Three weeks into the trip, and I have grown to love the city I live in and am developing a routine in an attempt to make myself feel like an actual resident.
I enjoy sitting around with my big Spanish family (at its peak nine people from four countries) and eating dinner, trying to research new Spanish superlatives to describe how wonderful I find my senora’s food.
There are also the moments when I realize that I’m going to be completely lost when I get back to the States and can’t find pudding cups of flan (can someone start looking for me now please??), and the opportunities for all of us to crack wise at the Spanish news.
All of these things have made me feel very much at home in my actual house, and I am very grateful for them, but I also sometimes feel bad for maybe feeling TOO much at home. There are moments when I am performing a typical, at least for me, school night ritual of just sitting around on the computer, talking to friends and listening to music, and then suddenly I think, “Wait, I’m in a huge European city!! I’m so lame!”
I know that I can’t be Mr. Tourist Night Owl every day, but there is still this weird tinge of guilt every time that going back home and taking a nap sounds a lot better than stopping by Plaza Mayor and snapping those pictures I keep meaning to or exploring some tourist-free barrio for the best Spanish food and drink. I guess maybe that is a part of being a resident, which is what I wanted to be upon coming here.
As much as I love being in Madrid, I also have the foresight to know that this is probably the last time I will ever be in Europe with financial assistance and that I need to try to take advantage of the flights that are about 1/20th the price that they would be from the States (The flights that I’m looking at from Dallas to Kansas City during Christmas Break are more than it would cost me to go to Rome this month! Really??)
The first couple of days in this program, “What trips are you planning?” is the equivalent to “What dorm do you live in?” or “What’s your major?” at the beginning of freshman year. My answer would usually just be that I hadn’t thought about it at all, so I would just show interest in everyone else’s ideas and kind of adopt them as my own.
However, after I settled in a little bit, I decided that my goal was to try to do as much stuff as possible that I would only be able to do as a 20-year-old, not as some old man down the road. That kind of turned me off the “I need to go see Big Ben and the Coliseum” touristy road and more on the “just go somewhere and see what happens” road.
That is how I ended up in Barcelona last weekend with only a camera, a wallet, a toothbrush and a hostel reservation. And what do you know? It ended up being an absolute blast of a weekend! That’s in spite of the fact that I smelled horrible, saw the work of pickpockets firsthand for the first time, and could barely stand from being so sleep-deprived by the time we had to leave. I do have my one indulgent trip to Paris already booked, but past that I’m trying to look a bit off the beaten trail for some ideas, and hopefully finding experiences that, years down the road, I would never be able to convince my family to do with me.