Sensory Overload Upon Moving to Malta

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I wrote this back when we first moved to Malta years ago. It stayed in my drafts for a while but I wanted to share my initial thoughts upon arrival in such a different place.

Feeling sensory overload was my initial reaction after we moved to Malta – and I loved it!

I enjoyed living in Malta, temporary though it might have been. That Mediterranean island offers so much variety and diversity in such a small space.

I greatly appreciated my time there and hope you enjoy this glimpse into my initial reaction to my new expat home.

This might sound bizarre, but I love the sensory overload of arriving in an unfamiliar place. There’s something magical about landing somewhere entirely new and letting its unique character envelope you.

Unknown smells, strange sounds, a visual spectacular drawing your eyes to dart around tirelessly.

Maybe this love of overwhelming my senses is what drives me to keep moving to new countries. Whatever it is, the first 24 hours in my newest country had every one of my senses on overdrive.

Arrival in Malta

We land at midnight, so my visuals are impaired. But I can take in enough to know that the drive from the airport is filled with roundabouts and street signs I can’t understand.

I catch sight of signs for “Naxxar,” “Ta’ Qali,” and “Mdina” but dare not attempt their pronunciation just yet.

We’re on the left-hand side of the road – a distinctly British colonial relic. The roundabouts, too, are a leftover of British occupation. Yet the street signs are filled with those unfamiliar letter combinations.

Occupation has been claimed by a number of civilizations on this small rock in the Mediterranean Sea. From Roman to Byzantine, from Arab to British, the list of conquering empires is long.

And after the sun rises on our first morning in Malta, I can see remnants of many of these eras in history.

Bugibba Square in Malta

The town I’m staying in is lively and bustling on an early Friday morning. I awaken to the sounds of cars driving by and birds twittering on the balcony outside the bedroom. There’s a dog barking down the road and I hear children’s sing-song voices echoing up the narrow street.

It’s time to go to work and to school. The world is buzzing with activity!

And as I step out onto the balcony — unfortunately frightening away those little chirping birds — I take in the vista before me from this sixth-floor penthouse.

Verdant hills fill the horizon to my left and I catch a glimpse of the sapphire sea to my right; white limestone buildings with balconies at every level fill the neighborhood below. A cloudless sky allows sunshine to warm every nook and cranny of this scene before me.

My senses are sufficiently overwhelmed and I can’t help but lift my face toward the sun and smile. A new adventure has begun!

island of Malta natural beauty

Learning a New Place

This first weekend in Malta is spent driving all over the island and trying to get a feel for the various areas.

We see megalithic temples and dramatic cliffs – I comment on their similarity to the Cliffs of Moher in western Ireland. But there is a lot more sunshine and warmth here in Malta!

We walk through narrow lanes in ancient cities with traditional enclosed balconies overhead. The vibrant painted colors of these balconies mirror the colorful front doors along the street. Elaborately decorative doorknockers make for an entertaining treasure hunt.

These ancient walled cities are visually marvelous and the sheer age of them baffles my American brain.

Mdina – the name I saw on the street sign – was first built in the 8th century by the Phoenicians.

In the U.S., if something was built in the 18th century and still stands, we consider it a marvel!

fortified city in Malta

In the more modern town we’re considering living in, we walk the seaside promenade along a rocky coast. There aren’t many beaches here, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a sun-worshipper’s destination. I know that, come summertime, these seaside areas will be packed with tourists fleeing the less sunny UK.

For now, before the summer season begins, I enjoy meandering the promenade with local families and their kids.

Malta feels very family-friendly, with small children riding tiny bicycles freely down the sidewalks and young kids playing soccer in the streets all weekend. They’re called in from the balconies come dinnertime, harkening back to an era long gone in the U.S.

After spending just a few days in Malta, I feel just as carefree as these kids.

I can tell this is going to be a good move.

It’s just a feeling you get after arriving somewhere new. It’s the feeling of your senses being over-stimulated, but in a positive way that fills your heart with joy and your brain with excited activity.

I still have so much more to explore, but for now, I just need to find an apartment to rent!

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