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2 posts from October 2016

10/24/2016

LEARNING TO HAVE NO PLANS

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By Kellen Buckley

Providence College

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.

Kellen

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.

Kelle

10/10/2016

TRAVELLING #SOLO #YOLO

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By Joy Price

Wellesley College

 

How would I describe my first month abroad? ¡Buenísimo!

The people, the culture, the foooood, the architecture, the history of the city that lingers in each crevice, and one of my personal favorites, el aire libre, otherwise known as the great outdoors have made it easy for me to call Madrid home.

Adventures are not hard to come by, the challenge is deciding which one to take and with whom. But before I expand on what choices I have made...let me disclose a top secret thing about how I make choices. Well, it isn’t  top secret, I am just downright awful at making decisions. My biggest trick in the book is to ask the waiter or waitress to “surprise me” when I cannot decide between dishes. The Spanish culture has only taken kindly to this 50% of the time. Therefore, I have had to face my fears and learn how to make definitive decisions... kind of.

You can imagine my difficulty when I had to decide where in Spain to travel to on one of my first free weekends. The only thing I knew for sure is that I wanted to hike. I did not know if I was going to find a summit, a waterfall, a river, a historical site, or just walk around some city. I vaguely knew that there were some mountains on the “Cercedilla” train because of short trip a friend and I had gone on. I also knew that nobody was going to wake up early with me on a Saturday morning to go exploring, so this was going to be one of my first solo excursions.

As a woman, this is a bit scary. I am privileged to be studying abroad in one of the safer large cities in the world, and because of that, I was able to wander a little aimlessly. Even if you have to plan meticulously in order to stay safe, traveling alone is worth it. All the anxieties or uncertainties may be a little overwhelming, but on the flip side, if you have all the safety precautions covered, solo travel as a woman is very empowering. 

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At the end of the day, you will have just had the time of your life by yourself. In the past, I have done a couple of short trips alone but did not really enjoy them because I felt as if I needed to rush through them since I was alone and didn’t have someone else to discuss anything with. I have learned that the reality is in fact the opposite, there is a great power and opportunity for growth in taking your time when you travel alone because it gives you a lot of time to be pensive and connect with people you would not otherwise have the opportunity to if you were in a group.

Personally, I think my sense of humor has also gotten better because of it (no, not because I make up a ton of puns the entire time). I believe this is closely tied to the fact that our sense of humor is dictated not just by our interests, but by our fears and values. Our family may have a huge influence on this, but so does traveling. Therefore, traveling alone changes your sense of humor.

Back to the story… As I sat waiting in the train terminal at 9:05AM  I realized that the train only comes every hour on the hour. I had missed my train, without realizing that saturday schedules are different. My face had to have been some sort of mixture of angry and sad while I took my book out and started to read to pass the time. Somehow, I must have appeared somewhat welcoming because a middle-aged Spanish woman asked me about the train schedule and if she was in the right place. Thankfully, my Spanish had improved enough for me to tell her about the hourly schedule. We then started talking about what each of our plans were for the day, and before I realized it, an hour had passed and I had made a new friend. Her trip was much shorter than mine, I had another 2 hours ahead of me. But I definitely had been humbled enough to have realized that the journey could be as entertaining as the destination. Although, the beautiful views at the top of the Peñalara Peak are forever burned into my memory, so are the lessons I learned along the way.

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