“People around me were staring because every time I put a grape in my mouth I’d say, ‘Boyfriend.'” Meet Lee. An outgoing Korean girl I met at the hostel in Barcelona. She was telling me about her midnight moment in Plaça d’Espanya where she also celebrated New Year’s Eve. We were sharing the first breakfast of 2016, and I learned she was traveling for a month. That is all I would ever know about her as the rest of our conversations centered on Barcelona. We made plans to visit Park Güell together the next day.
Being January 1st, Barcelona was quite the ghost-town during the
morning. So in the afternoon, I decided to go to the one place that would certainly be alive. La Rambla. I started the adventure in Plaça de Catalunya. This is such a central location, and its surrounding streets will lead you to many attractions.
When I travel alone, I like to bring Rick Steves’ electronic book along with me! He provides what I consider the perfect amount of information, and practical advice to each city. In his book, SPAIN 2015, he offers fantastic guided walks through La Rambla and Barri Gótic…both of which I did. Thanks to Rick Steves I learned that La Rambla used to be a “drainage ditch” until Barcelona tore down the medieval wall, which circled in what’s now called Barri Gótic. The word “rambla” means “stream” in Arabic, and every city that had a stream that met the sea pretty much has a street called Rambla – or so Rick Steves says.
I made my way down, admiring different buildings and Gaudí art until I reached the Mirador de Colom by the port. This monument was built to honor Christopher Columbus who returned to Barcelona in 1493, post America. There are a lot of details one would normally miss, but I recommend knowing what you’re looking at while strolling the streets of Barcelona. For example, you might want to know that the people of Catalunya are very proud of their region. But this is not the only reason you see their flag everywhere in Barcelona instead of Spain’s flag. Catalunya (and I cannot speak for every person here) wants independence from Spain. They also have their own language (Catalán), which they were not allowed to speak during the still recent Franco dictatorship. You will hear this language a lot now, and some places I ate at had the menu in Catalán only.
Once I reached the port from La Rambla, I was feeling tired, and took a break by the water. I sat down, unsure of what I was looking for, but looking still. It was a chilly day; the wind was picking up. It was amazing to see the water. I grew up near the beach, and this was the longest I had ever been without the sea (4 months). I was not thrilled, but I was not down either. My mood was more pensive…The kind of peace of mind that comes when you have nowhere in particular to go.
I felt something on my head, and ignored it completely. I knew a seagull had just pooped on my hair, but I refused to aknowledge this fact. The same thing happened to me my first week in Madrid, so I simply took it as a Spanish tradition. This was my 2016, day 1. This trip was important to me. It is part of a fundamental thing I am doing: learning to live in happiness alone. Not that I am trying to seclude myself from society, or that I want to push people away. In fact, I want to get closer than ever…I want to develop deep and unbreakable bonds; I want to learn to love with no expectation of that love being returned to me. That’s why I am filling myself up with joy and love. In Barcelona, I chose to become so full of happiness so that when I give love to someone else I don’t have to look inside and find emptiness. I am out to give without looking to take. That’s why I find it so crucial that I learn to be happy alone. And what luck! What an outstanding chance…to start such journey in Barcelona.
“I didn’t feel sad or happy. I didn’t feel proud or ashamed. I only felt that in spite of all the things I’d done wrong, in getting myself here, I’d done right.” – Cheryl Strayed