Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia with more than 1.5 million residents. While more than 20% of the population was born outside of Spain, it is one of the largest tourist destinations, making it unbelievably diverse.
What attracted me to Barcelona – outside of the warm winter weather – was how much there is to experience in one city. The history, the architecture, the people, and the food – just to name a few attractive qualities to me. What was most exciting for me? Bringing my daughter, Charlize (Charly), along. Showing her that picking up and traveling without a set itinerary dictated by a tour guide is a tremendously rewarding experience. After spending two months in England and having to figure most everything out on my own, I knew I wanted more. More experiences like that. More of the world.
You get off a plane in a world you’ve never been. All you hear is the buzz created by mostly Spanish- and French-speaking people. But, there is so much to be observed without knowing the words spoken. So much tone and body language can be translated anywhere. The toddler running off from his parents and the parents wanting to pull their hair out. The young couple with their backpacks, holding hands on the train, excited for their romantic getaway. The seemingly “in the doghouse” husband as his wife pulls away and throws her hands up in frustration. And the polite smile given to you, for whatever reason, making you feel at ease.
We had to figure out a lot. And the people of Barcelona were always happy to help with any question you have. They can tell you where to eat, the most efficient route on the metro to get to your destination, and they’ll even remind your daughter not to walk around with her cell phone hanging out of her pocket.
Before we left, we had all kinds of suggestions provided to us. While appreciated, Charly and I knew we wanted to travel differently. We only “booked” two train trips that tied us to a schedule. The rest was for us to decide. If we were tired, we could sleep in or go to bed early. If we weren’t, we could eat shortbread in our hotel bed at midnight. If we were hungry, we could window shop hundreds of restaurants until we found something that fit our fancy. We walked more than 40 miles. Most of those miles were just wandering wherever we wanted and knowing even if we were temporarily clueless where we were, that we would eventually make it back.
We didn’t worry about what to pack, beyond making sure we were ready for the weather. I recall an article that talked about what to wear, so you didn’t stand out as a tourist in Barcelona. I find it completely laughable now. Barcelona’s diversity welcomes whatever style you want. While the majority of people in their teenage years through their 30’s were in “mom jeans” or head-to-toe sports brands, there was no way to identify who was a tourist and who lived in Barcelona. You saw every walk of life in every type of attire.
I shared our daily adventures and pictures on Smooth Rides & Stiff Drinks, but I wanted to share the overall emotions I took away from our trip to Spain. It builds on my inspiration to continue world travel and experience life outside of the borders of Iowa or the US. It validates my sometimes wavering confidence that I can figure almost anything out. It waters my belief in the good of human kind.
Those who know me well, know losing my Grandma Sabra (“Grams”) was the hardest loss I experienced this far. Grams always wanted to travel. We spent hours fantasizing about the places we would one day visit, and how we would spend our jackpot if we won the lottery. So, when I received a care package in England, from Mama, that included a spice jar with Grams’ ashes – I was honored to allow her to travel to Stonehenge, a fountain in London, and the gardens of Arundel castle. She’s also now traveled to Montserrat and Catalunya Plaza. I can’t wait to show her more of the world in the future.
When Charly was 11, she went on a People to People trip to Vancouver. She was a student ambassador who left her parents for the longest period ever – 13 days. She came back more mature and with an excitement to travel to new lands. I saw the same when she came to visit in England. And, I saw even more when we traveled together to Spain. In eight days, I watched her grow more confident in using context to translate a foreign language to determine where to go. She began staying close behind me, holding onto the strap of my purse. Then, she was beside me, helping navigate where we should turn. Then, she was in front, telling me the next train we needed to get on in order to get to a desired destination. And, it motivates me to make sure she travels as much as I can afford before she leaves for college.
Traveling seems to encourage others to remind you to be safe, watch your surroundings, and how scary the world is. They are right. The world can be a scary place. It is important to be alert. But, please, never let that stop you from going where you want to go. Whatever you find adventurous – fill your life with it as much as possible. Allow the beauty and good in the world to shape you and inspire you.
I will leave you with that. I need to get back to planning the next trip we will take!
May your ride be smooth, and your drinks stiff. Cheers!