With the dawning of week 3 of being in Barcelona, I’m beginning to feel that the initial alienation that separated myself from the city is starting to wane. IES Abroad classes have been in motion for a couple of weeks now, restoring some degree of order and routine to my life. The novelty of being here still flummoxes me, every morning I’m spurred out of bed by the fact that I know another day of exploration lies ahead, where anywhere I go could land me somewhere completely new. However; as I’ve now repeated a lot of the same journeys, by foot or by metro, my environment is starting to feel much more navigable and far less daunting. The metro is no longer the cavernous labyrinth it first seemed when I arrived. I feel familiarized with the various stops and transit lines that I’ve frequented for class, to get home, and for various activities and nights out I’ve had with friends.
Returning from class, or from a long day out, to the neighborhood I live in now gives me the sense of reassurance and security a home neighbourhood always should. Traversing the street that I walk down first thing every morning, and last thing every night; or seeing the familiar landmarks I’ve cemented in my mind as signifiers of ‘close proximity to home’ now provide me with a feeling of sanctuary. I’m used to seeing the same shop owners, often at different intervals throughout their working day; sometimes opening up shop, sometimes during peak hours, sometimes in the late evening when the only signs of life are the buzz of moped engines and faulty streetlights.
Depending on how active you are exploring the city, by this point in the program you will have surely seen at least some of the major tourist attractions. The sites that travel agencies proclaim to be some of the “Top 10 things to see and do in Barcelona,” places like: La Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, The Gothic Neighborhood, etc… are absolutely worth seeing for their beauty, history, and cultural significance. However, once you start ticking them off of your list of places to see, the vacation mindset, fomented by all of those atypical tourist activities, becomes increasingly diminished. Going through the motions of a routine, beginning to frequent the same places, allows you to ground yourself. I find that the vacation mindset, of spontaneity and leisure, still lures me into the fast lane almost every day. But, the awareness of my existence here as more than a tourist, and more than a 20 year-old looking for fun, is slowly starting to actualize. And this is not bad thing at all. In fact, it’s quite refreshing. When I first arrived, I felt obliged and almost expected to be out doing stuff all the time, I had no time to stop and rest, to gather my thoughts and enjoy some moments of solitude. My attitude now feels more pragmatic. Less about basking solely in the hype and thrill of this new world and more about addressing my own needs; like visiting a medical center about an issue I’ve been having in my back (something IES Abroad helped me to arrange), or getting a haircut, or looking into joining a local gym. With the pace of life being turned down a gear or two, I find myself with more time to reflect, I can revisit the real reasons I came to Barcelona and plan, and start to act on, the steps I need to take in order to get that which I really wanted from this experience and feel a sense of achievement in doing so.
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I have a passion for storytelling, I like to spin mundane thoughts and pass-times into narrative spectacles on paper or in my mind. I think everything we do is part of a story and there is no such thing as a boring life.