Reflection / Spain

Why my second backpacking trip got off to an amazing start

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.

Packing. Note: this was definitely overkill

Note: this was definitely overkill

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.

No more sad, lonely tourist pictures like this one!

No more sad, lonely tourist pictures like this one

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.

It was even possible to walk down La Rambla without bumping into people every 5 seconds

It was even possible to walk down La Rambla without bumping into people every 5 seconds

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.

Candy at La Boqueria: Get at me

Candy at La Boqueria: Get at me

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.

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One thought on “Why my second backpacking trip got off to an amazing start

  1. Pingback: The real reason why travel doesn’t change you | Adultescence

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