LEARNING TO HAVE NO PLANS
By Kellen Buckley
Before coming to Spain I had a mental list of goals I wanted to accomplish. I wanted to improve my Spanish, try new foods, make Spanish friends, and of course travel. After a wonderful first month in Madrid has flown by, I’ve realized some of my travel goals were a little too ambitious, and there is so much I want to explore right here in Spain.
I’m not so great at making plans. I’m the dangerous combination of a procrastinator who needs everything to work out perfectly. So far I’ve had to do very little travel planning myself, relying on my friends to make the final decisions. Last weekend I spontaneously decided (on Wednesday) that I wanted to do a weekend trip to Seville. After a few days of searching for last minute hostels and the Renfe website not working, I had a tentative plan for two days in Seville and one in Córdoba. Luckily my friend was crazy enough to join me.
Seville is one of my favorite places I’ve been to so far. I love architecture and art history, and last year I took a Spanish art history class that spent a whole week studying Seville. Getting to see the Seville Cathedral and the Real Alcázar de Sevilla in person after learning about it was amazing. The streets of Córdoba were also beautiful, and the gardens in the Alcázar were incredible. I’m really glad I got to see all these historical sites.
We met up with my friend who is part of CIEE Seville, and she showed us the less well-known parts of Seville. My favorite was a festival near her university that had tents representing countries from all over the world. We had empanadas from Peru, tacos from Mexico, mojitos from Cuba, and went shopping in Morocco. The man in the Moroccan tent complimented my henna from the trip. We chatted about the places we have gone (and Natalie got a little taste of Morocco).
Aside from the historical sites, we met a lot of fascinating people during the trip, like our waiter at the flamenco show who really encouraged us to practice our Spanish, even though everyone else switched to English when they saw us. Or the groomsmen staying in our hostel, especially the one who asked us to pick out his tie for the wedding (and then took a selfie with us so if no one liked it he could blame the Americans). Or the nice older guy in our hostel who meditated every morning.
After a month in Spain I’ve accepted that not everything is going to go according to plan. At the end of a long day in Seville we couldn’t find an open taxi, so we made the long trek back to the hostel. We ended the day at more than 12 miles. The next day despite being at the train station early, there was a mix up on the departure board and we missed our train to Córdoba. After a moment of panic followed by a slight outburst, we managed to make the next train a half hour later. Despite a few hiccups, everything still managed to work out. Sometimes not having a plan was more fun, like our impromptu search for an amazing (and cheap!) flamenco show. We saw everything we wanted to see, ate lots of awesome food, and talked with some really interesting people along the way. I’ll remember to keep all this in mind for the rest of my time in Spain.