Be in Barcelona
The adventure has begun. After the emotional departure from my family, I made my way through TSA. With just one backpack, the Osprey 65L duplex weighing roughly 30lbs, I made my way to the airport bar, like any Chico State grad would do. As they say, "you can take the man out of Chico, but you can't take Chico out of the man."
It was one of the worst flights I have ever taken. We sat on the runway for roughly 45 minutes because of the many planes taking off and arriving. The weather across the US was terrible. This resulted in turbulence for almost the entire ride to Barcelona. Sleeping was impossible, but I think I managed to sleep for one hour. I felt terrible for the girl next to me as she was coughing the entire ride as well. On this particular international flight, dinner did not come with the ticket, and it required to pre-order food. Moms know best. Thankfully my mom insisted I bring the beef jerky in one of my free pockets. I had four because I was wearing two of my jackets.
But at last, I arrived in Barcelona around 4 p.m.
My hostel for the night was roughly 47 minutes from the airport according to google maps. The first mistake, most likely due to my lack of sleep was trying to go off the directions from the hostel's website and not google maps. It ended up taking 3 hours. To get to my hostel, I needed to take a train, a Metro bus, a city bus, and then walk to my final destination. Don't be scared to ask for help even if you have an idea of where you are going. I ended up recruiting a mom and daughter from France who spoke a little English and heading in the same direction as me to help me get from one transportation transfer to another. The help was necessary because Passeig de Gràcia metro stop is a maze. We passed through two gates and at one point walked in a long tunnel to get to the correct bus stop.
I then ended up walking around aimlessly looking for the hostel in the dark, all without data or wifi. Needless to say, it’s hard to imagine what it was like before having the internet at your fingertips. Travel humbles you like that. I was lost and exhausted. I only had my backpack, and then the other part of it slung over my shoulder, but my neck and back were sore. I admitted defeat and hailed a taxi. I knew I was close and the taxi wouldn't be outrageous. The driver only went a few blocks away, and I was finally at my end destination for the night at 7 p.m.
Once I was settled in my hostel, I connected with my friend Asier who used to live in Bilbao when I studied abroad. My study abroad program, USAC, connected the two of us as conversation partners. It was part of a program where students from the US can practice their Spanish with students who want to practice their English. If you study abroad in a country in a non-English country, I would highly recommend asking if they have a similar program. It is a great way to practice the native language and meet locals your age. At this point, I haven't eaten a real meal in about 24 hours. Being jet-lagged, starving, and in Barcelona for one night, only one meal came to mind, Paella. Asier took me to Paellas y Tapas, and if you visit Barcelona, I highly recommend this place. It has three levels for seating, upbeat music and art, not too expensive, and a perfect amount of food. After dinner, he showed me all the Christmas lights in the center of town. In Spain, the Christmas holidays do not end until January 6th. We said our goodbyes for the night, and I planned my route to Bilbao.
Well, sleep did not happen. Despite being exhausted, jet-lag and hunger kicked in only after 3 hours of sleep. It was a lovely nap though. I knew if I had any chance of falling back asleep, I needed to eat. I had that pit in my stomach when you are hungry. The problem was, it was 3 a.m and about to be 4 a.m. Thankfully, one of my bunkmates just came in after a night on the town. He told me that I might be able to find a market still open close to the hostel. When in doubt and you don't have internet, in a town you don't know abroad and hungry, pick a street and walk down it. Don't make any crazy turns and stay on the same road to avoid getting lost. To my surprise, I found a 24-hour market about six blocks from the hostel on the first street I tried. For only 5 euros I had the fixings for a Jamon de Serrano (typical Spanish ham) and cheese sandwich. Maslaws hierarchy of needs fulfilled.
Unfortunately, jetlag was still beating me. After tossing and turning for the next hour, I threw out the white flag. No way was I going to fall asleep. After the trail of errors from finding the hostel, I figured the best course of action was to give myself plenty of time to get from Barcelona to Bilbao. As quietly as possible, I got my things ready for a shower and packed up my belongings from my locker. If you've ever been in a dorm hostel or planning on staying in one for the first time, you know or will run into certain types of bunkmates. If you use hostels frequently, you will also be one or multiple types of these bunkmates at some point so my advice, don't judge or else you'll be a hypocrite. But it's still possible to be discrete and respectable to others. In this story, I was the early riser in the process of traveling from point A-B. From the zipper of your backpack to getting off the top bunk, every sound is like seventy-six trombones blaring in a parade.
I left the hostel around 5 a.m, and Saint Christofer was on my side. I loaded my maps using the hostel wifi and managed to make all the transfers. I was able to walk to the correct Metro stop, get to the train station and buy a direct ticket to Bilbao all without a hiccup. After ~8 hours of total travel, I stepped out to a familiar sight, the Abando Station in Bilbao. Also with only using wifi where I could find it and with very little sleep. I felt like a navy seal. I was then picked up by my host mom, Carmen and we made our way home.
Be curious. Be courageous. Be chivalrous.