Observations From An International-Traveling Newbie

This has taken me awhile to finally publish. During my first big international trip to Spain I learned the true benefit of travel. While the food, fun activities, and breathtaking views are all part of the experience, in my opinion they’re actually some of the least profound experiences that you will have while traveling. (That’s not to say they aren’t going to have their own profound effect on you in some way.)

Travel, especially to regions with vastly different cultural norms, spoken languages, and life philosophies, can change a person in ways that are unimaginable from the comfort of your home.

What follows are some of the observations I made while traveling multiple cities in Spain. These are personal notes I kept to myself throughout the trip.

Things Learned After 24-Hours In Spain
Barcelona Bakery
Barcelona bakeries…

Carbs = life. Every other storefront is a gelato store; and every third is a bakery with delicious looking pastries. Low-carb and Keto followers will find no sanctuary here.

Walking in Barcelona is like living in a giant maze. You can’t just walk straight down a road and assume you’ll get to your destination. That alley you just passed? That’s actually a road, and the one you were supposed to take.

The most important lesson of all, one I didn’t even realize I needed to learn until I arrived: when you can’t speak the language, or only have a rudimentary understanding of it, you look and feel like an absolute idiot. Even as patient and as kind as the people here generally are, I still feel dumb in almost every interaction that I have. I can only imagine how flustering and hard it would be to try to communicate with someone who was impatient and rude.

I’ve lived my whole life surrounded by individuals who learned English as a second language, and I consider myself fortunate for that. It took me almost 27 years to learn the lesson that it’s much harder than it seems. Oh, and just because someone doesn’t understand the simplest of processes—like a grocery store interaction—because of a language barrier, doesn’t make them dumb. But I can guarantee they probably feel that way. Be nice.

Things Learned After 48-Hours In Spain

As difficult as it is communicating to others in an unfamiliar language, asking every single person whether they speak English also seems a bit pretentious. (Is it just me?)

Carbs really are life. It’s like being a child and not wanting to eat your veggies at dinner—even if you don’t want bread or pastries (because you’re sick of it), you’re still going to eat them anyways.

You can go ahead and abolish that myth that eating late at night causes fat gain. Every dinner we’ve eaten has taken place after 10pm, and I have yet to see a single overweight person under the age of 60. Keep your activity levels high (people walk everywhere here), control your calories (most people only eat two meals a day), and it doesn’t matter whether you eat your biggest meal in the middle of the night. Believe it or not, people do that sober here.

San Fermin festival Pamplona, Spain.
Made it to the arena unscathed after running with the bulls.

When you have a window of opportunity to eat at a restaurant because it’s open, take it. Few places open early, everything is packed late at night, and the whole world shuts down during the middle of the day. Don’t take for granted the freedom of being able to grocery shop or buy whatever food you’d like at anytime of day in the States. This really is a privilege we’ve grown accustom to.

The San Fermin Festival is literally a giant Frat party on steroids. I’m talking Rick’s on a city-wide level. Don’t wear clean shoes.

Bulls are terrifyingly massive when they’re charging at you, but hordes of terrified humans charging at you is much scarier.

Things Learned After 5 Days In Spain

I’m beginning to have complete interactions—store, taxi, and restaurant interactions—completely in Spanish. Interestingly, I’m finding myself accidentally answering Katrina’s questions to me in Spanish as a knee-jerk reaction.

Spanish road tolls are expensive AF, and the miles-per-gallon of Diesel engines is unreal.

Ibiza is simultaneously everything you expect it to be, and nothing like you expect it to be. I’ve also never been solicited so openly or frequently for cocaine. (In case you’re wondering I did not participate.)

Glass of cava rooftop in Ibiza, Spain.
Sunsets, beaches, rooftops, and cava in Ibiza, Spain.

I’ve always disliked wine, but cava is my jam.

Air B&B is the shizznits—especially for the health conscious. A full kitchen and fresh markets make it easy to prepare your own healthy meals. It’s usually way cheaper too. As a bonus, if you can find one with a washer and dryer you can greatly reduce your packing needs. I only used a carry-on and backpack to last me almost two weeks.

Most of life’s regrets will only come in hindsight after you’ve actually experienced the moment or adventure; until then you don’t know what you’re missing. In other words, you can’t regret missing the experiences you don’t know you’re missing out on. My advice on minimizing these possibilities: assume you’ll regret every missed adventure.

My trip to Spain was everything I wanted it to be, and then it was so much more. Ultimately, it opened my eyes to the fact that international travel is not a luxury. It is absolutely necessary for personal growth.

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