I was 19 when I planned my first trip abroad to Spain. Granted, I had been fortunate enough prior to have been on multiple road trips across the continental US, Mexico and Europe the year prior, yet this was the first time I was not going with parents or an all-inclusive tour group. I had planned on traveling with a friend of mine, but he wasn’t able to go, and I had been fiending to visit Spain as my 1st year Spanish teacher was from Madrid and filled my head with flamenco, paella, and bright colors. Barcelona called to me with its beaches, architecture (I am a huge fan of Gaudi) and culture. I ran into a high-school classmate whom I somewhat knew, (let’s call him Josh), mentioned my plans to him and he wanted to go! I was ecstatic because I had been working and saving my butt off for almost a year to fund this trip, and didn’t necessarily want to travel alone.
Josh would come over so “we” could plan out the logistics of the trip. I had oodles of places I wanted to see and things to do. I wanted to stay in Barcelona for a good amount of time as the year before, I went on a whirlwind tour of Ireland, Wales, England and France in about 2 weeks and didn’t get a feel for what it was like to be in each city without rushing to the next museum or statue. I found it difficult to get any input from Josh; he would say things like “Whatever you want to do.” RED FLAG #1! Not knowing any better, I shrugged it off. I found our flights by pouring over tons of different sites and finding that the one I chose was about $300 less than any other site. I booked our hostels finding the cheapest, yet also the highest rated and most accommodations. I wanted to explore Valencia and Figueres & Cadaquez (where Salvador Dali’s home can now be toured as well as boasting a large museum of his works.) I even typed out an itinerary with our flight and hostel information.
The evening before our early morning flight, I was double checking everything and realized that I had made Josh book one of the hostels so that he could actually participate in the planning process, yet he had never e-mailed it to me. I asked if he could send me the missing information.
Josh “Uhh well I’m not really by a computer right now..”
Me: “Okay, well when do you think you’ll be home?”
Josh: ”Uh, I’m in San Diego and took the Greyhound bus but they lost my reservation so I am trying to get a ride..” (which is about 8 hours driving. RED FLAG #2!)
Me: “What!? Well when do you think you will leave??”
Josh: “I’ll let you know.” Click
I was so anxious my stomach actually hurt. He called when leaving SD not to long after, but told me that his phone was dying so he would call when he got home. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep that night. The next morning I woke up about 4:00am and tried his phone but it still went to voicemail. My mom asked me what I wanted to do. I said, “Well, I don’t really want to go alone, but there is no way I am not getting on that plane. I worked too hard for this, and the ticket is non-refundable.” I can only imagine how that made my mom feel, but he was not going to ruin my dream of going to Spain! I decided we would still drive to his place to pick him up at the planned time: 5:00 AM. My stomach was doing flip-flops the whole way over. I hopped out of the car, went to his door, knocked on it crossing my fingers that he would open it and he did!
Josh: “Sorry! I literally just got home like 15 minutes ago and was trying to pack as fast as I could” (he held a small duffel bag, approximately 1.5 ft long!)
Me: “Well hurry up, we have to go!”
I did not speak to him until our plane touched down in Barcelona. Luckily the almost 15 hour plane ride, my exhaustion and the excitement at thinking that very soon, I was going to be exploring Barcelona calmed me down a bit! We went straight to the hostel to get settled in. I was going to pay for my part and Josh his, but he hadn’t thought to see if his bank card would work in Barcelona, & didn’t have ANY money on him, so I spend the first few days paying for him (knowing he was going to pay me back, but after everything, it was irritating). RED FLAG #3! I decided that NOTHING was going to get me down on this trip, not even Josh!
Gothic Quarter of Barcelona
I spent the next 4 weeks exploring Barcelona, meeting friends from all over the world, including locals, practicing my Spanish, dancing until dawn without consuming any alcohol (as I was with people who did not drink. This was one of the most fun nights I’ve experienced!) and much more! All the while, Josh would follow me around like a mopey puppy, never enthralled with anything as I was oohing and ahhing over the beautiful beaches, people, food and Gaudi’s architectural playground. I don’t know what Josh would have done without me, as I was translating for all his meals & transactions. He didn’t seem appreciative, rarely said thank you and actually copped an attitude with me a couple times. He hadn’t even bothered to learn the very basics of Spanish such as how to say “Please” “Thank you” or “Do you speak English.” RED FLAG #4!
Passing by a beach on the train between Valencia and Barcelona
We travelled to Valencia by train, which was beautiful. The train was supposed to arrive in approximately 3 hours; it ended up being 5! The scenery was so beautiful though, just what I imagined Spain to look like from all the Spanish books, websites and movies I had poured over. There was even a guy on the train who was playing guitar and singing. It was kind of magical.
Salvador Dalí’s Home in Port Lligat
Valencia differs from Barcelona; it’s much more of a small town and less people speak English. After checking into our hostel and taking a siesta, (which I was becoming fond of) we ventured out to eat. We found a nice place near our hostel. I ordered what I wanted and since Josh had been irritating me with his lack of appreciation for me planning and translating for him, I decided to let him see where he would be without me. “Are you going to order?” Josh to the waiter: “Uhhh…. Do you speak English?” Waiter: “No.” Josh looked at me and was obviously freaked out. I did end up ordering for him and after that we had a conversation about his attitude. He apologized about it, but unfortunately went back to his ways. For the rest of the trip I either went out alone or with new friends, having an amazing and unforgettable time in Spain.Since then, I have learned to carefully consider who my travel companions will be and sometimes, have traveled alone for lack of a high-quality choice. You live, you learn!