While abroad in Europe, a few classmates and I began our mid-semester break with two full days in Barcelona. The planner that I am, I looked up all of the major sites and must-sees that Barcelona has to offer and figured we could easily hit most of them the first day. As struggling college students, we decided to conserve our money by staying at a hostel that was outside of the city’s center, and we further forced ourselves to conquer every city’s public transit system—i.e. the metros, subways, trams, and buses.
First on our list: Starbucks! Three months deprived of iced coffees, pumpkin spiced lattes, frappuccinos, and the “normal” macchiatos, we elected the commercialized, Americanized café as our first stop for a nice caffeinated pick-me-up and nostalgic connection to what we remember real civilization to be. A two minute walk from our hostel, we descended into the depths of the Spanish city’s metro, arduously stared at the display map of the city tracing our fingers along the different routes, until we became a little restless and decided to “just wing it.” We sat tightly knit together, grasping our bags and our eyebrows raised at the other passengers. The low chatter of perfectly spoken Spanish caught my attention, and with the minor experience I had in the language from high school, I tried listening to the conversation. To the left of me there was a couple vigorously kissing, and every once in a while the girl would come up for air and playfully giggle. Once we reached what we figured was our destination, we glided up the three flights of escalators and met the slightly fall-tinted Spanish autumn breeze. Cars and buses were bustling past us, and I was pretty sure that we were in the middle of a major intersection. On one of the other street corners, a mob protest must have formed and at that moment the policia were trying to contain it. On the other side of the street, my eyes were drawn to the impeccably dressed cosmopolitan women strutting in and out of Zara, Guess, and H&M.
Strolling down the same street that we ascended from the metro, this time caramel macchiato in hand, we decided to explore, we assumed since there were countless tourist sites we would eventually stumble upon one in no time. We passed pushy merchants trying to sell us postcards and Christmas ornaments, trendy cafes serving their equally trendy customers, and nearly thousands more of those trendy Europeans blowing plumes of cigarette smoke into our faces as we walked on by—but no sites. Until finally we arrived in front of what looked like another one of Barcelona’s mobs; no, actually it was a group of tourists snapping pictures of the side of an apartment building. What? My eyes crawled up the pale lavender colored walls, and examined Gaudi’s Casa Batllo. The architecture was amazing; the use of color was dream-like, and the mosaic tile work outstanding!
An important aspect of my Barcelona experience was primary focused on my adventure as opposed to my experience at the attractions for which my purpose for the journey was based. I found more importance in the metro ride and walk between each must-see site. Yes, seeing the Sagrada Familia church, Gaudi’s architecture, Las Ramblas street, and the Modernist Park Guell were memorably breathtaking, but looking back on the trip with my friends, I recall specific moments travel that occurred between the major sites. Though a year later, I can still remember the spontaneity I felt when we walked down a plain street and the eager feeling of turning the corner in hopes of spotting the famous church we came here to see. I had not comprehended this aspect of my unknown adventure until I decided to recall my visit to Barcelona; I soon realized that what I mainly remembered was the intermittent travelling. This is similar to C.S. Lewis’ fantasy adventure novel, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Lucy, Edward, Eustace, Caspian, and company embark on their journey for the primary purpose to find the seven kings of Narnia, and yes, they are successful in their journey. Nevertheless, if the novel was simply about how they find all of the kings, it would have been much shorter than 300 pages. Instead, the novel is focused on their journey, what they stumble upon as they sail, the many natives, the many resting stops. The characters change with each step along their journey and discover the tiniest minor details of the area in which they are. During my visit to Barcelona, the time spent travelling to and from our desired sites seemed endless, arduous, and drawn out, but looking back those moments are significant to me because I more directly interacted with the authentic Spanish culture; I prefer to identify as traveler instead of tourist. Similarly, Lucy and Edward were also dragged into Caspian’s quest to find the seven kings, but they found different virtues within themselves along the way and formed stronger bonds with their fellow travelers due to interaction with the natives. The ultimate take away from this account is that sometimes the most resonating moments of one’s travel are the found immediately and most obviously through the ultimate goal of the journey; rather, the moments come to you years later when looking back at the journey.