#LivinginLockdown – Karen Rosenblum in Madrid

From California, Karen Rosenblum fell in love with Spain several years ago. As one of the original digital nomads, she was lucky to go back for forth for many years. In 2018, Karen finally applied for a visa to move to Spain and make Madrid her home. She currently lives in Madrid where she is living through lockdown in a small box of an apartment.

#LivingInLockdown – Karen’s Story

Day 40 something and I’m getting used to it. Which is scary in its own rite. But I’ve got a little routine down, figured out what triggers me, and turned my tiny interior flat (in central Madrid) into an all-out survival den.

Let me set the scene because I think a lot of people do not understand what an interior unit in Spain really is or how stringent our lockdown here is. Especially my friends still living in the US (read on for more about that)

There are two small windows in only facing one direction. They do not face the street but instead face an interior patio, Spanish style in the center of my building. Yes, the courtyard is open-air, but because it is a courtyard, it is shady by nature and there is hardly ever any natural sunlight that comes into my flat. Where my bed and computer are, there is zero natural light.

But over the past 40 days, I have transformed my small flat into a semi-sunny office, yoga and hip hop dance studio, mediation corner, as well as its usual purpose of a small living and sleeping space.

I am also at an advantage as I’ve been working remotely/from home for over 10 years now. And several times, as a true digital nomad (2014-2018), I’ve had to work with odd spaces in order to get the standing desk setup that I need. So I was able to “move my office” (which is just the computer) to a crazily concocted “standing desk” facing the windows. For that afternoon sunlight.

I pushed some furniture around, practically blocking my front door access (it’s not like I need that all the time) to create a small space to practice my hip dance moves, try Zumba, and do some yoga. If I can’t go for a walk or to the gym (which I fear will be a long time for that one), I can do the best I can do stay in shape in my tiny flat.

“Do the best I can.” Circumstances aren’t great. But that’s my mantra for this time period, “I am doing the very best I can in this situation.” In fact, I wrote that down and put it on the coffee table, which I also used to “build” my temporary standing desk. I need a reminder of that sometimes.

So what am I doing to do the very best I can? Working and hustling my ass off. I have a small travel business. We specialize in handcrafted Spain itineraries. So yes, I do not even need to say there is a lot of uncertainty with my industry.

But instead of letting that defeat me, I am making it push me even harder. I’ve been in the travel industry for 20 years now, so I know a few things and have been through a few crises (nothing as substantial of this, of course). I am also a hard worker, driven, relentless, and a total hustler. And I love my business and my clients so much and am so passionate about what I do that I will do whatever it takes for Spain Less Traveled to come out of this storm afloat. I am tapping into all of my (non-monetary) resources, and pouring on the Spainspiration by leading a 5000+ member Travel Spain! community through this pause of all things travel. Every day, I take them, as well as my Instagram followers on a journey around Spain, from the comfort of their homes.

I am also doing the very best I can to stay in shape. That is a total struggle with no gym, no walks, no at-home exercise equipment, no yard, etc. Thankfully 90s hip hop gets me moving in the space I created and I found a YouTube video that I really like. I am also redefining my yoga practice and realizing I do not hate Zumba as much as I thought I did.

I am not sure I mentioned this yet but I am locked up alone. Honestly, I am grateful for that. A total introvert, I have lived alone since I was in my 20s. I enjoy my alone time very much. Solo travel is my favorite (and after this is over I plan to take an epic solo trip when I can). My friends and family are always just a zoom/Skype call away. By being alone, I can be truly on my own schedule and work when I feel creative, work out when I feel active, and relax/chill/mediate exactly when my body needs it.

But it is not all sunshine and rainbows. I have some very real emotions. Normally I feel all those emotions in a given week/day, but I have slowly also moved to the acceptance stage. I am not the 24/7 emotional roller coaster I was a few weeks ago. Do I want this to be over as soon as possible? YES! I am so ready to go outside and eventually welcome my clients back to Spain (so many steps in between those two, I am aware).

By being locked up in a small flat 24/7, I am learning what my true triggers are. There are a few, and I do not want to mention them all as some are deeply personal. One of my biggest triggers is friends, family, and even acquaintances of mine back in the States do not fully understand the situation here in Spain. And then try to give me “advice” or in some cases even their uninformed observations about my personal situation.

The lockdown in the US is not as strict as Spain’s. My US friends/family/acquaintances can still go for walks. Most of my friends and family live in California, where they still have access to riding their bikes and hiking on our state’s beautiful nature. I think they often forget that not everyone can with “helpful” advice like “get some fresh air,” or “go for a walk in the park.” Yeah, that is not happening. In Spain that is not allowed. Retiro is closed. Our nature is closed.

I am also irked by people making assumptions, judgments, or thinly veiled-insults about my living space saying things like “It’s not as bad as I thought it was” after I shared photos of my newest “standup desk” setup with my windows in my photo on my personal Facebook page. Some were under the impression that “interior unit” meant zero windows, so my situation was “not as hard as they imagined.” This is coming from people who can still go on long/walks or runs every day because they have that option, people who have large, expensive homes with loads of indoor and outdoor space and beautiful views. Their “oh it’s not as bad as I thought” remarks irritated me.

(Re)Learning just to walk away is my new strategy, one I perfected during the 2016 US presidential election. Because responding is not even worth my time. Just ignore and move on.

We are all riding this out in our own way. Parents are facing a multitude of their own challenges during this time. Others are living in abusive situations. And then there are those people living in slums and prisons. So we are all dealing with this in our own way, and there are no rights or wrongs for anyone in this situation. I remind myself of that every day, while I wish I could go for a walk outside or even see some sunlight. But for now, like we all are, I am doing the very best that I can in this situation.


Karen founded Spain Less Traveled, her travel consultation business, to help make her clients’ travel dreams come true.  

She also hosts a Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/travelspain/