Exploring Barcelona, Spain
Roughly two and a half months ago, I left my job at Landmark Global to do freelancing work full time. Some opportunities had come up, and I was able to support myself working far less than full time while traveling across Europe. That was too good of an opportunity to pass up. I decided to carpe diem my way across Europe, alone, while doing a little bit of programming work remotely. After being in Barcelona, Spain for almost a week, I can safely say that it was a great decision.
I traveled across Europe back in 2009 in my Junior year of college at Westmont. Over the course of a semester, roughly 40 students and 3 professors traveled to 13 countries, holding classes in any room we could find. It was a pretty incredible experience and it taught me a number of valuable things, but this trip I am on is quite different – I am doing it alone.
Traveling alone is an interesting, pensive experience. I don’t have the built in community of traveling companions, so it is up to me to make friends and socialize. Going up to other people on the street or hostel is difficult for me; I’m quite the introvert. But I’ve been forced to be more social this last week, and I’ve made a number of really good friends already. It is funny how traveling can do that for you. I’m not sure how I will be at the end of my two month trip, but after a week I am really enjoying myself.
Although there is much socializing and meeting people while traveling alone, there is also a surprising amount of alone time. Time alone walking the city streets, sitting in your air conditioned hostel on a blazing hot day reading, getting a beer in a pub by yourself, or sitting outside a cafe having an espresso and a smoke; it seems like at least half of my awake time is spent alone. For most extroverts, this would probably be really difficult. However, as an introvert I really value those quiet moments in solitude. It can certainly be scary to be alone with your thoughts in a pub by yourself, having a surprisingly good Guinness in Barcelona. The single traveler ends up being forced to confront their own thoughts, insecurities, feelings of loneliness, and inadequacies. Traveling alone means you don’t have anyone else’s strengths to cover up your weaknesses, so you very quickly learn what your strengths and weaknesses are. This is difficult and painful, but completely rewarding.
Enough about the Kierkegaardian Angst involved with traveling alone, let me tell you a bit about Barcelona. Barcelona is an incredible city, full of culture, history, color, and tourists. I’ve seen four incredible cathedrals here, but the most impressive one by far has been Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. Construction was started way back in 1882 and is slated to continue until 2026. Cathedrals always take many years to build; you will see why when you tour this one. When I was on Europe Semester in 2009, we saw a ton of cathedrals. Some were incredible and some were more mundane. But I think the Sagrada Familia is the most incredible cathedral I’ve ever seen. It was breathtaking how Gaudi blended very traditional design ideas with his wild, modern, fantastic tendencies. One outside wall of the cathedral is dedicated to the Annunciation, Christ’s birth, and His early life, while the other side takes the visitor through His last 24 hours. The inside is massive, with curved, flowing lines throughout. The stained glass is brilliant and incredibly colorful. It was a very powerful experience. I was there with an Australian friend who was not a Christian, but we had some wonderful conversations during and after the visit about faith, beauty, and the purpose of cathedrals. It is interesting how such displays of opulence are completely unnecessary and yet at the same time, completely necessary. We sometimes need to be reminded of the Grand and the Magnificient.
I’m off to Jonkoping, Sweden tomorrow to stay at a friend’s house for a couple days. The next seven weeks should be interesting.
#barcelona #spain #europe #traveling #europe2013 #christianity