I have a passion for discovering distant cultures. Growing up in my family and not craving the adventure of exploring new exotic places would have been incredibly difficult. We have had amazing experiences as a family in Costa Rica and Panama, but what solidified my desire for travel was my solo trip to Barcelona, Spain. I had often dreamt of exploring the historic cobblestone streets of Europe, and finally I had that opportunity. My mother and I, after long months of searching for exiting travel opportunities, found a Spanish emersion program through the Sprach Café based out of Germany.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
We spent weeks packing and re-packing and making sure I had everything I needed for three weeks abroad. What I found helpful was having my entire itinerary printed out in a folder that I kept in my carry on. It had the receipts for my plain tickets and all of the Sprach Café’s information for my pick up. But despite all of my preparation I was not expecting to be picked up by a scruffy man with deep bags under his eyes wearing cutoff jeans and a dirty shirt at the Barcelona International Airport. I had no idea about what to expect but it sure wasn’t that!
After my initial shock of arriving in Spain, I successfully checked into my dorm and met my roommate. She was another student from the United States. Since we did not know anyone else we waited together anxiously for the World Cup soccer final to begin. I was in Barcelona when Spain won the World Cup! I remember being so excited to be apart of this astonishing event. I still remember the cheering ringing throughout the city. “OLAY, OLAY…OLAY, OLAY”. A sure sign of the phenomenal trip I was having. What later came as a shock to me was that the Catalan people (people originating from the Spanish state of Cataluña including the city of Barcelona) were more worried about the World Cup interfering with their own soccer season. After all 7 of the starting player on the Spanish team were on the FC Barcelona team.
Over the next three weeks I visited countless remarkable landmarks from walking through the Jardin de Gaudi to watching Flamingo dancing accompanied by Opera at the Palau de la Musica Catalana. But it wasn’t viewing these historic places that impacted me the most. It was wandering the streets off Las Ramblas, the main street through downtown Barcelona. I would get lost for hours going in any direction that my little heart desired. I saw amazing street art on the closed doors of people’s apartments. I watched as street artists painted what they saw in their imagination. I ate gelato on every corner (the best combination is Mango and Melon). I marveled at the detailed architecture and how such historic influences meshed with the modern urban world. It was incredible. I fell deeply in love with that city and it’s people. I never knew that so many surprises could be hidden in one place. I would walk down streets that I had countless times and still find something new.
That is what I love about traveling. I love the people I have the privilege of meeting, and the endless adventures that are awaiting around ever corner. That idea of something new and endlessly fascinating will keep my passion for traveling burning inside me for the rest of my life. I found that preparation can get you from point A to point B, but it is the unplanned, unexpected adventures that make the journey worth every second.
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