Not many people understand my enthusiasm for Lanzarote. It is not exactly your typical white-sand-turquoise-water-lots-of-green-paradise, I get it. However, I consider the island the “love of my life”. But let me tell you: it wasn’t love at first sight. Not at all. At first, it was more like “indifference at first sight”… and often, things have to get worse before they get better.
I first visited Lanzarote when I was seventeen. With my parents. Actually I felt waaay too old to go on another vacation with my parents. The year before, I had been to England, which had been my first trip alone and after these two weeks had been such a great experience, I felt like I could take on the world. However, my parents somehow convinced me. Maybe because of a book I had loved when I was a little girl: “Baba & Inti”, the story of a teddy bear who has another teddy bear – living on Lanzarote – as a penfriend. Maybe because they told me I could learn how to scuba-dive there, something I’ve been wanting to do for years. Whatever it was, I ended up going on vacation with my parents and explored the island a little bit. We saw all the important tourist attractions, like César Manrique’s house or the Cueva de los Verdes and visited the National Park, we ate papas arrugadas con mojo and snorkeled in crystal clear water. I liked it. But Lanzarote and I… I don’t know, we just didn’t click. It was ok. Not more. Like a first date with someone you actually see as a friend.
Three years later, I had moved out from home and lived in Gießen, where I went to university. During my semester break, I wanted to work in a hotel abroad to brush up on my Spanish and applied at an internship placement agency. When I got an e-mail that I was offered an internship in Playa Blanca, Lanzarote, I had to think twice about accepting it. I would have preferred one of the bigger islands of the Canaries, like Gran Canaria or Tenerife, and I couldn’t really see myself living on Lanzarote for two months. After the two weeks there with my parents, I felt like there wasn’t much more to discover and I feared I would get cabin fever. In the end I decided to accept the offer. We hadn’t really seen much of Playa Blanca, so maybe it was a nice spot?
When I arrived at the hotel, I was more than excited. This changed quickly when I saw my room. Just a tiny little window, dirty walls, rotten food on the bed, broken glass all over the floor, full trash bags in the corner, no shower curtain in the bathroom, and a horrendous smell. I was shocked. How the heck could they expect anyone to live in a room like this? I told the hotel director about all of this and he sent the housekeeping in to clean it. Well, it didn’t really get better. Of course, the broken glass, the trash bags and the food was gone when I got back into the room and the floor had been wiped. But you can’t really get rid of such a strong smell by just cleaning – and the window barely let any air in. Also, the walls were so dirty, there was even mold. Not something you can eliminate easily. The room wasn’t the only problem. When I went to the lavandería to get linen and my uniform, I was told that there weren’t any more pillows. So I had to sleep on a folded blanket. The girl who was supposed to show me around didn’t exactly give me the warm welcome I had been hoping for. She was German as well, but instead of having a “we’re in the same boat”-attitude, she rather showed off how good her Spanish was and how many people she knew by greeting and chatting with every person we met on our way around the hotel area – without introducing me to them, of course. I felt absolutely lost and when I even found cockroaches back in my room, I thought I couldn’t stay for one minutelonger. This was not how I had imagined the adventure to be like. I’m embarrassed to say it, but I spent my first day on my computer, talking to friends and crying most of the time… and looking for flights back home. Looking back, I think “why didn’t you just go out to explore the surroundings a little bit?”. That day, I felt so unhappy that it paralyzed me. Leaving the hotel and walking around felt just impossible to me. An area I had never been to, the blazing heat… I had arrived on a Saturday, but work wouldn’t start before Monday, so all I could think about was how I would kill time during the next day. I couldn’t really expect the German girl to hold my hand after how she had acted earlier, so I was on my own. I hated the island in that very moment and felt like it was a mean person who did all of this to me. However, I was told that my roommate was supposed to arrive on Sunday, which made me feel a little bit better. I promised myself that I wouldn’t leave until I met her and started work. Maybe if my roommate and the job weren’t so bad, the situation would improve overall?
The next day I picked myself up and went for a walk around the hotel (after I had secretly brushed my teeth in one of the hotel’s public bathrooms because I was afraid of the cockroaches in mine). I found a little beach, a scuba diving school and some little markets and restaurants. Actually I liked the surroundings and I had to admit that I was in a beautiful place, in spite of my negative mood. When I got back to the room, it wasn’t empty: my roommate had arrived. From this moment on, everything got better. Katharina was bubbly, a little quirky, and absolutely lovable. With her bright smile and outgoing personality she won me over in the very second she shook my hand and said “Hi, I’m Katharina! God, don’t you think this room is just horrible? Have you seen those weird paintings on the wall? It looks like this used to be a jail for children, doesn’t it?” Minutes later, we were walking down the boardwalk to the supermarket I had found and bought cleaning utensils to make our room a little more liveable. Afterwards, we went for dinner and discovered the hotel and its surroundings together. As we ate dinner in a little sportsbar with friendly staff, enjoyed the cool evening breeze and watched the sunset over the ocean, I started to get an idea of what Lanzarote and my time there could actually be like. Suddenly, the situation didn’t seem so bad after all. The first day at work was a nice surprise as well: Friendly people, interesting tasks and even the German girl from day 1 seemed to warm up to me.
Long story short: When I left the island two months later, I was crying like crazy. Well… I had cried during my first day, so it was only consistent that I’d also cry on my last day, right? That “I have to get out of here”-feeling of the first day had totally vanished. Leaving the island now felt just wrong. I had found awesome new friends from all over the world, I had had memorable experiences (good and bad), I had fallen in love, I had danced many nights away, I had eaten awesome food, I had learned how to scuba dive – and I had found a place that felt like home to me. What more could anyone ask for?