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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. 



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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Well written post, it give useful information about various destinations. Thanks for sharing it.

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