For the last five days in Barcelona:
I explored Parc Guell, saw the Picasso Museum on Sunday (museums are free after 3 on Sundays), saw several more Gaudí works (of course), spent too much time picnicking and reading in Parc Cituadella, basically memorized the Barri Gotic…
Barcelona was actually amazing and almost everything I did was free. It is the perfect sized city. After making the mistake of buying the two day metro pass for €14 my first day (which does NOT even last for 48hours but rather 2 calendar days), I smartened up and bought the ten ticket pass which was less money and much more useful. However, I never used all ten rides on my pass. I found Barcelona to be a very easy city to get around by foot. And it’s such a youthful, eclectic place that purposefully getting lost here was actually my favorite activity.
On Tuesday, I head for Madrid. I have two options:
1 – use my eurail pass and pay €35 for a reservation on a fast train (3 hour trip)
2 – use my pass on a regional train for free (12.5 hour trip)
Determined to make my pass worth the money I spent on it, I chose the latter. The trip was long and the train was practically empty the whole time. And there weren’t bathrooms (at least not any I could find). So, no water bottle refills, no refreshing faces washes after a sleepy-time-drool-sesh, and of course no peeing. Having just finished Pride and Predjudice, I am in the Jane Austin mood and I read Persuasion on my phone… for awhile.
But then I get bored.
I pick at my nail polish.
Accidentally fall asleep against the window.
Wake up to a slobbery left cheek. (Gross but true)
Wish I had solitaire or something.
Try to calculate my trip statistics so far ( how many trains I’ve been on for example).
Try to write makes but it makes me motion sick.
Stare out the window at the beautiful views (until it gets dark at like five).
I really wish I could calculate the amount of time I’ve spent in transition.. I feel like the hours would probably add up to about a week.. At least. Honestly.
I not only have my hostel sorted, but I also have my reservation info and directions from the train station screenshot and written down.
~LoOk wHoSe LeArNiNg~
My train was late so I arrive in Madrid at about 22:30. The Atocha train station is pretty large, so I am confused at where to exit. There were no outlets on the train, so my phone is almost dead. (Glad I wrote everything down!)
I start to walk in one direction, second guess myself, and turn back towards the way I came. I do this several times. It is 11:00 and I’m tired. Also, I know next to nothing about Madrid and I’m not sure how safe it is for me to be walking around alone this late, or if I am in a bad neighborhood or something.
In Europe, even in the cities, I have generally always felt safe walking alone no matter the hour. I can attribute this to two factors. The first one being that everywhere I have gone I have seen young women and even the occasional elderly woman walking alone late at night. The second reason simply being that guns are illegal here. And though I know it’s not completely logical to think this way… In my mind, a person has to get pretty close to me to threaten me. That’s the scary thing about guns, running from someone with a gun doesn’t mean you won’t get shot.
I decide to sit down for a second and get a good look at the map before I continued on my way. There weren’t any benches near by so I sit on my backpack on the sidewalk and search for my water bottle in my purse. I take out a to-go espresso cup I meant to throw away earlier and dig through my bag. A cute man with a dog walks by and then smiles at me. I am almost flattered until he drops fifty euro cents into my empty espresso cup and walks away…
Oh. He thinks I’m homeless.
My cheeks flush and I quickly get up and throw my coffee cup away. It’s not that I have a problem with homeless people but I don’t want to take this change away from an actual homeless person who needs it more than I do.. Plus I thought I looked pretty cute today. I did laundry, my hair looks decent.. Whatever.
I make my way to my hostel and check in. I really like this hostel as it has laundry services, a bar, free breakfast, tapa tour, day trip options (if you’re into group activities), and a free beer or sangria if you book online!
The first night, I only have three roommates whom are all Italian. The next morning at breakfast I meet a Argentinian man who recently quit his lucrative career as an engineer to travel the world for a year. His name is Miguel. After breakfast, we walk to a park together and visit an Egyptian temple randomly placed in the center. We have the general vagabond conversations.
He says the reason that he is traveling is because he did not feel at home where he lived, and he was unable find happiness settling down there. He says he wants to know if he is just living in the wrong place around the wrong people, or if the reason for his discontent stems more from who he is as a person. He plans on going absolutely everywhere to see if he finds the place he is looking for or maybe instead discovers what it is about him as a person that feels the constant need for something else.
When you are at home, at least where I come from, the first question a stranger will ask you is “What do you do for a living?” Or “Are you in school?”. When you are traveling the first question people will generally ask you is “Where are you from?”. This is generally followed by “Where have you been and where are you going?”. At some point you will also be inevitably asked “Why are you traveling?”. I am never sure how to answer this question.. I am traveling because I have never done it before. I am traveling because I feel an inexplicable need to do so. I am traveling because I don’t fit in in my own life, in my own country, in my own family, and I need to find out why. I have always struggled with articulation when talking about myself. Especially to someone I don’t know. I am like an onion. I have layers. The longer I get to know someone the more about myself I feel comfortable revealing. The more comfortable I feel, the better I am able to find the words necessary to have those types of conversations. Backpacking has really forced me to be more upfront and open about who I am on an intimate level to people I hardly know. It has forced me to acknowledge my trust issues and face them head on whether I like it or not. My conversation with Miguel was more than comforting. The answer that he gave me mirrors my own. He just gave me the right words to say it.
After a few hours, Miguel heads to his new accommodation via couchsurfing. I give my first flawlessly executed European cheek kisses as we bid each other goodbye. And just like that I have met someone, became friends with him, and said goodbye knowing that I will most likely never see him again. And all before lunch. I have finally become accustomed to these sorts of friendships and the goodbyes are easier than they were in the beginning.
That night I have my free sangria and hangout with my new roomies. They are three American students, a Turkish guy who just finished hiking the Camino pass, and a Portuguese man learning about sustainable living through workaway. The hiker tells us about his journey on the Camino. It took him 36 days to hike it. He ties twine around his bunk bed and hangs his hand washed clothes on the makeshift line to dry despite the fact that we have dryers available in the hostel. He sleeps in his sleeping bag on his bunk despite the fact that we are provided sheets and he walks around barefoot. The Portuguese man also walks around barefoot and offers to share his weed with us. He carries around a strange African instrument that looks like a spaceship to me. He has dreadlocks and pretty eyes. We stay up late sitting on the sidewalk talking about busking, growing your own food, and workaway.
The next night the hostel staff and a few of the guests all sit around the sidewalk and listen to him play the strange percussion instrument. It is called a *** and the sound it makes is guttural and beautiful. Everyone rolls joints and passes them around. I don’t partake, not necessarily because I think it is bad for you but mostly because I don’t like the way it affects me personally. I almost feel embarrassed at declining the drug, like I’m 16 again at a party hoping my new friends won’t think I’m lame. But I’m not 16 and this is not a high school party. There is no peer pressure or judgement. For that night there is only a group of rambling hippies soaking up each others positivity on the streets of downtown Madrid. And it is good.
Hostels in Madrid (or anywhere for that matter) can almost double in price on weekends. Despite my fondness for my current hostel, I decide to switch to a hostel nearby that offers a cheaper weekend rate.
The next morning, I wake up, shower, eat breakfast and head to my new home. Where I am now and where I must bid you adieu.
Y hasta luego, Internet!