I came to Madrid with no expectations – but had I set them, they would have been met. One thing that I wasn’t expecting however were the moments of true boredom in a city with a million things to do. So, after the frustration of sitting around for an entire weekend, I decided to bite the bullet and plan for a weekend getaway with some of the other American students I had met.
Before I talk about my travels, I should add that I didn’t expect to want to travel. My friends and neighbors who have studied in Europe have always seemed to fall victim to the idea that since you’re near so many iconic places, you’d be losing money to not go and visit them. But for me, my reasoning for studying in Madrid was to understand the local culture and improve my Spanish, so spending time on the road seemed at least a little counterintuitive. Whichever mindset you might be under, I hope you can relate to at least some of the commentary I’m about to give on traveling while studying abroad, and how my opinion slightly changed since the time I arrived.
Let’s talk about day-trips. I was super excited for this aspect of Spain before I arrived, but I must say I was slightly let down. Don’t get me wrong- if all you want to do in Segovia is take a picture with the aqueduct, then you should certainly take a day-trip there. However, I’m not sure how much you can truly learn from only spending a day there, especially on your own. Luckily for me, when I went to Segovia it was with the IES Abroad staff and tour-guides so the day was very well planned from the photo-ops, to the history lessons, to my first Michelin-star meal. But when I tried to plan a day-trip of my own to Toledo, I didn’t have the same experience. No tour guides, a lot more walking up hills, and slightly worse food (because once your trip includes a Michelin-star restaurant, you kind of expect that same quality everywhere else). Not a bad experience, but not necessarily recommendable. And to the 50% of people that read this paragraph disagreeing with everything I said: I applaud you, because apparently you know something that I don’t.
Now let’s talk weekends - what I said I “wasn’t expecting to enjoy”. Well, I was pleasantly surprised with my weekend/four to five day-long trips in and around Spain. The first I took was to Valencia, again with the IES Abroad staff, and again amazing. Very similar to Segovia in the sense that it was well-planned and busy. However, there was still free time to explore and see the parts of Valencia that I conveniently decided not to think about until I had arrived. But the trip that blew me away - and more or less inspired this blog - was to Morocco. Sleeping in a bed is cool, but you should really try on a blanket under a sky full of stars in the Sahara. Needless to say, it was incredible, and everything that I hoped I wasn’t going to do before this whole thing began.
Here’s what I’m trying to say: there’s so much to learn and so much to see wherever you go, so the best piece of advice I can give is to be patient. You’re a lot more likely to enjoy your stay if it includes a rooftop bar, and I don’t think it’s going to fit into your schedule if you’re only spending a day there. So, kick-back and relax. Enjoy the view, stay a while.
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<p>I'm always trying to take the road less traveled, whether that means skiing the powder only found in the glades, or trying to ride in waves on my boogie board while the rest of my family tans shoreside. Last summer I took the trip of a lifetime when I spent a week backpacking through Olympic National Park in Washington with a friend. It was an experience I will never forget because it showed me the power of pushing my comfort zone.</p>