The getting to Barcelona was, well, interesting.
I should start off by saying that I was offered a temporary job in the DC area about two weeks before I was scheduled to leave. I had been applying to jobs for about four months and hadn’t had much luck, so when this opportunity came up, I needed to take it. Being unemployed/being poor was getting to me.
So in the midst of getting ready for a trip, I also had to prepare to move up to Northern Virginia. Luckily, my friend and her boyfriend generously offered me their spare guest room to stay in until I found a place of my own. I ended up starting with my company at the end of October, trained and worked for a few days, and then set off for Europe…
Which was really stressful. So I packed what clothing I had thrown in the back of the Jetta in my rather large backpack. Note: Tiny people have problems with big backpacks. Laws of gravity.
When I got on the plane, I left work where it was, left life in the States as it was, left all the things I was thinking about and dealing with in my head back home, and set off on an adventure that could have been more planned.
Well a good adventure should start out with a few drinks, right? False. I had about 4 glasses of wine on the plane, fell asleep, and when I woke up from my stupor, was really, really nauseous to the point of needing an airsick bag upon descent into Heathrow where my flight connected. As a disclaimer, 4 glasses of wine over a 6 hour period, with food, might I add, usually doesn’t make me sick. And I don’t usually get nauseous from being on airplanes! But coupled with sleeping, pressure changes, and plane movements…well you get the idea. I have problems with motion sickness and vertigo, and I didn’t have a feeling of being sick from drinking, but felt more like I had a stomach virus. Luckily there was a nice old man who held the airsick bag for me…
Thankfully, the connecting flight was just a few gates away, but the flight from Heathrow to Barcelona was really challenging for someone who was already very, very airsick. The flight wasn’t full, so I ended up telling a flight attendant I had gotten sick on the flight over and they let me sit in a row in the back near the bathroom. I had the entire row to myself, and as soon as the fasten seatbelt sign went off, I spread out and dozed off for the entire flight. But I’m a trooper, and being sick and not having anyone to care for you is a part of life sometimes. Challenge #1: Accepted and overcome.
When I got to Barcelona around 10 AM, which I’ll refer to as BCN on here, I had planned to catch the train into the city center and then metro to my Airbnb accommodations. This was only supposed to cost about $2 euros and pretty simple. But instead, feeling as ill as I did, was able to find a cab that took credit card (thank God) because may I also mention that I only had 20 euros on my person upon arriving in BCN and I also had forgotten my debit card/bank card so I couldn’t get money out either. Super unprepared for this trip. The cab ride cost about 26 euros, but it was a welcomed sight when I got to my Airbnb destination and well worth the cost.
When I arrived at my small, basic, but clean accommodations, I just wanted to sleep. In an earlier post, The Logistics of Traveling Alone, I raved about Airbnb and how it’s a great alternative for people looking for no frills travel, but maybe a little more privacy than hostel accommodations. In BCN I stayed with two people (Lucas & Laura) that I found on Airbnb and who lived on Avenguida de Roma. I paid somewhere around $26 USD each night, and stayed from November 2 – November 7. I would recommend that when booking Airbnb lodging, aim for the places with a few reviews and recommendations – at least I feel more comfortable that way.
View from the balcony of my Airbnb Lodging
One fact about European apartments – they are old and many do not have “lifts” (elevators). In both of the places I stayed in BCN and Rome, I had to hike up multiple flights of stairs. I like to think I’m in pretty good shape, but I still found myself winded after trips up these stairs, so just a warning to the weary!
Even though there were a few things I had to get used to at my BCN lodging such as the tiny showers, showers that only have hot water for 5 minutes, stairs, being on a loud street in a non-soundproof room, etc., I really enjoyed where I stayed because the location and price couldn’t be beat. The metro was only two blocks away and I could easily walk to some of the main streets or take the metro to wherever my heart desired. The room was really clean and my hosts cleaned the bathroom daily. Also, my room had a lock on the outside, so I could lock my belongings in it when I went out. I would definitely recommend this Airbnb booking if you are not high maintenance and are used to city street noise and short showers. Also, my hosts were amazing. I only really interacted with Lucas, but he spoke fluent English and offered suggestions on where to go and eat. They also gave me a ton of space, which was really appreciated too!
Sorry for that tangent, but I felt like it was useful info! Anyways, after I got to my lodging, I slept for around 6 hours. My entire body was really off and the sleep had some serious healing powers. I woke up feeling A LOT better, refreshed and ravenous. But I’m always hungry. So I ventured out for the first time in a foreign country by myself, found food and beer a few blocks from my lodging (and a place that took credit card – yay!), and then went back to get more sleep so I would be well rested for the week ahead of me.
So if you know me – and if you don’t, I’m now telling you – I’m a really anxious person. Weirdly anxious. I get anxious about talking on the phone and merging on the interstate; I hate elevators and won’t get in one without my cell phone. I’m just now warming up to airplanes. I wash my hands a lot, but don’t care about eating street food in SE Asia. So basically, the things I shouldn’t freak out about I do, and the things some people would be terrified of, I am not. The best way to deal with emotions and anxiety is to figure out what causes it. I’ve found that I have panic attacks when I feel “trapped” both in the literal and figurative sense. When I feel like I don’t have any control. So even though I got sick, even though I was alone without much cash or a debit card (which was kind of stressful), I felt like that was where I was supposed to be. I felt really at peace with myself, which is something I hadn’t felt in months. Even now, being back in the US, I get weirdly emotional and anxious about things, and realized that in the past year, the 3 weeks I spent in Europe were some of the least crazed-emotional times.
This just goes to show that not every trip starts off great, setbacks do occur and all doesn’t go according to plan, but you have to overcome things and adjust. Traveling alone isn’t for everyone – heck, I didn’t know if it would be for me. This trip was very experimental and it honestly could have been a train wreck. I could have broken down in Heathrow because I got sick on my flight, could have called my mom bawling as I was having chills and nausea while waiting for the connecting flight and decided I was going to be miserable. But I didn’t. I toughened up, got to where I needed to be, recharged and didn’t let a bad beginning ruin the rest of my adventure. I think it’s moments like this where you really learn how resilient you can be.