EUROPE: Barcelona, Spain — Food, Friends, and All the Adventuring

¡Hola de Barcelona!

Solo travel has been going well so far, considering it hasn’t been true “solo” travel. I’ve been with my friends in stop number one: BARCELONA!

EUROPE_ Barcelona, Spain

This past week has just been a dream. I flew from New York to Barcelona—a seven hour flight. At the airport, I was reunited with my best friends from India: Mireia and Lera. Mireia lives in a suburb of Barcelona with her family, and Lera lives in Moscow. She’s visiting Barcelona with me! Lera and I are staying with Mireia at her home, and it was been so wonderful.

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Mireia and Lera at La Rambla

Barcelona is so beautiful. The buildings are all historic and lovely—something we don’t often get to see in America. Together, Mireia, Lera, and I have visited all the tourist places in Barcelona: La Rambla (the center of the town), La Sagrada Familia and other structures created by Gaudi, the Mediterranean Sea, Parc Guell, Arc de Triomf, and the shopping areas around all these places. We’ve gone through the city via metro and train, which Mireia takes to university every day. It’s so nice to have a personal tour guide!

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a street in Barcelona
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a building in Barcelona
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the incredible cathederal
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the ceiling in la sagrada familia
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another building designed by the architect gaudi
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the view of Barcelona from parc guell.
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arc de triomf. mireia’s university is right down the street!
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the mediterranean sea
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on the beach of the Mediterranean
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Lera at the Mediterranean
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Mireia at the Mediterrnean

We also went to both of Mireia’s grandparents’ houses. It was so lovely, I can’t even say! One of her grandmothers lives on a small family farm in the hills–think Sound of Music hills. She cooked vegetarian paella for Lera and I, and Mireia’s entire extended family came over to eat with us. The paella was so, so, so good! After eating, we roamed around her land, where she grows a host of fruits and vegetables, including kale, cabbage, olives, lemons, limes, olives, and almonds! I felt so welcomed and loved.

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the view of the hills from mireia’s grandmother’s house
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almond tree flowers
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vegetarian paella!

It’s been slightly cold here. Only sunny part of the days, it’s warmer than home but still cause for a jacket. Everyone is so FASHIONABLE here! I can’t even believe it—even the adults look so incredibly put together, like, *all* the time. The fashion in Europe is far ahead of ours: America, get ready for bell bottoms, platform shoes (including heels), and sparkles. I also feel like I am the only person wearing color; it seems that everyone wears only shades of black, grey, and white. I feel so behind the times with my embroidered mom jeans, oversized cardigans, and ombre hair—all of which are very popular at home right now!

The food is so healthy, as well. I’ve read that the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest in the world, and I definitely see how. I’ve eaten SO much salad with pears and apples, light vinegar dressings, artichokes, eggplant pizzas, goat cheese…. Although I have had a LOT of chocolate as well 😉 They eat at different times than I’m used to: breakfast is when you wake (like usual), lunch is around 3 pm, and dinner is at 10 pm. It was strange to have not eaten by 1 pm! Secondly, everything appears to be cheap here, but I have to remember: the Euro is more expensive than the American dollar, so if something looks like it’s cheap for only 7.5 euros, it’s actually $10. So when we stop at corner cafes for a croissant, churros and chocolate, or an espresso, and it is only 1.90 euros, I have to remember that it’s actually more expensive!

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thin french fries with an over-easy egg and truffle mushrooms; fresh salad with goat cheese, sweet and sour dressing, sun dried tomatoes, fried onion pieces (and this wasn’t a healthier dish!)

We also went to the disco! Mireia introduced us to some of her friends throughout the weekend and we went to a club, which they call a disco. It was free to get in because we were on a list of some sort, and we partied all night. Let me say: they party HARD here in Europe! We arrived around 1 am, which is apparently *so* early. We left around 3:30 am because we had full days of sight-seeing ahead of us, and the club was absolutely full! I was honestly shocked, lol. The music was different, as well. They played top 40s hits from the USA and Spain. I didn’t even really know any of the English songs because we don’t party to the same music here! It was so much fun to be with a lot of other young people, even if I couldn’t speak with a lot of them.

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at the disco

We met a lot of fun people in the club, including a group of young men who asked me my opinion on Catalonia’s fight for independence. In this region of Spain right now, the Catalonians are trying to become independent from Spain. Mireia attempted to explain the situation to me, but I can’t really compare it to anything, so I’m not sure I fully understand. Here’s my take: Catalonia is a state in the country of Spain (similar to states in the USA), but they feel separate from Spain. They have their own language, Catalan, which sounds and looks like a mix of Spanish and French. They had their own culture, food, and behaviors that differ from the rest of Spain. While walking throughout Barcelona, we saw lots of peaceful protesting: people camping in La Rambla until independence is granted, political graffiti on buildings and sidewalks, yellow ribbons pinned onto shirts and hanging from balconies, and the like. It was a really eye-opening experience: imagine a state in the USA speaking an entirely different language, practicing a different style of life, and wanting independence. Almost everyone I met while traveling with my friends was Catalonian. It was very memorable to be in Spain during such a time of political progress.

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I had a slightly different experience in Spain, because I had to go to the doctor! I was mildly sick while in New York with a cough, which I thought would quickly go away. I was wrong: it worsened by a lot while traveling. I waited a few days to see if it was just the worst part of a cold, but when I started “whooping”, I knew I needed to see a doctor. I had whooping cough two years ago, and I had to cancel my volunteering trip to Nicaragua because of it. Mireia’s mother took me to a public doctor, but the office closed before we were able to be seen. I wasn’t too worried: I will be traveling all over Europe with good doctors everywhere. She was insistent on fighting on my behalf, however, which was so kind of her! She called around to a few other doctors, and finally found a private doctor who was actually willing to stay late for me. He listened to my lungs, took my temperature, and looked at my throat. While I wasn’t able to understand him because of the language barrier, he explained to Mireia’s mother that he would hesitantly prescribe me three days of antibiotics and a liquid cough syrup for the symptoms. When we went to pay, I was so worried that it would be expensive (my travel insurance will reimburse me, but I need money now for traveling!), but my bill was only 40 euros! I couldn’t believe it… in the USA, a consult like the one I had would’ve cost around $200. I am so grateful for Spain’s care of its people—I was able to receive treatment for a very low cost.

Next on my list: PARIS. I’ve been dreaming of this city my entire life. It’s Paris Fashion Week right now, and I’m hoping to get a glimpse of some designers!! My train is today, and it takes just 6.5 hours through the countryside to get to my destination. I’m so so so excited—I’ve been waiting for this day for my whole life!

Au revior, loves. Until next time ❤

tess (1)

EUROPE PART ONE (& a bit of nyc)

Hello readers!! I am writing to you from the Newark Airport in New Jersey. My flight for Barcelona departs in three hours! I have been waiting eleven months for this day, and it has finally arrives *heart eye emoji*.

I realized the other day, however, that I never wrote about my Europe trip on this blog.

Why am I going? What am I doing? Why on earth would I buy a one-way ticket to a different continent… alone… with only two carry-ons?

europe part one (& a bit of nyc)

Well, friends, let me tell you!

Last year, I transferred universities. I wrote a lot about this. I wrote about how I was still feeling stuck, uninspired, unsure, and doubtful. In short, I was confused and bothered.

I loved my school, my friends, my major. Why wasn’t I loving the experience of it all?

Why wasn’t I loving the experience of it all?

I knew I loved to travel. I loved traveling throughout the USA as a child, and I had been to Guatemala three times. I had a trip planned to India in August. So, why not take some time to travel?

I knew I had the option of studying abroad at some point in my undergrad career. But I wanted to be able to travel without bounds, without homework and studying, just with myself and my ideas and my wishes. I didn’t want to go to class in Italy, I wanted to travel Italy. I didn’t want to do homework in Tokyo, I wanted to explore Tokyo.

So, I almost half-jokingly put on Facebook in March 2017: “Who wants to drop out of school and travel with me?” A few girls responded, but throughout the year, other life opportunities arose for them, so I decided to go alone.

Which might end up being, like, the most amazing, most radical act of self-care I’ve ever done. Or I might end up totally crashing and burning and running home with my tail between my legs.

We’ll see. 😉

I dropped out of university (I’ll go back at some point, grandma and mom and dad and professors and teachers and every other person who has made sure I know I need a degree). I quit my job. I sold and/or got rid of a LOT of my things.

I decided upon Europe as my first solo travel excursion because I’ve never been , I have a lot of friends there, it’s a relatively easy area to travel around (especially if you’re American–no visa requirements!), and it’s so rich in history and culture and excitement. I eventually want to see all of the world, but I have to start somewhere!

So! Here I am, at the Newark Airport, about to depart for Barcelona. Basically, I bought a one-way ticket, travel insurance, and ten stops in two months with a Eurail pass.

With no real plans.

I’m starting off staying with one of my best friends (from India!!) in Barcelona, and our mutual friend is coming from Moscow to meet us! Then I have a ticket to see Bon Iver in London. After that, I have no solid plans. I have some hopes and some places I’d looove to see, though!

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left to right: mireia (lives in barcelona), me, lera (lives in moscow). this photo was taken in august 2017 at the red fort in delhi, india.
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mireia and me on the banks of the river behind the taj mahal, at sunset, august 2017.

I’ve spent six months–essentially, since I returned from India–working my ass off and saving and planning my solo trip. I’m planning to write a fully detailed financials blog post about how I’m funding my trip. (assuming all goes well, lol. Maybe I’ll run out of al my money in three weeks because I drastically underprepared.)

Right now? I’m feeling kinda… steady? I am excited and nervous and unsure. But I think I’m feeling confident… I think? I’m wondering if I should have planned a little more. I’m nervous for the flight (I have flight anxiety, in case y’all didn’t know). I’m exhausted from spending two jam-packed days in NYC.

My mom and I spent the last two days hanging around Manhattan together! I originally booked my ticket out of Newark because it was SO much less expensive than flying out of Minneapolis or even Chicago. We stayed in an awesome Airbnb, where the host was the manager of an amaaaaazing Italian restaurant literally BELOW the apartment. We went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park, Jazz at the Kitano, and shopped around 5th, Madison, the Rockefeller, and Park Avenue. We also ate SOOOO much good food and drank a lot of wine. Check out the photos below; I’ve heard my mom is like, my twin or something? 🙂 Each of the photos has an individual caption if you click on them.

I hope to be writing two times a week, and I cannot wait to share this experience with you all. Be blessed, loves.

tess (1)