Bask in Your Insignificance

I’ve officially been back in the United States for a week and a half and I think I’m about as recovered from my jet lag as I will ever be. Seriously, I’ve spent a lot of time in the past week and a half wondering how jet set celebrities and business people ever get back on a normal schedule. Why am I hungry for breakfast at midnight? Why am I wide awake at 3:30am and falling asleep at 7pm? A few people have asked when I would write a blog post about Spain, and I gave some lame excuses when in reality, I was pretty sure that no one wanted a day by day explanation of my trip. If that’s what you want, I would be happy to sit through my Facebook and Instagram posts with you. For real though, we used to make people sit in dark basements for slideshows of vacations. Now I post them online so that 850 of my closest friends can be a part of the journey.

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So I decided I would approach this blog post with the highlights of my trip. Although I saw some truly incredible things, those aren’t the things that made my trip to Spain unforgettable. When I booked my trip to Spain in February, I wrote a post about what led me to Spain. Although my original plan was to do a solo trek around Spain, I booked the trip through a tour company for 18-28 year olds, partially because it was the only way my dad would be able to sleep while I was away and partially because it seemed a lot easier than figuring out lodging and transportation on my own.

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So early on a rainy Wednesday morning, I set out on my journey. I took a bus from Peoria to the airport. One of my favorite things about my dad is that he will let me head off to Spain by myself, but he won’t let me stand at a bus stop in the rain by myself. The days leading up to the trip had been rough. The one year anniversary of my mom’s death came and went. I had been in a bit of a funk. The anniversary hit me harder than I had anticipated and I was having a hard time feeling like myself. I would even say I had the mean reds.

Holly: You know those days when you get the mean reds?

Paul: The mean reds, you mean like the blues?

Holly: No. The blues are because you’re getting fat and maybe it’s been raining too long, you’re just sad that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?

-Breakfast at Tiffany’s

As excited as I was for Spain, I was afraid my intense emotions would overshadow my trip, so much so that I had second thoughts about going on a trip I had talked about incessantly for years. I decided to do what my mom had always told me to do when I was scared to do anything. I gave it a try and decided I could always buy a plane ticket and come home early if I wanted to. I also had a good solid cry in the bathroom of the international terminal at O’Hare. Never underestimate the power of a good public cry. I let it out, wiped my tears, and boarded the plane with renewed excitement.

I didn’t know anyone going on the trip. While a lot of people thought this was crazy, anyone who knows me well knows that I love spending time with myself. Although I hoped that there would be people on my trip that I liked enough to spend 12 days with, I had The Bachelor mindset that I wasn’t there to make friends. Fate had different plans.

I got comfortable in my seat, buckled in for an 8 hour flight, and popped a sleeping pill. I overheard the two young women next to me talking about their connecting flight to Barcelona. I took out my earbuds and informed them that I too was going on to Barcelona, so maybe we could navigate the airport together. Also, if they could make sure that sleeping pill didn’t knock me out so much that I missed my connecting flight, that would be great. We soon discovered that we were on the same trip. They were childhood friends with another friend joining them once we arrived in Spain. We made some small talk, discovering that we were all teachers, before I impressed them with my sleeping skills in-flight.

We made it to Barcelona (barely) from Madrid and made our way to our first hostel.  It turned out that we were all put together for our first rooming assignment. I didn’t expect to spend much time with them, but I was really glad that they seemed like people who probably wouldn’t kill me in my sleep.  Clearly I’m a very good judge of character because they didn’t! We ended up spending the majority of the trip together and I am so very glad because they took a good trip and made it great. I was continually amazed at how well these three people who had known each other the majority of their lives managed to continually make me feel so included. They taught me a lot over the course of our 12 days together.

1.) Despite what I thought, I really can stand being with the same people for more than a few days.

2.) Patience (see previous blog post). People who use the snooze button aren’t actually the worst kind of people, but you can’t change people who are snooze button people. (Seriously, I’m so anti-snooze button that I could dedicate a whole blog post to why it shouldn’t exist. Set your alarm for the latest possible time you need to get up and then get your booty out of bed.) Sometimes wandering around because people can’t made a decision will lead you to a delicious tapas restaurant, a Pride event in Barcelona, or an unexpected sight.

3.) It is good the be independent and able to go out into the world on your own, but sometimes it is more fun with good people around you.

4.) It really is possible to make friends as an adult.

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Things Spain taught me to appreciate:

1.) A giant to-go cup of black coffee. (A woman actually laughed at me in a cafe when I asked her about a to-go cup.)

2.) Air-conditioning

3.) Regular sleep schedules

4.) All you can drink tap water at restaurants

5.) Beverages with ice in them

6.) Showers that last longer than 17 seconds and bathroom lights that don’t shut off every 5 seconds

While in Spain, I spent time in Barcelona, Madrid, Granada, Seville, and Costa del Sol. People always want to know what my favorite place was, and I really think that is like asking someone to choose their favorite child. It’s impossible. Each place offered something new and had its own unique experiences. Now if I had to choose a favorite experience, it would have to be one that had very little do with Spain and lots to do with the world.

My favorite thing about traveling is learning about people and discovering how I fit into this big world. I stopped at a cafe to grab a snack and some WiFi. A stranger struck up a conversation with me about how hard it is to find someone to have an English conversation with and a good, large cup of black coffee in Spain (love you Spain, but learn a thing or two about coffee from America). I soon learned he was a Muslim Indian Professor of International Politics from London, visiting Seville as a way to get away from the turmoil in the UK for a bit. We talked teaching, religion, family, food, Trump (FYI the world is watching in fear about what will happen in November), sports, and our views of the world. Sometimes our lives overlap with someone else’s for only a few hours, but they can change the way you see the world forever.

If I could give people one piece of advice, it would be to buy a plane ticket, go somewhere where you don’t know anyone, and bask in how truly insignificant you are to the world. This sounds brutal but it is actually quite wonderful. It is one heck of a way to learn about who you are and how you fit into this big world. It demagnifies the day-to-day struggles that we feel weighing us down. You see yourself and the world differently. We are members of a global community and it is important that we always remember that, especially in today’s world.

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Me basking in my insignificance in Granada

I started dreaming about Spain the second the wheels of my plane touched down upon returning from Paris a few years ago. The thing about the travel bug is there really is no cure. The more of the world you see, the more you want to see. So where will I bask in my insignificance next? In addition to wanting to see more of the good ol’ US of A, I’m thinking New Zealand. Stay tuned!

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