This is my tribute to a city that held me tight while I grieved a part of my life no longer real or relevant, cried a whole river of tears, let the sun warm my bones and fell in love with me again. Like L’Oreal says …‘cos I’m worth it, baby!
I have lived my entire life believing that certain places call out to my soul. They whisper quietly and then if perhaps I don’t listen timeously, they yell a little louder. It always feels like threads of energy are attached to my heart and they start tugging gently at me. I have never been able to adequately explain it, suffice it to say that I am a gypsy-traveller-nomad at heart, and love to move. Often. I also understand the innate value of a home, a base, and roots, but I have danced and moved between these two extremes all my life.
The way it happens varies – it might be the first time someone utters the name of that place and it feels like the words leave their lips and send a cupid’s arrow straight to my heart; or an image lands on my retina for the first time, or the words jump off the page in a book and just…won’t… let…go…!
Sometimes it’s just a whispering deep inside…that inevitably becomes stronger and stronger. Having traveled alone on a plane at the tender age of 8, that bug bit early. Many times I have literally sold up everything I own in order to make a trip to follow the strings that are pulling the hardest. The yearning that will not quieten down. 4 years ago I even took it a bit further, and as a ‘late-in-my-40’s’ year old, packed up again and went #LocationFree with my business still intact and growing. I have just written about that journey for my 5th book, due for release later this year.
For 4 years I have had no fixed home of my own, simply following the strings pulling at my heart; combining retreats, talks and coaching work around the world – and LOTS of online work, along with many visits of the heart to South Africa. One suitcase and a large armful of dreams. But now, I am finally looking for my next home. A little place to call mine – a nest to return to. Roots to plant and lavender to pick. Listening once again to the stirrings in my heart. I’m also getting clear about where I DON’T want to be, which can pave the way for where I do. There is a very loooong back story as to how I landed up coming to Spain – my business partner Sarah walked a part of the Camino in 2018 and together we decided it would be a spectacular way to combine writing and walking. So we did. Another whole story layered on top of that was that in my personal relationship, Spain seemed like somewhere to explore as a potential home for us in the future.
But where to explore? And where to explore for my heart?
Choosing Malaga was easy. My mama-bear lives in a beautiful retirement village in the UK and I have gotten to know many of her lovely neighbors. Cue a wonderful couple who spends a LOT of time in Spain and own homes here. So I popped across for tea asking for some necessary advice. I was presented with a good old fashioned map and a destination. They know my age, my interests and I just said – “where do you think I should spend the winter to write my book?”
“Malaga – you will LOVE it. Lots of culture, museums, history, art, expats, locals, awesome food, warm etc, etc.
“Where? Oh there, on the coast – I see it.”
“But not to the West Kate; Malaga or East.”
Got it. Done. That’s all it takes for me sometimes. A clear directive delivered at the right time. Apparently, many people I know have already been to Malaga, including my parents (and Hemingway of course); but I didn’t know that at the time (in my active brain). Go figure.
So I duly went into my trusted housesitters profile (click link if you want a 25% discount) and started looking for a Malaga based house-sit for the winter. Mmmmalaga. A 2.5 month house-sit for one kitty popped onto my screen. Looks easy peasy. And warm – just like a Durban winter. If you are not from South Africa just think cozy, sunny and warm, a bit like Florida in the winter. Where all the human “swallows” might go in search of thawing out. You just need a light jacket in winter, no serious heating and can soak up plenty of vitamin D.
Well, yes, that beats the dreary UK over the winter, dunnit?
Fast forward – we facilitated the Walk ‘n Write Retreat in Northern Asturias region; my partner doesn’t join me as originally planned; Sarah and I visit Madrid for 4 nights; I plonk Sarah on the plane and then I head South. Alone. I like the way Malaga rolls off my tongue. Sounds exotic – I’m spending winter in Malaga. Tra la la – like I’m some millionairess with a house on the hill. Ha – If only I knew what was in store.
The potential house-sit didn’t pan out, after all, so while in Madrid I had booked 6 weeks in a glorious modern Air B‘nB New York type loft, thinking I could get writers to join me for a residency while I wrote over winter too. Or perhaps friends could pop over from the UK? It was gorgeous and trendy and just a short walk from everything. The morning after I arrived, I walked the 18 minutes across the “dry river” bridge into the historic city center to go and sign up for Spanish Classes. After all, I needed a total immersion if considering living in Spain. I thought it best I scrub up a bit and take the language plunge. Plus it would get me to meet people in a city where I knew literally no one and I could use it with my significant other.
I fell in love. INSTANTLY. Everywhere I looked made me beam from the inside out.
I have three innate questions when visiting a new place:
Do I love it?
Will I ever come back?
Could I live here?
It was an instant YES to all three. It took me by surprise actually. These questions get asked and answered internally for me, without having to actively process them the moment I arrive somewhere. Most places I visit I generally tend to really like, or even love. Some, I definitely know I’ll be back to visit again and then a few grab me and my heart almost instantly. Malaga was an instant cupid moment and it has stayed with me. Four months later, I still absolutely love this city, and I absolutely could live here – but I also have come to realize that Spain is somehow not my next home. It’s a hard one for anyone else to fathom what I am saying – but that is how it feels for ME. It’s been a really interesting concept for me to lean into. I could live in Malaga but not in Spain. Mmm ok – so it’s off the list as a permanent base then.
I am still on the hunt for my next country! How exciting!
Malaga will 100% be a place I return to. It feels like home even though it won’t be my permanent home. Does that make sense? The first Air BnB apartment turned out to be inappropriate ‘cos I couldn’t sleep, thanks to the neighbor’s TV on till 3 am. Thankfully I managed to cancel the rest of my booking and moved straight into the center of the historic town. There is a fabulous brand called ILOFTMALAGA – great curated apartments of very high standards. Funky, modern and minimalist – me to a T. My quiet apartment looked onto a bustling street in the heart of the olde town. Bliss.
I started looking for another house-sit. I also found the awesome website GUIDE TO MALAGA and reached out to it’s founder, Joanna Styles, and joined a networking session to meet like-minded business women. Bliss! Her guide really is the GO-TO for anything that you want to know about. Be sure to grab it when visiting Malaga.
“Why a house-sit Kate”, you may ask?
Mostly because I love to feel like I’m really IN a city, living there like a local, with animals to look after and using local transport – rather than being a visitor looking from the outside in. Can you believe that the same housesit from my initial search, was back in play on the membership site, as she had been seriously let down by anther house-sitter? Only this time I was already IN Malaga and could meet the “pussycat’s slave” in person. I got to visit the exquisite property just to the East of Malaga, and it instantly felt like Cape Town – Camp’s Bay to be precise. With a sweet black ’n white kitty to love and vice versa. I needed some animal love! It was a done deal. I had a winter home and a base from which to write my next book and heal my heart. The Cat slave, Melanie, is helping shift people’s perceptions to become Vegan through her recipes and coaching.
This might be another whole blog post one day, but at a very personal level, suffice it to say I was walking into the “Devil’s Den” by wondering if I could actually LIVE in Spain. It was part of another story of my potential future that was rapidly changing before my eyes– a future that it seemed was sadly not coming to fruition. And yes, I am being a little cryptic on purpose. If you know me, pick up the phone and call to chat for a more personal update! But, sometimes we need to face the fire. Spain was that for me. Healing, writing, walking, crying, yelling at the universe, sleeping, laughing, walking, reading, writing, creating a new community. Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat. Malaga Momentos.
After about 2 weeks of being in Malaga – already with some favorite spots under my belt, an innate understanding of all the cobbled streets, local coffee shops where locals hung out, many, many beach walks, clients taken care of, and my resonance with the city deepening, I realized I needed to really LIVE and CONNECT and be less of a hermit. I was spending too much time alone if this was going to be my home for a few months. Working mostly online can be deceptive that way. I am always connecting with coaching clients, mastermind folk, writer’s and my mentorship groups and always interacting with people, friends, and family. But I needed more connecting IN THE FLESH. I knew I was going to be staying for a minimum of 3 months and I thought I best get to work on building a community of people. Playmates, colleagues, connections to yackety-yack with. Solidarity and friendships. The best way I know how to do that is to do it via something I love. I looked at dance classes, but they started at my bedtime. So what about writing?
I had decided it was the time to start writing my 5th book and had lodged that in my heart as my “winter” project. It’s about the past 4 years of living location free. So I searched for and joined the local Facebook group for Expats, and put up a post about how I was writing a book and asked who fancied joining me for some writing sessions? A simple post. I often do these writing sessions with our writers in our mentorships and regularly sit in community with writers. I was bowled over by the responses, especially a lady from Scotland who lives here all winter who started pointing me to all sorts of people she instinctively thought I’d like to meet. Instant networks and threads for me to explore.
I wasn’t starting the Malaga group as a paid membership or community –simply more to meet people and anchor myself in front of my computer. In the first meeting, there were 5 of us – and in 2 short hours, I had planned my whole book in 13 pages of hand-written notes. I always have a rule that every time you sit to write you need a goal to aim for. I offered this one rule to the group to get everyone to set minimum word count/goals for the writing session. Very little talking – lots of writing and lots of coffee. Word quickly spread. This week, as I leave Malaga, two other writers have taken over the group to keep the energy going and to keep writers writing! Thanks to a lovely young lad Matt from the USA and Marta from Scotland (a belt loving scriptwriter) who took over, I somehow feel as if I have managed to leave a little piece of myself here in the form of a committed writing group. That makes me so happy! I had been shown a PERFECT writing spot by my house-sit host. La Galerna is right on the beach in Pedregalejo, and we sit upstairs looking over the Mediterranean. I gathered folk who wanted to write together, once or twice a week. Within just 11 such writing sessions I had finished the first draft of my book. FANBLOODYTASTIC! Thanks to the regular committed folk Marc, Ruth, Carolynne, Eunice, Gian, Jan, Matt, Caroline, Marta and Lina. My regular writing tribe!
I have a small community here now, favorite places that call out to my heart, little back streets I always walk, bus drivers I know to greet, the place I buy my breakfast, an awesome physiotherapist, a weekly co-working meet-up with the fabulous Victoria Watson, a brand & PR expert, my regular pit-stop to the El Haman Turkish hot baths that soothe my muscles as I let the stress slip onto slabs of heated marble. I literally used to pray onto the slabs of marble while pouring buckets of piping hot water over my soul. The power of rituals. Then there is the powerhouse that is the incredible Nathan Manzaneque who runs the BTB networking club. I was also bowled over by the powerhouse of heartfullness, Victoria Ahlen who runs The Vilostrada Foundation doing phenomenal work in Morocco, and she is based between Morocco and Malaga. Or how about early morning Pilates with Ruth on the beach watching the sunrise.
I found a funky hairdresser and the best nail technician I have ever found anywhere. She’s called Angelica – go figure- and she is like a little butterfly on my nails. Or for the gals who need Frida type eyebrows – visit these two gorgeous Polish sisters who make this an unforgettable experience. Lashes and brows with love. I also have many other local coffee shops. I even get to tell established residents where to eat a certain food or entice them to a piano concerto in the magnificent Art Deco Concert Hall. And a guy I make sure I go and visit every time I’m near Plaza Constitution with his puppy called Kitty to offer an ear as he battles the streets. It’s a community for me. I know I will entice you to come and visit and …I already have plans afoot to host a Writing Residency in November 2020. Hosted at a gorgeous, brand new Retreat Centre called VegaHouseSpain run by Ana Capucho Maybe you get to explore this city with me soon?
I walk through it like a local. Smiling!
For me, life is usually about going TO something rather than walking away FROM somewhere else. I know it’s still Europe / Uk that’s pulling me. That’s what I know for now.
But I needed a blank page in between the old and the new. Malaga was my place. Officially leaving South Africa after to-and fro-ing for 4 years, I am in the place of – oh hell – so where next? Where is the place I let myself “pot”. You know- when you POT A PLANT? I have picked up my roots from the 50 years of being in SA, but am now dancing in the air waiting for the drumroll of ….YES, IT’S HERE. To feel the resonance of “This place wants me to stay.”
Malaga offered me a precious place to pause. To regather me to myself. Process and ponder life and where I am going. How do I want to truly live going forward, and how do I want to show up for my work and purpose. Where do I wish to create a proper home and retreat center? What does this new chapter look like and who joins me on it? Do you know what I mean when I say certain cities have the ability to help you heal – from the inside out? Malaga just mostly made me smile – or when I was grieving I could still smile through the tears as I stared at the ocean. It is an outrageously wonderful city to be in over Christmas and New year – the shops and Christmas lights and concerts are simply magnificent. I also had a dear friend and my mum come visit – and it was so easy to show them “my” city. Every time I spot the ‘Catedral’ I burst into a smile- she suddenly appears as you walk along a narrow street then BOOM – her majestic dome and “manquita arm” is right in front of you. Or walking past Octopus- the multi-million dollar yacht that was berthed in the Puerto all winter. I never did get an invite onto it. Rooftop terraces to bask in the sun sipping vino and tapas. Buskers playing everything from harps, to flutes to opera. A little Flamenco passion and “Naranja” lined streets. I also happened to have a fabulous Spanish teacher who lived in my complex – if ever you need a Spanish language immersion, she’s your teacher! I met many, many, amazing souls and you all know who you are, even if not mentioned in person here. Thank you for making my time in Malaga so precious.
I would really LOVE to know where you have ever found yourself doing some deep inner healing and re-assessment work? Or where you are right now? Was it a bustling city, a new country, or a wee village on a remote island? Was it summer and sun, or snow and shovels?
How long did it take you to come back to yourself – to find a sense of inner rhythm again? I feel like my winter sojourn to Malaga has revived me, and I know everything is gonna be just perfect, even though it’s totally different from what I had imagined unfolding these past few months. Life has a plan for us – we just have to show up and be present.
Drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org to connect- or leave me a comment
If you feel like you need to take some time to gather yourself towards yourself, be sure to come and grab my latest series about THE STRATEGIC POWER OF DISCONNECTING
Love Kate xx