Traveling is not always as fabulous or fun as Instagram bloggers (covertly trying to sell you products) portray it. Life is certainly never a constant high, and there are aspects to travel, especially long-term trips that have quite deep, sometimes embarrassing lows.
Life is hard, and strange, and also magnificent. It’s still life though, no matter where you are living. I find it kind of strange that people don’t foresee these ups and downs of regular existence as things that continue persisting no matter where you are and what you’re doing.
I’ve had a lot of amazing experiences traveling, many of which I’ve shared with you in my writing. That’s the thing though, I’ve shared the good stuff. I’ve joked around about the misadventures, but life is obviously more than the adventures I have carefully written and presented to you. Of course, travelling is still amazing to experience, and I’m quite privileged to be able to enjoy it. I’ll always remember my time in Spain fondly, but I don’t want to present myself to you as if the bad days never happened.
So, here are some memories from Spain I thought maybe you’d like to hear. I hope you find a bit of humor in them because the last thing I want is a pity party. I only hope they’ll make you feel less envious, but also more aware of what traveling actually entails. It’s not all sunsets and sangria.
- I spent my first night in Salamanca in my room, not talking to my host family except for my host mom’s granddaughter, Chloe. This little girl ordered me around and made me do weird exercises she must have learned in class. Chloe then proceeded to draw all over the only paper I had brought for class. I ended up crying that night in bed because I missed Madrid (not home, sorry my loved ones). I think I was also petrified that I did not actually speak Spanish and I’d be discovered as a fraud, which was simply not true.
*This next one is a bit more personal but I think it’s too worthy of an audience to not include. You can handle it if you’re not a middle school boy*
- I ran out of tampons my first day of class in Salamanca. My host father was not my personal choice, but I had no one else to go to. I asked him to take me to the pharmacy without explaining exactly what I needed because as expected when speaking another language, I didn’t know the right words. I got into the rather close quartered pharmacy and in front of two grown men, I began trying to explain what a tampon was because I still could not figure out the word for tampon in Spanish. The two of them looked at me like I had two heads, until a big “Ahhhhh” indicated the pharmacist and my host dad came to understand. The guy at the pharmacy actually kept looking at me like a freak, as he was offended and told me to go to a woman’s pharmacy. Super embarrassed, I was red all over and had to go to two other stores with my host father. Periods are a normal part of life as a woman though and we shouldn’t be made to feel this way about an important part of being a human.
Just in case you ever need to know, the word for tampon in Spanish is “tampone.”
- When I was in Granada in the south of Spain, I was walking down the street by myself and this old woman came up to me. She handed me a rosemary sprig and told me “un regalo” meaning “a gift.” I accepted, rather awkwardly and unwillingly, gave a quick thanks and tried to leave. Before I could, she read my palm in Spanish while smiling at me with what appeared to be nearly no teeth. When she was done, I turned to leave and she grabbed my wrist and told me “paga me,” pay me! All I could think was “what the hell is going on, I’m a broke college student even in Spain.” She told me I owed her five euro. A car came down the road in between us. I saw my chance to break free. Just kidding! She proceeded to chase me down the street while screaming at me. Moral of the story everyone, don’t take rosemary or any random herbs from old women in Spain.
I went to Alhambra by myself and there were a ton of couples and groups of people. Me being me, I didn’t think much of it until I wanted to take pictures of myself in cool places. I looked like the most miserable selfie taker in the world; perpetually single and taking terrible photos. If I was given the option to for the day, I would have rented a stand-in boyfriend despite being very confident in my independent life. Even the guards asked me if I was by myself, and took pity on me when they found out I was just a small American girl wandering around in one of the most beautiful and romantic places in the world. Still cool as heck though!! Also, my phone died halfway through my time there, so I had to hide in the bathroom after I found an outlet to charge it. I pretended to do my mascara for a good twenty minutes so I could stay in there.
- This story is sort of scary and I highly recommend to all my friends, specifically females, that when you are in any foreign country, take note of every person in your hostel room if you can. I was at my hostel in Madrid, not Sungate One of course, but another one. The guy who was sleeping in the bunk bed above me came down and tried to get into my bed right after I had gotten back from a bar crawl. He was definitely intoxicated (absolutely not an excuse EVER) and tried to grab me and kiss me. I pushed him away firmly and told him to go the f*ck to bed. He realized I was American and said to me “I’ve never been with an American” and all I could think so say was “Well you’re certainly not f*cking going to tonight.” It was terrifying, and I should have told management or simply left, but I was drunk and not thinking straight. I figured if there were other people in the room I could scream if he tried again and someone would surely help. No one should ever have to think like that though. The next morning he apologized, but it was probably one of the worst experiences I’ve had travelling.
- I realize I haven’t yet written about Barcelona, but that’s probably because I didn’t do much there. There were few adventures because I spent a lot of time in my room writing papers. On the fourth of July, I spent the entire night reading for class the next day. I think the real kicker though was having the laundry machine break down while my clothes were in it. I paid two euro to use the washer, only for it to not drain OR rinse the soap out of my clothes. I had to rinse each article of clothing individually and hang them all up. A maid at the student housing unit told me the dryer actually worked, so I took all my lovely five hundred articles of clothing and stuffed them into a …. BROKEN DRYER (the maid was wrong) only to take them out and hang them all up again. I hated Barcelona for a couple of days honestly after that.
- My final story happened in Tres Cantos, a city I visited when I was 16 for an exchange program. I went out with a group of guy friends, one of which I’m very close with (Javier). The club we went to cost fifteen euro, LAME but not all that surprising considering ONE drink in DC costs fourteen dollars. Anyway, I started dancing after getting a drink, and everything was going really well until I tried dancing with one of the guys. This to me is a casual, fun thing that both men and women can enjoy without overstepping boundaries right? WRONG. One thing to know about dancing with a person in Spain is that it means you’re interested in JUST them. You don’t dance with someone unless you like them. My American ignorance was shining bright when the guy tried to stick his tongue down my throat and I pulled away, nearly running out of the club. He ended up sitting down for the rest of the night, upset. Javier explained it all to me. “Don’t dance unless you like like them.” I guess I won’t be dancing with anyone then ever again.
There are definitely more stories, more depressing or weird things I could share with you. I personally believe if you can’t take the good with the bad, don’t travel. This is life; it’s not like you can simply escape everything in a beautiful place. I learned that really quickly, but I would still go back, still continue seeing the world.