I’m Coming Home

After seven months of living abroad, it’s time for me to go home.

So cheers.

Cheers to walking 250 miles across the north of Spain. To sleeping under the stars in the Sahara desert. To watching Les Miserables live in London. To hugging my best friend under the Eiffel Tower. To wandering the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. To toasting to my 21st birthday with my mama in Malta. To doing yoga with GRiZ in Switzerland. To trekking throughout Northern Italy alone. To being next to the pope for Easter in the Vatican. To cruising in a convertible on a Spanish island. To fairytale weddings in Poland. To spontaneous visits to Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. To hitting 16,000 views from 5,000 visitors on a blog I thought no one, aside from my mama would read. To the to 30 flights, 15 trains, 3 ferries, 3 strangers’ vehicles, 1 camel and a whole lot of walking, that got me safely where I needed to go. And last but not least, to living in the most beautiful city in the world, Barcelona.

This journey was filled with immense life lessons. I have experienced great joy, excitement, clarity and contentment. I learned what it means to be alone, and sometimes afraid. I made friends from all over the world, as well as a few from my own backyard that I cannot wait to see when I’m back.

It’s so cliché to say, but this experience changed my life. I mean, can anyone go live abroad for months and not change? That would be impossible, or at least a stubborn demonstration requiring Herculean effort.

I have welcome every beautiful moment of it. I don’t yet know how I’ve changed, hopefully for the better, but I suppose that will come out in time. 

One thing is for sure, I can wait in line for hours without getting frustrated. Seriously, I’ve developed the patience of a monk from traveling.

 Thank you Europe for the ride of a lifetime. I loved waking up every single day thinking, “what is my life?” Now it’s time to continue this adventure I call a life, interning with Google in Ann Arbor in the fall! 

In the mean time, are you ready for me Chicago?!

  

Let’s Go!

  

Joy selfie!

 

Onward

After a week long trip with my brother and his girlfriend to Sevilla, Córdoba and Granada, I’m finally back in Barcelona. 

Today is my last day in this vibrant city I call home, and it feels rather strange to be leaving. However, life only moves in one direction, and that’s forward. It’s certainly time to move on, but there’s a certain uncertainty that always comes along with change. 

While most people who have studied abroad have already made their return flights to the States, I have another month of traveling Europe ahead of me. But now there is one big difference: there’s no place to call home. 

Barcelona has been home since January. Although I was traveling often, coming back to my apartment and feeling the coolness of the vintage green tiles beneath my feet, and lying down on my own bed to stare out my balcony, at the church across the street, always brought me comfort and peace. 

And now there is no home base, just a collection of unfamiliar pillows and tiles to discover. I have no dresser or drawer to open, just a suitcase to unzip and a backpack to unhook. No wide-eyed, half-naked Argentinian artist/roommate will roam the hallways, telling me to slow my roll. No waitress in the bistro next door knowing my order before I ask, “Un cortado y un yogur.” My safety net is gone, and all at once things have gotten a little more daunting and a lot more exciting.

The next stop is Warsaw, and then Kraków for one of my best girlfriend’s fabulous wedding. Essentially, an entire week of joy and celebrations.

After that, I’ll be with family in a little Polish village. And then for my last two weeks, who knows? Maybe Mozart in Vienna, or maybe exploring Iceland. Maybe learning how to meditate with monks, or maybe working on my tan in Zakinthos. 

It’s been one incredible adventure, and it’s crazy to think there is only a month left. Let’s do this. 

Looking towards the future, how very deep.

Sevilla and Bull

Here I am in Seville, marveling at the Moor influenced architecture, hopping from one tapas bar to the next and touring the city by horse drawn carriage, with a glass of white wine in my hand.

My adventure seems to be never ending, which is a good thing, of course, because the idea of leaving Spain is quite daunting. I’m at the point where I prefer speaking Spanish over English, eating dinner any time before 10 p.m. seems odd and “vale,” the Spanish equivalent of “okay,” has become an integrated part of my vocabulary. I’m making the most of the time I have left in the land of red wine and siestas and exploring the rest of this spectacular country.

Sevilla is a special kind of city; it beats with passion, and breathes fire.

The former because it pulses with the sensual movements of flamenco, the strum of a Spanish guitar and the valor of a bullfighter. The latter, because it’s hot.

Real hot.

Today was about 106 degrees. That’s 41 degrees for any of my friends who don’t live in the five countries in this world that use Fahrenheit.

Regardless, my companions and I visited Plaza de Toro today, the oldest bullfighting ring in the world, where I discovered  the fascinating world of bullfighting.

Although controversial, bullfighting is an art form, as well as a magnificent display of Spanish culture.

Hemingway, my main man, once said, “Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter’s honour.”

You see, a bullfighter enters the ring fully knowing that they may die that day. They put their lives in the hand of fate and say a quick prayer, which I assume goes a little like, “Dear God, please just not a major artery today.”

All jokes aside, fear is a fascinating topic. Are these bullfighters fearless, or are they fully afraid? 

To be fully afraid and to go in the direction of your fear is a very brave thing to do. I believe that being fearless is easy; when we acknowledge our fears and charge towards them like a matador against a bull, that’s the moment we discover our true courage.

Maybe we should all be a little more like bullfighters.  

Colors of Sevilla, beautifully reflected in the ring

 

Day 1: Blisters, Beer and Yoga

I wasn’t planning to write every day during the Camino, but it’s what I love to do, so I really can’t help it. 

My first day was exhilarating and exhausting. I walked 30 kilometers (about 18 miles), downed five beers and then did yoga in Portuguese. 

I started out at 6:40 am and met Nadja, a tall and gorgeous Australian who sold all of her belongings to travel the world. She introduced me to Peter, a Swiss retiree from San Francisco, who became my adopted father for the day. Peter was a godsend, because he immediately told me I was wearing my backpack wrong, and that I would injure my back. He adjusted it for me, so that it lay on my hips and proceeded to lecture me on how to take care of my feet along The Way. 

I walked at a slower pace than everyone, still unaccustomed to walking miles and miles a day, so I walked alone most of the time, occasionally catching up to my new friends. 

We reached our final destination around 3 pm. Peter dressed yet another blister for me, and for the next few hours we drank our well deserved beers and did absolutely nothing. Later that evening, a Portuguese yoga instructor who was walking the Camino held a small yoga session on the lawn by a bar, so Nadja and I hopped in. 

I’m was never a big fan of Hatha yoga, I’m more of a Vinyasa Flow type of girl, but today I was a shining yoga star. I’ll attribute that to either my total exhaustion, the five beers I had or the fact that I don’t speak Portuguese.

Cheers to my first successful day on the Camino!

   

Dying on the inside, but always smiling

 

A fellow peregrino on the Camino

 

When People Visit

Visitors are exhausting.

You walk around all day, spend more money than you normally would on entrance fees and metro passes and you eat constantly, and I mean constantly, just so that they can have the best possible experience in Barcelona.

Over the last few weeks, I have had three visitors. I have re-visited all of Barcelona’s major sights, from Sagrada Familia to Park Güell, I can recite Antoni Gaudí’s life story by heart and I have perfected a Barcelona sightseeing itinerary, which I am more than happy to share. Also, I have been to Brunch & Cake, a local bistro, four times this week with my visitors. That means I have eaten brunch four times in a week.

That is not okay.

Well maybe it is okay, because as tiring as it’s been, I couldn’t think of a better way to wrap up my semester.

You see, visitors are actually the best.

They allow you to experience your city in a fresh way, as if you were discovering it for the first time.

Once you’ve been living somewhere awhile you tend to forget the city’s magic. You walk past the same things every day and they become mundane even if they are really special. Parisians walk past the Eiffel Tower daily, unfazed, and Romans apathetically speed past the Colosseum. And here I am, strolling down Passeig de Gràcia in Barcelona, absolutely oblivious to Gaudí’s Casa Batlló or Casa Milà because I see them practically every day.

The joy of  showing someone around is that you can actually look at what you’ve been seeing this whole time; you pause and you think,

“Whoa. How lucky am I to be surrounded by something this beautiful?”

Showing Kristi around Park Güell

Showing Kristi around Park Güell

Fútbol, Confetti and Tears- Visca el Barça!

Kristi, or KrIstanbul, whom I visited in Istanbul in March, came to visit this weekend and accompanied me to my first FC Barcelona game this past Saturday.

I had waited all semester to go to a game, and with only two weeks left in my stay, it was now or never.

FC Barcelona was playing Deportivo de La Coruña, and ended the game in a tie. However, it was an incredible game to attend because the club had just won the Spanish League Championship and was celebrating that win after this game. On top of that, FCB’s midfielder and captain, Xavi, was leaving the club after 17 seasons. The stadium was full of people paying homage to a man who spent 25 years in a Barça jersey.

FCB fans are truly something special. I was expecting rowdiness and chaos, drunkards and maybe a fight or two. Instead, I saw an entire stadium-full of people intently watching the game, and occasionally cheering. Old men speaking Catalan commented on every play, and kids sat with their families, chanting along with the crowd. You could see everyone was just keeping their eyes fixed on the players and truly relishing the sport, a huge contrast to American sporting events. In fact, the stadium doesn’t even sell alcoholic beverages, and not a single person was visibly intoxicated.

What a beautiful concept. People at a sporting event actually watching the sport.

After the game, all of the players accompanied by their adorable children made a lap around the field with the Spanish League Championship trophy. At the end, Xavi took a solo victory lap through clouds of confetti, and made everyone cry with his final speech.

I had never seen so much confetti and so many tears in one place, it was an honor to attend.

Visca el Barça!

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Steps away from the Barça babes

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Barça players and their young ones

Conversations with Strangers: Pabloski from Wrocław

About him:  Paul, who goes by Pabloski because he is half Mexican and half Polish (Pablo-ski get it?), manages Funky Cycle, a rickshaw business in Barcelona. He has been living in Spain for about 16 years now, and his hidden talent is guessing what country people are from.

How we met: My friend, Kristi, is visiting from Istanbul and after a whole day of walking we decided to treat ourselves to a rickshaw ride. I came up to a group of rickshaw bikers and began fiercely negotiating when Pabloski approached me and began arguing with me about prices. Then, through a hot mess of English, Spanish and Polish we somehow ended up on his bike bonding and having a great time.

Coolest experience: The coolest thing Paul has ever done was move to Barcelona. He loves the people, the atmosphere, the climate and his lifestyle in general. But, can you blame him?

Life dream: Pabloski’s big dream is bike around the world. Aside from biking people around all day on rickshaws, he bikes competitively, so I think he could totally do it.

Just riding around with Pabloski

Just riding around with Pabloski