After 3-plus years of location independent living, I’ve honed a relatively fool-proof strategy for finding short-term leases. When it works out well, it’s stupendous, and when it fails, it does so in spectacular fashion. This, friends, is a tale of the latter.
Ayaz and I booked our 6-week stint in Malaga, Spain sometime over the winter. Malaga was not high on my list of dream destinations — in fact, it wasn’t even ON my list of dream destinations — until last year, when we attended Ayaz’s cousin’s wedding, aka, The Greatest Wedding Extravaganza on Earth, Ever.
After the wedding, we chilled for a few days in Malaga, a town on Spain’s Costa del Sol where I had briefly studied at a language school in 2001. I quickly discovered that Malaga had grown up into one of Spain’s unexpectedly hippest and most interesting destinations. Museums, like France’s only foreign outpost of the Pompidou Centre, had sprouted up, restaurants were dishing out trendy fare, and all the Moorish-influenced charm I remembered from 14 years prior was still in full effect.
Plus, it was cheap as hell. Fast forward to winter 2016. As we debated where to spend summer, we kept feeling the Malaga vibe. With a little Airbnb luck, we found a fab-looking apartment with a steady stream of brilliant reviews, and the deal was done. Six weeks in Malaga, Spain, booked. What could possibly go wrong?
One of the truest things I’ve learned in 3 years of movement is this: Sometimes, the place chooses you.
When that happens, when you suddenly look around in surprise at a place that wasn’t supposed to capture your heart — at a place meant to be a mere pit-stop on a long list of destinations — and you suddenly realize it feels quite a bit like home, well, that moment is travel magic. Your very innards feel like they’re sparkling in excitement, your heart races a bit and your eyes grow wider, soaking in everything they see. And you want to feel that way for a very long time.
Welp, as it turned out, I didn’t feel that way about Malaga. At all. Granted, there were some seriously extenuating circumstances.
Our apartment truly was as cute as we’d hoped, and it was in the perfect location to explore Malaga. Everything should have been ideal. Except for one detail. Soon after arriving, we discovered we weren’t the only residents in the apartment. A nasty plague of … insects … was also calling our pad home. And they were biters.
After much hemming, hawing, and our host’s purchases of insect repellent and even new furniture, it became clear: we had to get the hell outta Malaga. Like, yesterday.
And I wasn’t disappointed. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was stressed as heck. Once we made our decision to bolt, we had to pack our stuff and find a new apartment in about, oh, 6 hours. Plus, we were feeling itchy, and wanted to disinfect every single thing in our possession — just in case.
Quick Aside: Gracias, Airbnb
I’ve been hearing some pretty craptastic things about Airbnb’s customer service (and hosts) in the media lately, so I was slightly terrified to contact them, cancel our stay, get our money back, and get compensated for the pain in the arse with which we were now dealing.
Cue Paul and Ericka, Airbnb reps extraordinaire. Bless both their hearts, wherever they may reside, because these two made a pretty rotten day unfold as seamlessly as possible. So, yay, and thanks to the kindness (and efficiency) of strangers.
But, I Digress
Faced with the unsavory task of finding a new apartment in Malaga that was comparable to our pretty sweet (insect infestation, aside) crib, and still cheap, with one day’s notice during high season proved as difficult as you might imagine. Honestly, I was bummed, because as I said, Malaga really is an absolutely amazing, vibrant town, and until that moment we had been loving our exploration of it.
But here’s the thing: I had a vision. It’s a big world out there, always with more to see — and this experience played out as a good reminder of that adage.
The weekend prior to our apartment crumbling before us, Ayaz and I had spent a few nights tucked into the crevices of Spain’s Sierra Mountains, in Frigiliana, one of the Andalucia region’s famed Pueblos Blancos, or “white villages.”
The town unfolds like a wee fairy tale, tumbling up and down the mountain, a series of blinding white buildings stacked atop each other like precipitously laid building blocks. From vantage point after vantage point throughout town, you gaze upon Andalucia’s sprawling valleys and vineyards, distant craggy peaks, and in the distance, the bright blue sea.
When we arrived in Frigiliana that weekend, I felt it: the tingle, the twinkle, the “oh dear gawd I want to stay here so much longer” feeling. I wished then that I’d find a reason to return, to spend more evenings under the stars, watching little lights spark on up and down the mountains at dusk.
The travel gods apparently heard my call, and as we plotted to find a new abode, decided to smile upon us. When Ayaz and I had the brainstorm to look for available apartments in Frigiliana, we found a fantastic and affordable apartment with a killer terrace smack in the heart of town. And faster than you can say, “Frigiliana,” we found ourselves here, dragging suitcases up stairs and settling into our new pace, and life in a mountain town.