This post is a sequel to this one, which talked about why my first trip started off terribly and I ended up running around Heathrow, bawling. Considering everything that happened, I was a little nervous to leave for the second time around.
Okay, I’ll admit: it didn’t start off great. The worst time to get a bad haircut is when you’re about to leave on a big trip and take a million pictures. This is exactly what happened 24 hours before my flight. A solid chunk of hair was missing from the back of my head and I had refused to turn it into a bob. I also had to spend the afternoon packing in my non-air-conditioned apartment in the 105 degree heat.
I was starting to worry that this was a bad omen of things to come. But nope–everything worked out perfectly.
Reason #1: Unlike the last time, I wasn’t scared at ALL. I already knew what I was getting myself into; I had already planned and completed a 3 month trip completely on my own. I wasn’t scared of navigating the city, I wasn’t afraid that I wouldn’t meet anyone, and–yes–I wasn’t afraid I’d get “taken.” I was just excited, nothing else.
Reason #2: I already had friends over in Europe. I had kept in contact with hostel workers and other travelers I had met the previous year, and I’d be meeting up with them again. I (unexpectedly) ended up seeing a few more familiar faces along the way. I had already thought that Europe was a small world; it was getting smaller.
Reason #3: I met people. At the bar, on the plane, and during the layover in Lisbon. It was just so…easy to make friends.
This was a reoccurring theme that would happen throughout the rest of my trip. Almost every bus, plane, train, or ferry, I met someone. I bonded with someone at almost every hostel. I made friends with people off the street. I got so tired of being social that I had to check in a hotel in Rhodes by myself and decompress (I know, poor me).
Reason #4 I brought American dollars to exchange. So last time I took someone’s advice and brought $0. I landed with a non-functioning debit card and cell phone. This time around, I brought plenty of money to exchange. This turned out to be a good thing: despite calling my bank and giving them notice about traveling, again, it refused to work, AGAIN. Luckily this was days later and I was already settled in; I sorted it out pretty fast.
Reason #5: I knew what the hell I was doing (refer back to #1). I got to the hostel without buying a map.
Reason #6: I was in Barcelona. The first time around, I landed in London, a city that I need to see again because I never really “clicked” with it. I was the same way when I first got to Barcelona in 2011: “I don’t see what the big deal is,” I had told my friends. But I stuck around and it became my favorite city in the world.
I settled into my favorite room (Room 1) at my favorite hostel. Despite hardly sleeping on the plane (those Bloody Marys didn’t help me at all), I spent the whole afternoon walking around and I admit, I didn’t try anything new. What I did was go back to every single place that I had missed in the 10 months that I had been away.
I slurped a huge bowl of gazpacho at a juice bar off La Rambla. I got pintxos at a nearby Basque restaurant. As if that wasn’t enough, I went to La Boqueria and grazed on everything in sight.
There was comfort in familiarity. I would spend the first few weeks of my trip re-visiting my favorite places before I moved on to new territory.
I made sure to end my trip in Barcelona, too, so that I would be able to see it one more time. I didn’t know when I would ever return.
Something else was different about this trip, too. On the first day, I realized that I was never going to get homesick. Every week or so, I would check with myself: Am I homesick yet? Am I ready to go back? Nope, that feeling never came. If anything, now I’m homesick for Barcelona.