Working in the London office of a gap year website, Will Peach grew jealous of the adventures of the people he was helping to inspire and set off on his own travels. He currently lives in Caceres in the Extremadura region of Spain and tells us more of the life he has there.
I’m sure you’ve never heard this before: where are you from?
Hi Shane! Thanks for taking the time to talk to me at The Working Traveller. I’m Will, I’m from the pastoral idyll that is the South of England but the ugly truth is that I was born and raised in the M4-corridor town of Swindon. You might have heard of it from the British comedy series The Office. It’s depiction as a boring, industrial hell-hole isn’t too far from the truth. Cracking football team though.
Thankfully I only spent my childhood there and when I was old enough to leave, leave I certainly did. I spent my student years rocking it in Brighton, the gay capital of the UK and a lovely seaside town that comes to life with a bang every summer. I also spent the last two years (before fleeing) living in the East End of London and working in Central London. Getting on that tube every morning? Not my favourite start to the day.
And what did you do there, then?
Up in London (as us folks from down South say) I was working in the offices of the lovely travel start-up Gap Daemon, a gap year website for backpackers and young travellers kicking it around the world. My role was as site editor so I spent a lot of my time writing content, building relationships with travel bloggers around the web and otherwise just being a bit of a travel whore. Now I spend my time working for them in a freelance capacity, producing content and continuing to build those bridges with travel bloggers and travel sites (just like this) around the web. You can’t stop a travel whore that easily!
I’d like to say that under my wing the site has grown into a really great resource for travellers to plan and record their travels, but it’s really been more of a team effort. I’m all for the glory.
How did you end up in Caceres?
Working behind a desk all day and enviously spying everyone’s amazing travels and frolics around the world begins to take a heavy toll. Especially when you consider that the feeling of wanderlust never really left me. As you can imagine editing a travel piece on Machu Picchu and then pouring over the photos, while I sat in the rainy London office, was fairly torturous. Of course I’m not talking Viet Cong torturous, but, well, you get the picture
The idea with Caceres was made on something of a whim. I started learning Spanish about 7 months ago just self-studying with audio tapes, books and the like, and my obsession grew so much that I knew I had to uproot myself and get up close and personal with the language. That’s why I made the decision to live in the Spanish-speaking world. Needless to say my girlfriend wasn’t happy.
I stumbled across Caceres online and it looked pretty nice. I did some research and found out it was one of the cheapest places to live in Spain too. That was enough for me. I didn’t fancy the cosmopolitan edge I knew big cities with tonnes of expats would provide. I wanted full on Spanish immersion baby!
Have you lived abroad before?
Fortunately (depending on how you see it) I’ve lived abroad before. The first time during a year abroad in, wait, yes, really, Miami, USA. You can imagine how that was. Lots of beaches, beer pong and brazen American ladies basking in the glorious tones of my accent. Only half of that is true.
After graduating I moved to Vietnam to experience the opposite end of the spectrum. Out there I completed the CELTA, which set me loose on unsuspecting Vietnamese students of the Queen’s English at Saigon-based language school ILA. I also ended up becoming one of the staff writers at expat lifestyle guide The Word and working freelance, which is where my writing career really began. I owe South East Asia a lot of things. I not only saw where I wanted my career to go but I also experienced some of the most breathtaking, magical scenery on earth. Not to mention great food (yes even for a vegetarian) and ace people too!
So what’s so good about Caceres?
Caceres is good simply because it’s real Spain. Spain really is a kick-ass country, and as much as “real Spain” sounds clichéd, this little province of lesser-known Extremadura really lives up to that image of what everyone expects this country to be. The city still closes down from 2-5pm every day for a siesta for goodness sake!
I’d say the best thing about this city though is the general atmosphere. It’s a very small and walkable place and the locals are super friendly. It’s also home to a UNESCO-designated gorgeous old quarter with castles and churches incorporating styles from the Roman, Moor and Visigoth periods of Spain’s complex history.
Then there’s a crap load of free festivals and events too. Since my time here I’ve attended an Irish Fleadh, a Blues Festival, a medieval market, Oktoberfest, the 25th year celebration of the cities UNESCO status and lots of other little ones. If you’re going to come here, come during WOMAD, the world music festival, during early-May, which is entirely free. It takes main stage in the stunning Plaza Mayor in the shadow of the medieval towers of the old quarter.
And what don’t you like?
I’ve said it a few times and at the risk of sounding a bit like a “quejico” (a complainer) I’ll say it again. The food.
Being a vegetarian in this region (better still the country) is particularly tough. Extremadura is famed for it’s ham (or jamon here) and it pretty much comes with everything. Go into a bar or café and order a drink and you’ll get a tapas of jamon. It can be a little irksome when the locals tell me how much I’m missing out on it too. The bloodthirsty lot.
Another gripe is that I can’t buy anything on a Sunday when every shop shuts down. Or keep up with the 5am drinking. What a loser I know!
Do you feel like an insider or outsider?
I don’t really flit between the two. If I go out to a bar or a restaurant yes it’s especially obvious that I’m a “guiri”, a pale English-speaking foreigner, because everyone else, due to the size of the city, is very local and has that typical Spanish look. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel comfortable however. It’s not like anyone causes me grief or hassle for my unkempt blonde locks and startling blue eyes (that’s quite the write-up I’ve give myself there).
Some days I catch myself walking through the cobbled streets speaking to myself in Spanish. Does that mean I’m an insider? I’m not sure.
The fact is I don’t really worry too much about how I’m perceived or how I perceive myself. Living abroad before, especially in Vietnam, has kind of made me oblivious to all that. You have to get used to all the stares and different treatment over there! Spain is just like home in comparison.
Interestingly I’ve been told it’s the clothes or fashion sense that are the big giveaway that I’m not a local. Apparently the locals don’t rock the suit jacket and ripped jeans hipster look I got away with in trendy Shoreditch, London. Perhaps they’ve got a point.
How do you support yourself?
That’s the key question. And the main answer is precariously.
Luckily Gap Daemon still keeps me on with limited duties like podcasting, blog networking and some editing. I also make money from writing freelance for travel publications like Vagabundo magazine and with projects such as SEO writing and consultancy.
I also do around 10 hours of private English language instruction a week, which gets me out the house. Otherwise I’d never leave my desk!
The main way I support myself however is by keeping my expenses very, very low. That means paying 100 Euros per month for a room in an apartment and eating out fairly infrequently. I still have fun though. This interview is part of that!
Any advice for wannabe Cacereños?
The only bit of advice I’d give people wanting to move to this part of Spain is don’t expect it to be the most exciting, adventurous city you’ve ever been to. Especially if you’re coming from big cities like London, Madrid or other large cities. It can feel quite small at times.
I actually wrote a thing or two about the trials of adjusting to small-town mentalities from a big city move and while I like it, it might not be for everyone.
Moving here you’ll also want to have a good basic foundation of Spanish as there aren’t too many locals who have a good enough grasp of English to help you out in times of emergency. “Dos cervezas por favor” isn’t going to get you very far here.
Is the move permanent?
The move to Spain is pretty permanent yes! I’m on a mission to get fluent in the shortest time possible and, if you’re interested in seeing what I’m doing to get there, you can see my progress at my site My Spanish Adventure.
As for Caceres I actually plan on moving on after the New Year to another location in Spain in order to add a new chapter to my adventures. The move here was all about experiencing Spain to the fullest. That means I have to keep moving around and getting a feel and taste for its different regions and cities.
Eventually I’d love to build up my finances and be able to live in Seville, Madrid or Barcelona. I’ve also got the long-term plan of taking my Spanish to South America too!
Finally, tell us about something typically Caceres (or Spanish)
Something typically Extremaduran? Welcoming random strangers into houses (even guiris like me) and treating them like kings. That means offering Spanish omelettes, beers and a whole range of cakes and sweets. The people here are some of the friendliest and most inviting I’ve ever experienced. Quite the opposite to us suspicious Brits!
Will Peach is one of the site editors over at Gap Daemon, the gap year travel website for backpackers and young travellers. You can also catch him writing about his latest adventures on his other blog My Spanish Adventure and Twitter.
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