This weekend I crossed the Mediterranean to meet up with my friends from home in Barcelona. Spain is one of my favorite countries to visit, even though it always leaves a mess in my head. Since I studied Spanish in high school and its quite similar to Italian which I've been immersed in for many months now, I end up speaking a mix of the languages I like to call Spatalian...
Although Barcelona was absolutely wonderful, I'm going to focus on the second part of the trip. I had a couple extra days so I decided to take a train from Barcelona to Valencia (only 3 hours!). This was my first overnight solo trip since I've been abroad and I was pretty excited to experience traveling on my own. After arriving in Valencia I knew right away that I was going to love the city. It's the home of paella, has orange trees lining the streets, and is right on the Mediterranean Sea. The weather was perfect and there was a tropical vibe in the air. My hostel was in a prime location (Home Youth Hostel if you ever need a place to stay), right in the middle of the historic city center and directly across from the famous fresh food market (best fruit I've ever had was bought here). I spent the first few hours giving myself a walking tour and visiting all the important sites. One of the great things about Valencia is many of the museums have a free entrance, or it costs a couple euros to enter most places (always ask for student discounts!). The center is also small enough to walk around so no transportation is really necessary. It's the perfect place to visit if you're on a student budget. After I covered the historical stuff, I took a nice run to the beach along the Jardí del Túria, which used to be a river that flowed through the city but was then turned into a lovely park with biking and running trails. When dinner time came, I was a little nervous because eating alone can always feel a bit awkward. However, I found a casual place where plenty of people were also eating by themselves and tried the city's delicious paella.
The next day I decided to rent a bike and get to the beach that way. I spent a couple hours sitting by the water and enjoying the sun. The water was nowhere near swimming temperature, but it was beautiful nonetheless. It was a necessary dose of a little vitamin D. I had a flight back to Milan that evening, and found myself a bit sad to leave. I will for sure be adding Valencia to my "favorite cities in Europe" list.
Moral of the story: I highly recommend doing a trip on your own, even for a couple days. It's a chance to experience a place the way you want to, and do exactly what you feel like doing. There's no one to coordinate with but yourself and that can be a nice change of pace. You might even be surprised with how much you can enjoy your own company! I do suggest bringing a journal because all your thoughts can get overwhelming when you have no one to tell them too, especially since traveling always inspires a lot of thinking. If you're worried about where to stay, hostels are extremely solo-traveler friendly and it's also a great way to meet people from all over the world. It can be intimidating to go off on your own, but it gives you a feeling of accomplishment and I'd say that makes it pretty worth it!
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Abigail is our 2016-17 IES Abroad Blogger of the Year! Abigail studies Economics and International Studies with a minor in Business Administration at Brandeis University—where she is also an IES Abroad Ambassador. As a Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 Blogger, Abigail illustrated her year abroad in Milan through her insightful posts and candid photography that navigated her growth in the historical city of Milan.