It’s impossible to try and write 10 months’ worth of crazy adventures and experiences about my time playing in Spain into one post. I would seriously need to write a novel to fit everything in. The beautiful thing about playing abroad is that it is so much more than just playing fútbol. The people you meet, the traveling you do, and the memories you make are just as important in my eyes. So, in this post, I am going to recap my favorite non-fútbol things and memories of my time in Spain that made it so incredible. Vamanos!
Almuñećar is the beautiful little city on the southern coast of Spain that became my second home. I was so content living in this city because it had everything I loved: the sea, mountains, narrow cobblestone streets, and gorgeous views. Right along the beach, you can find a number of great seafood restaurants and bars. And the mountains made for awesome adventures like hiking and seeing incredible sunset views. The heart of the city is very traditional European looking with narrow streets filled with little restaurants, cafes, clothing stores, markets, and shops. Although it was a sleepy little town, Almuñecar is just an hour away from two major cities – Malaga and Granada. This made for perfect day trips to these bigger cities if we wanted a change of scenery and pace.
Day-to-day life in Almunecar was a slice of heaven. A lot of my time outside of fútbol was spent at the beach, going for long walks along the boardwalk, climbing heights to see new sunset spots and views, shopping at the street markets on Friday and Sunday, and going out for dinner and drinks at the beach restaurants and bars. I basically was on a 10-month long vacation living there and I enjoyed every second of it.
Although living on the southern coast of Spain was an actual dream, it was really the team and people that made my experience so incredible. From practice and gym sessions, Spanish class, traveling around Spain together, and all living in the same house, my teammates and I spent every waking and sleeping minute together. Because of this, the connection we all had on and off the field was so strong, and we became a family instantly. These girls (and coaches– shout out Pabs!) all became my lifelong friends and honestly writing about them right now brings a tear to my eye.
We all came from different backgrounds and countries, (Ireland, Spain, England, USA, Canada, and Guatemala) but what made us all vibe together so well was our desire for a crazy experience and of course our love for fútbol! Let’s just say… we worked hard and played hard. We absolutely made the most of those 10 months.
“LA CASA ROJA”
What a beautiful, chaotic, incredible shit-show of a living experience. “La Casa Roja” (“The Red House”) is a big red villa in Almunecar, Spain that my 13 teammates and I lived in. Yup, you heard that right! 14 of us lived in there. It’s a 3 story house with 7 rooms (2 girls to each room), a pool, a massive backyard with an outdoor BBQ, 3 huge balconies with views of beautiful Almunecar, and not enough bathrooms. Let’s just say not even 4 bathrooms and 3 showers were sufficient for 14 sweaty athletes with stomach issues. We all had to get very close, very fast lol.
But besides the bathroom situation and problems with our electricity, water heating, power, and wifi, La Casa Roja was an epic place to live in! After training, most of our days included: tanning and reading by the pool, hanging out and eating meals together on the balcony, watching (or attempting to watch because our wifi never worked) fútbol games and tv shows in the living room, doing yoga and at-home workouts at the backyard patio, and having dance parties in the kitchen. The house was filled with laughter 24/7 and for 14 girls living together, there was really never any drama which honestly seems impossible.
You also might be thinking: “A house with 14 people… That seems impossible to keep clean!”. And you my friend, are absolutely correct! The house was a complete disaster 24/7 no matter how hard we tried to have it not be. If I had known that 14 of us were going to all be living together, I might have second-guessed my decision because that honestly sounds terrifying. I had already done the college experience living in a wild house with a bunch of roommates. But this was like a college living experience on steroids. 14 girls (ages 18-26) from all over the world who don’t know each other, living together in a foreign country… it could either go really bad or really great. Thankfully, it went really great! La Casa Roja was really the foundation, literally and figuratively, of our team’s Spain experience. It was our home, the setting of many incredible memories, and everyone in it was family.
Living abroad and not being with family for the holidays can be difficult. It’s sad seeing your family and friends gathering back home and not being able to join them. This was my, and many of my teammate’s first times being away for some of the major holidays. But we did not let this negatively affect our holiday cheer because we went OFF for holidays! We decorated the house, prepared huge feasts, and dressed festively for every occasion. Some of my favorite memories are cooking together in the kitchen while blasting music and dancing as we try and prepare the massive meals after drinking a little too much. Somehow the food always turned out incredible and we managed not to burn the house down.
Our house became obsessed with the British Reality TV show called “Love Island”. If you haven’t heard of the show, basically a group of single guys and girls who don’t know each other, all live in a villa in hopes that they fall in love with someone in there.
Anyway, we would binge-watch love island every night and one day we got inspired and decided to recreate the show amongst ourselves. Since we also lived in a villa, it was the perfect setting for this recreation! So 5 of us put on intense makeup, wore high heels, and put on skimpy outfits to look like the girls on the show. And the other 5 turned themselves into douchey boys by drawing on beards/mustaches and wearing baggy clothes. Rosie (our English teammate) mimicked Caroline Flack who was the host of Love Island and also did the voice-over comments. She nailed the part perfectly because of her accent! And lastly, Olivia was our incredible videographer and producer who also edited the videos to make it into the episode. Every single person in the house had a part or character and committed fully to it.
We spent a whole afternoon/night filming this and ended up making a full 20-minute long episode. It was one of the funniest days ever. We filmed each person doing an introduction of themselves, then the boys and girls meeting for the first time and picking who they wanted to be coupled up with, and of course the inevitable drama that happened throughout the night. It was absolutely hilarious filming this and the amount of dedication to our characters was flawless. We couldn’t stop laughing while filming because it was so spot on to the show and ridiculous. The full episode turned out to be a cinematic masterpiece. I’m convinced that if we sent it to the Love Island producers, they would actually want us all on their show!
Dressing up and creating this episode is a perfect example of all the crazy things we would get into living at La Casa Roja. Every day there was something new and weird that we would come up with. There definitely was never a dull day living with these psychopaths.
We went on some pretty incredible hikes during our time in Spain. The Southern coast of Spain is insanely beautiful so the views and nature we experienced on these hikes were pretty unreal. As an avid hiker back home, it was a blast to be able to explore Spain’s mountains and see what the non-city setting was like. Our coaches were so nice and wanted us to see many different parts of Spain, so we went on a couple hikes as a team for our training for the day. And then on our off days, a few of us would rent a car and drive ourselves to the trailheads. Most, if not all of the trails we went on did not have any signs to ensure we were going the right way or people we could ask for directions. So most of our hikes turned into epic adventures involving climbing up mountains in the wrong direction, getting lost, but always persevering and eventually finding our way. It was always a great time.
We spent a lot of time in Granada. It’s an incredibly beautiful city, rich in history with many sites to see and places to eat. It was an easy day trip by bus or car ride. Unfortunately with COVID, there were many restrictions on travel and experiencing Spain to the fullest. At one point we were not allowed to travel outside our providence of Granada (thankfully we could still go to Granada!). In addition, curfew was placed at 6pm so all bars, restaurants, stores, etc… were closed very early. We all obviously wanted to experience Spain to the max despite these regulations, so we had to get creative with how we spent our off days. One day, my teammates and I decided to rent a van and drive to Granada where we rented an Airbnb for the night. In the daytime, we toured around Granada, and at night we threw a wig party amongst ourselves at our Airbnb. Everyone created a new “identity” based on how they looked and felt in their wig. We spent the night dancing, playing games, and laughing at how funny everyone looked. It was one of my favorite nights.
At the end of our season, most of the team and I went to Barcelona as a last hurrah to end our 10 months in Spain. It was such an epic trip. We stayed in a hostel in the city where we met other cool travelers from around the world. We adventured around Barcelona; going to museums, laying on the beach, seeing sights, shopping, watching fútbol games at cafés, eating lots of food, and partying hard at night. There couldn’t have been a more perfect trip to encapsulate our time together in Spain and say goodbye to one another.
This post only scratches the surface of all the fun and crazy adventures we had while living in Spain. This experience is something that is indescribable. I wish I could accurately explain my team’s dynamic and just how much fun we had, but I can’t. It’s something that only my teammates and coaches understand because you just had to be there. This was without a doubt the best 10 months of my life. I seriously think about and miss my team and Spain every day. I can’t express how grateful I am to have met so many incredible people and have the greatest 10 month Spain adventure of all time!