a moment of honesty
It's been a hard 24 hours. I have been stolen from. I have been lost. I have been exhausted. I have walked my feet off and I have fallen victim to my own unreasonable expectations. I promised myself that I would use this blog as a positive space to share honestly about my travels, but today I realized that there is always a place for tactful honesty, even if it's not always pretty. So here it is: I'm struggling in Barcelona this weekend and have been learning a few hard lessons.
Where do I even begin? Let's begin with an ill-fated Ryanair flight from Prague. I used to think Ryanair was fine, but they changed their baggage policy and started shocking people at check in, saying that they needed to check something as small as a backpack. I had to make a snap judgement about the contents of my would-be carry-on and grudgingly handed it over to the baggage crew. This was a mistake. Someone stole my headphones between Prague and Barcelona. Not having my headphones anymore hurts and having to replace them sucks, but what hurts more is to know I was honest and trusted someone else with the safety of my belongings and they took advantage of it. That left me at the Barcelona airport feeling hurt and extremely vulnerable while undertaking the grueling task of trying to file a report with Ryanair. If you learn one thing from this post, let it be this: Don't check valuable items, but also don't support Ryanair and their ridiculous baggage policies.
I have been traveling almost non-stop for the month of November. Two of the trips (including this one) were planned. Two were more last-minute. This is simply too much. Those of you who have been to Barcelona know that it's a stunning city in its own gritty, overripe, vibrant way. You will also know that in all its beauty, it is an urban sprawl with no distinct tourist center. For reference, it's over a mile from the Sagrada Familia to Park Guell. That's a lot when you don't know where you're going. And when you're tired. And when you haven't had lunch yet and can't find a bus stop or metro station to save your life. Another important thing to note: Barcelona is a tourist destination-- and for good reason. There is some really beautiful stuff to see and there is some rich history. But understand that you will be fighting crowds every step of the way.
You guys, I wanted to fall in love with Barcelona. I wanted to have my Cheetah Girls moment and live some Catalonian dream for the weekend. But I had the perfect storm. I hadn't prepared well for this trip. I had dealt with a lot before even leaving the airport. I had so many hopes for this weekend and it's been really hard to rebound. I have spent the majority of today feeling guilty for not loving Barcelona and sick to my stomach that I spent money to be here and be anxious, sad and fried. I also was terrified of sounding spoiled or ungrateful when asked how my weekend was. It left me feeling super conflicted about how to write about this weekend, since I do try to keep it positve. But I also know this is a real part of traveling for many people, so ultimately I decided to share with all of you.
So, after this hot mess of a day, I called my mom, nearly in tears. She was understanding and helped me to see that all of these things are still a part of traveling. I'm not going to love every place. Awful things might happen. I'm a human and sometimes, humans get exhausted and have to tap out for a while. So I hung up, took a deep breath, and took the following advice: Traveling doesn't have to be a mad scramble to see everything. Traveling can be doing what you need to do to take care of yourself. So, in the name of redeeming this day and this blog, I made a list of the things that I'm so thankful for today, in no particular order:
1. That there's air in my lungs and shoes on my feet and even if it wasn't what I thought it would be, I'm still in Barcelona and there's something really cool about that.
2. A quiet moment of prayer at the Sagrada Familia.
3. The sweet mini-mart owner that gave me a free lollipop.
4. That I get to see palm trees in the winter.
5. The Barcelona Music Museum, which I had all to myself this afternoon and could gawk at all the crazy instruments to my heart's content.
6. A soak in the rooftop jacuzzi at sunset.
7. The friendly coffee shop that very patiently helped me with my breakfast order, even though we couldn't speak the same language.
8. The quiet side of Park Guell with its grottoes and lack of crowds-- the perfect place to breathe for a second.
9. Some sweet ERASMUS students who gave me a map when I was lost.
10. That beautiful salty, lush smell in the air, since I'm so close to the sea.
It's okay to have a bad day while traveling. It's okay to be disappointed in a destination. Your feelings matter and how you deal with them is up to you. Gratitude and a quiet moment have helped me tremendously and have the power to change the day. I have started to turn it around here in Barcelona this afternoon. I'm grateful for all of these lessons, even if they hurt sometimes. I've also realized that this is an important part of my travels as well. For all its beauty, sometimes it can be hard. Sometimes we get caught up in the supposed perfection of this nomadic life, but that's not reality. Reality can sometimes be really hard and all we can do is lean into it, be thankful for what we have, and plan for a better day in the morning.