I wake up in an eight bed hostel room. Somehow, I am lucky enough to have the room completely to myself. Out of my only window I can see the Torre Agbar.
I am in Barcelona.
In my weary dreamy state of mind, three months ago now, I was sure that by the time I made it to Spain (if I made it to Spain) that I would be wise. It was a silly thing to think, but I thought it. And more importantly, I believed it. I would, by that point, have made my way across five countries. More or less on my own. I would have navigated through airports, train stations, busy cities, and rural towns. I would have been immersed in a sea of art, culture, and languages that I had never been exposed to before. And I would be significantly smarter, more cultured, and more or less an expert at the whole traveling thing.
(And hopefully the whole life thing)
From pretty much 16 and onwards in age, I was pretty confused. I did not know what I wanted to do with my life or who I wanted to be as a person in general. Everything just seemed to happen to me and around me in a meaningless and uncontrollable fashion. I didn’t understand why I acted the way that I acted (or reacted) or why I felt the way that I felt. I drank a lot, worked shitty job after shitty job, went to therapy, experimented with both legal and illegal drugs. All because I wanted life experience, and I would take it (negative or positive) in any form that it presented itself to me. Even as I exited my teenage years and entered early adulthood, I looked back on myself during those times with the same weary confusion. And when I looked forward.. Well, I couldn’t look forward at all.
On the train(s) from Nice to Barcelona, I kept my mind busy trying to figure out how I would budget the cash that I had for over a week until I could get to Madrid.
At the hostel in Nice I had met a nineteen year old girl from the United States. She had come to Europe to travel with her boyfriend, but had broken up with him on the flight over and was now on her own. She talked about her previous cocaine addiction, her promiscuity, dysfunctional family, and how mature it all has made her.. We all drank wine out of the bottle and shared stories that night.
The next day I think of her on the train somewhere between France and Spain, and I think of myself at her age. But for the first time, I see myself differently. I think I should have traveled then. I should have packed my bags and instead of heading to college like my brain told me to, I should have headed to France (or Morocco, or India..) like my heart told me to. The struggle I felt at that time was, after all, a battle between my head and my heart. I tried to do what I felt I should do and failed miserably at it because it just wasn’t right for me. Not at that time. And my heart knew it.
When I woke up in my hostel bed in Spain I realized something else. I am not the wise well traveled person I planned myself to be. Not solely because I still sort of fumble my way across country borders in the random haphazard fashion that I’ve come to claim as my “traveling style”, but because in every new place that I have gone, I have gained something different than wisdom. I have embraced my own naivety.
It was just this morning that I realized it hasn’t been about the destinations, the views, the history, the people, or even the experiences. For me travel has been about something else. Something deeper and more subtle at the same time. Sometimes travel is about not marinating in who-you-are-where-you-live. It’s about seeing who you are somewhere else and realizing that you are not just one thing. Or many things. Or anything at all. Today I feel both peacefully insignificant and spiritually important.
Today I let go of all the heavy baggage of my past that I had been carrying with me. Today I stopped trying so hard to move forward. I ate breakfast, got on the subway, and let life take me where I needed to go.
Maybe some years in the future I’ll look back and realize that everything I think I know now is wrong. Maybe this will happen over and over again. I cannot and will not try to figure it out anymore. What I do know is that for now I am going to follow my heart. I also know that for me, for now, that is more than enough.
I arrived in the Barcelona train station at about 8pm. I go to a McDonalds there because even though I hate McDonalds I know that they have free wifi. I buy a small fry and try to connect to wifi.. for like twenty minutes. I give up and throw my fries away because they only cost one euro and are basically poison.
As soon as I exit McDonald’s, my phone connects to wifi from a nearby store. I stand conspicuously right outside the store until I reserve a bed in the cheapest hostel I can find for three nights. I then find a metro and buy a two day pass for a whopping €14. I make it to my hostel, check into my empty dorm room and shower.
In Iceland, my shampoo got left behind because of our reservation mixup.
In Ireland I bought new shampoo.
In Ticheville, I forgot my shampoo again.
In Paris I bought new shampoo.
In Rome I lost my brush.
In Nice someone stole my shampoo.
In Barcelona I am without either a brush or shampoo.
That is to say I haven’t washed my hair in about three days and I haven’t brushed it in over two weeks. I refuse to spend the little money that I have at the moment on purchasing either. But when I wake up the next morning in Barcelona, my hair situation is pretty serious.
I may have mastered shaking my basically dreadlocked hair and scraping it into a somewhat presentable bun, but I don’t have any magic tricks to make it not greasy. I’m pretty desperate. If there is one thing I can’t stand it’s knowing that my hair looks like complete shit. And if there is anything that I could possibly hate more than this it is the smell of unclean hair. I wash my body and face extra hard, do laundry, put on makeup.. But I still feel gross. It is what it is, I guess.
I download the free Barcelona metro app onto my phone which works exactly the same way as the Paris version.
It is awesome.
I can’t recommend it enough. All you have to do is type in the station where you are currently and the station that you are trying to get to and it tells you how to get there. It is that simple. It also knows your location even offline. Download it.
I decide to see the Sagrada Familia first. As soon as I walk out of the metro stop. There it is.
I had never heard of Gaudí before coming to Barcelona. But after seeing this building, and later seeing several of his other buildings in the city, I have learned a lot about his work and life. It is all pretty fascinating. His architectural style is unlike any I have ever witnessed. To me, his work is playful, ornate, extravagant, surreal and sometimes it even makes me a little bit uncomfortable.. Which I like.
I once saw a quote (on one of Caroline’s tshirts actually) that said:
“Art should comfort the disturbed, and disturb the comfortable.”
~(Cesar A. Cruz)~
I can’t think of a more true statement to describe art as a whole. (At least not one that my pea-sized brain can comprehend)
After I take in the whole of the Sagrada Familia, I go to the train station and try to reserve my ticket to Madrid so that I know how much it is going to cost me. I can’t do it at the machine or online so I head back to the hostel. I still have a lot to see, but I have first day jet-lag and I really just want to catch up on sleep. I stop on the way and buy €7 worth of groceries. Back at the hostel I watch half of Arsenic and Old Lace, which is probably one of my favorite movies of all time, on my phone until my internet cuts out halfway through. I debate going to sleep even though it’s only 20:00. I go downstairs and stand awkwardly by the front desk where my internet is at least working and google something I never thought I would. “Can I wash my hair with hand-soap?”
The consensus according to the Internet is basically yes, but don’t.
But I do.
I mix a little bit of dry hair oil with about four pumps of the hand soap by the sink and scrub my hair. Then I do it again once more with feeling.
The final product can’t really compare to that after shampoo, but it feels so much better. I read like five book samples on my kindle (because I need a new book to read) before I fall asleep at like 22:30.
Today I saw Gaudí’s:
I also wander around the Gothic quarter and visit the Christmas market in front of the Barcelona Cathedral. I sit by the dock and write.
And now it is time for me to put my phone down and continue getting lost in Barcelona.
I’ll leave you with this statue thing.