A (Re)Awakening

Long before I even had spring break on my mind, my mom found a great sale on tickets to Barcelona. Before I knew it, I was booked to jet over there for a week with her and my boyfriend. It didn’t even seem to hit us that we were all going to Europe until we actually got there.

Now, Spain was not my first choice of European countries I wanted to visit. Actually, I should correct myself and say “revisit,” although I personally feel that if you barely remember your first visit someplace, it doesn’t entirely count. I further feel that traveling the world means more when you are older, because when you’re younger, you can’t appreciate the historical and cultural significance of the places that you go—at least I know I didn’t. Things that matter to children when traveling: keeping a full stomach on decent food, the excuse to buy new toys, and the attention of strangers. Historically different customs, landmarks like the great European churches, and the origins of the ancient city squares, for instance, might have interested me briefly at ten years old. But if my hazy memories of the great places I have been in the past suffice to demonstrate, I never realized, in the midst of my fantastic child mind, that I was seeing parts of the world quite unlike any others, parts that I would, ten years down the road, want to remember seeing.

But the countries which I originally would have wanted to prioritize revisiting did not include Spain. I asked my mom if we could possibly look into Italy or England instead, having more interest in these probably because of the literature, history, and multimedia that I have been learning about and working with throughout college. Furthermore, the notion of speaking Spanish with real Spaniards really intimidated me. Tickets to Barcelona were the cheapest, though, and my mom was getting really excited about her plans, so I was overruled.

I’m happy to say that I was wrong. Upon arriving in Spain, I felt both easily impressed and easily at home. The vast buildings by far older than my home nation of the United States struck me with wonder at both their survival and at their practical modern uses. A Starbucks would lie in a stone façade that definitely must have dated back at least several decades. At home, the Starbucks storefronts get their own buildings. Older buildings get torn down regularly to make room for the latest marketable phenomenon. How is it that the countries in Europe can maintain their timeless looks alongside their modernized needs? As I walked the streets I wondered this, and further wondered how when I was in Prague just four years before, I hadn’t thought of the same things. Has being in college really taught me to approach the world in such a different manner? Or has that just come with my age? I realized that I rather enjoyed this wandering of my mind as I physically wandered the streets of Barcelona.

Enveloping myself in the culture of this other country, I remembered too how much I love the Spanish language. Completely forgetting why I was so worried about communicating in this foreign country, I relished attempting to speak with people in their own tongue, and sometimes lost myself in listening to the melody of the Spanish accent all around me. I couldn’t tell you why I had a lingering anxiety from traveling the countries of Europe during my childhood that constantly having to shun English as the primary language would cause me the greatest homesickness. When I got back to the States after our vacation, I felt the absence of Spanish as an irritating emptiness, not at all a relief of returning to my comfort zone. More than anything else, I think this has convinced me that I need to return yet again. It is as if I have had a taste of the Spanish culture and instead of becoming tided over, my appetite has swelled for an even bigger course.

I have been to Spain and other parts of Europe a number of times before. Even five years ago, I might have told you that I felt it was enough, for awhile anyway. I’d gone to the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Spain, England, Ireland, Wales, Italy, and France, and I recognized that that was a lot. But re-entering the realm of this other part of the world in the mindset of a maturing adult has taught me that I need another taste…and I want it soon.