7 things I learned during my week alone in Barcelona:
1. One should always remember to adjust one’s phone and other time-keeping devices for the new time zone after traveling. One would think this would be self-evident, but one would be wrong. Phones do not always adjust the time automatically. Especially when said phones are on airplane mode. While having the wrong time may not matter while one is wandering about a city casually, it becomes slightly more important when one desires to see a movie. When one walks into the theatre an hour late and insists that the movie begins in 5 minutes, those working at said theatre may become deeply confused and fear for one’s sanity. When one does this twice in one night, those working at the theatre will likely inform one of the correct time very, very slowly and cautiously. One will then understand why the movie was not showing when scheduled. One will then be able to adjust one’s phone to the new time zone. If more humiliation (as well as a small amount of triumph) is desired, one may return to the theatre the following day at the correct time to actually see the movie.
2. I am not an extrovert. I know this already, and yet for some reason, when I pictured myself traveling this semester, I pictured some alternate universe Lizzy who would make friends effortlessly everywhere she went, go out to bars and clubs on her own (/with her dozens of new friends), and have no trouble practicing her Spanish with every person she met. This Lizzy does not exist (or if she does, she is not me). The longest conversation I had the entire first half of the week was with a Welsh woman at a dessert shop.
I’m not an extrovert, and I’ve been working hard at accepting that this week. I did a lot of walking alone, sitting alone, and eating alone this week, and it was so hard to break away from the feeling that I wasn’t doing it right. But you know what? Sometimes being alone is exactly what I need.
3. When traveling, it is hard to meet locals, but it is very easy to meet other travelers. In the end, I did make several friends in Barcelona. On a Sweets/Chocolate tour of Barcelona, I met someone from Australia who enjoys good food as much as I do. After the tour ended, we shared a lovely evening full of tea, cava, and lots of tapas. On my way to Montserrat, I ended up chatting with two students from Canada, and we spent the day together exploring the monastery and, in the evening, visiting a high-end perfume shop and smelling perfume to our heart’s content.
It took me until the end of the week to figure out, but if you want to meet people while abroad: 1) stay at a hostel, or 2) get involved in touristy activities and you’re bound to meet other travelers!
3. Fear is a really powerful thing.
4. But it is possible to overcome, with several cups of tea, some sunshine, and those small things that give you the confidence to keep going.
5. Those small things are everything. The chocolate on the end of the croissant. The music and voices and laughter drifting in through the balcony window. The salty-sticky sand covering my feet. The puppy nuzzling his owner on the metro.
When I got here, I realized I may not have packed the best. I had seen that it was supposed to be significantly warmer than Oxford, so I brought only one pair of jeans, one pair of capri pants, a couple shirts, and two dresses. While the weather here was warm to me, however, it was still quite chilly for the Barcelonians, and I was literally the only person walking around in sandals. I realized if I didn’t want to stand out as a total foreigner I might have to wear that same pair of jeans all week, and I felt like a total idiot, but then I made an amazing discovery: my short pants, which had a sort of scrunch at the end that I assumed was just stylistic, were actually un-scrunchable. I could expand them into regular length pants.
I could not explain why, but these pants felt like a miracle. Such a small thing, but my transformable pants made me feel capable, somehow, of being brave, of exploring all the places I wanted to explore and speaking in Spanish and interacting with other people and doing all of the things I was afraid of.
6. Part of self-care is pushing your comfort zone. I think I did a pretty good job taking care of myself here. I meditated every day, I made time to spend alone in the apartment to recharge, I let myself laugh when I counted out the wrong change or messed up a word rather than beating myself up for it. I also made plans to get out and do things in the city, and I followed through. That more than anything made me really proud of myself. I am usually motivated by external factors– by other people’s needs or interests or by academic and social expectations. This trip was just for me, and that actually made it harder for me to feel capable of accomplishing anything. But I did– I did a lot! I did interact with people, I walked over half the city, I took a day trip I’ve been wanting to take since I was first in Barcelona two years ago, I navigated the metro– I even successfully gave people directions, in Spanish! Twice!
7. Traveling alone is something I would recommend to everyone to try at some point in their life. Doesn’t have to be to another country, but going to a new place and learning how to be on your own– learning you can be on your own– is a pretty powerful thing. And, of course, now I am so, so grateful to be spending the next week with my parents!
7 images from my trip:
7 lines of the song I’ve been listening to non-stop this week:
But I’m okay in see-through skin.
I forgive what is within.
‘Cause I’m in this house, I’m in this home, all my time.
Cover your crystal eyes
And feel the tones that tremble down your spine.
Cover your crystal eyes
And let your colors bleed and blend with mine.