equivalent of a Wicker Man awaits us? What is going on?
We drag on coats and rush downstairs, making the swallows huddled around our porch light chirp in alarm. In the street outside, other people are hurrying past, heading for the siesmic thumps coming from Plaza de Sta. Catalina – now accompanied by trumpets, trombones, an entire brass section, everyone a little awry with their timing as if unaccustomed to playing together…
Living in a new part of the world means learning its rituals. Sadly, we haven’t been here long enough to do that, and we’ve been too busy with online work to act like the professional explorers we want to be. I have a further excuse – unlike my girlfriend, I don’t yet speak Spanish. It’s Mariana who has to ask the questions, as we round the corner and find half the town stood in a circle, blasting noise into the square behind the ethnographic museum. A few more honks and crashes, and then they stop, scatter, file past us and round the corner, where they clot into a new band and start anew.
According to an helpful bystander, half the flashmob orchestra is from the next town, Chiclana, and they’re practicing with Conil’s band because Holy Week is approaching and they’re going to walk through town behind a colossal float, weighing several tonnes. Right on cue, a dummy float is slowly emerging from an open doorway on a bed of legs, like a more solemn version of the Discworld’s Luggage. It shuffles slowly up the street, in time with the music, looking fantastically heavy. It’ll take them hours to get round town at that rate. I hope they’ve got room for water bottles under there…
Conil is beautiful, Conil is a mystery, and Conil is where my new life begins.
And right now I have no clue how it all works.
After spending five years working out how to become a location-independent writer, I’m still in shock that it’s finally underway.
We’ve chosen Conil as our starting-point because we need a month in one place to launch some online projects – myself a storytelling course, Mariana her new medical consultancy services – and when our four weeks are up, we’ll probably head to nearby Cadiz for a week, as we fell in love with it during a day-trip earlier this week (above).
Like all new digital nomads, I’m relearning the most basic things as I go. I left England with too many books and not enough clothes. I have no firm idea when I’m back in the UK to continue my 74 cities quest, it’ll be a couple of months at least – meaning I need to stock up as I go.
I have a month’s supply of Yorkshire Tea, but Spanish people don’t seem big on electric kettles (this is the third place in a row without one). My Englishness is going to take a battering.
I need a Spanish SIM card, I need a reliable way to transfer money into my English bank, and I need PayPal to not freak out when it sees I’m using the service outside of the UK.
And that’s putting aside learning how to work. Jodi has a great resource post on the subject, but right now it boils down to two things: making new habits and working out when I write best. My daily word-count is directly tied to my ability to make money, and my best time to get those words out is first thing in the morning, before my brain has woken up enough to fret and worry and second-guess itself. Mornings are proving great for the same reasons Cheri Lucas found in this wonderful essay. So maybe that’s one habit nailed – we’ll see (in England I was a night owl, albeit not a terribly happy one). Another part of my new routine is starting the day by calming my noisy thoughts for a few blissful minutes – I’m using Headspace for this right now.
We’re both here to work – but Conil is waking up, after being dormant for the winter. When we arrived on the 19th February, maybe 80% of the town had been shut for business since November – but now Winter is giving way to Spring, temperatures are creeping up once more, and the tourist-season restaurant next to our apartment is smarting to emit delicious seafoody smells….
There’s also the beach – at the end of which, 10km away, is a headland with a name of great historical significance to an Englishman like me. And there’s Gibraltar, just over the horizon, and a village up in the hills where the English owner of a cooking school has invited us over for a drink, and, and…
There’s just a lot. And the way it gets done is by having a routine where everything has its place. That’s my big challenge for the next couple of weeks.
More about this stunningly beautiful area of Spain soon!
This is why I’ve been so busy since I arrived: my first online course, on storytelling for bloggers.
It’s an expanded and more practical-based version of the 16-part e-mail course I’ve been running for 2000+ people since late 2013 – and I’m thrilled it’s ready and launched at last. It’s aimed at anyone with a blog who wants to make sure they keep a blog, because it’s partly about how to map out a story you’ll stick to, and how to use that story to get people excited about what you’re doing online.
This is the first run of this course, and since it’s the pilot version, it’s currently a whopping 50% off. Signups close at the end of Saturday 5th March – which is tomorrow as I write this, so, no time to waste.
If it sounds like something you’d be interested in doing either now or later, sign up using the link above, or drop me an e-mail and I’ll let you know more details.