From Morocco to Spain. I explored Seville, Madrid, and Segovia. From the stunning architecture of Seville, to the hustle and bustle of Madrid, and the quiet beauty of Segovia, I soaked up every minute.
One of the biggest things I have learned from traveling is that, it matters who you know. I managed to enjoy a MUCH better experience in my time in Spain from connections I have made. I have gone out of my way to meet people and learn from them as much as I possibly can. It CERTAINLY comes in handy when I meet friends as helpful as Alaina, who not only answered EVERY SINGLE QUESTION I had for her, but ALSO treated me to a one-of-a-kind experience in Segovia, and acted as translator and tour guide for any Spanish I didn't pick up on, and facts about different parts of Spain that absolutely enhanced my trip.
If I have even a single regret, it's that I traveled very quickly through Spain, and would love to revisit and really enjoy everything all over again, at a slower pace. In Seville, I took a cooking class and was witness to a BEAUTIFUL traditional Spanish Flamenco dance, all while brushing up on my own Spanish with new friends I met and enjoying delicious red wine at dinner. I enjoyed traditional tapas at la hora del aperitivo (between 8:30-10pm). I enjoyed a free walking tour chalked FULL of fun facts (and some controversial debates about Christopher Columbus), and then? I booked a Bla Bla Car trip to Madrid.
If you've never heard of Bla Bla Car, it's pretty popular in Europe, and is basically what I'd call like an official way to hitchhike, with a small fee. You book the driver in advance, could possibly share the ride with a couple of other riders, and meet and drop off at a central location. It's one of the MANY transportation options in Europe to get around.
So get this. I was SUPER tired when booking this trip, but I PROMISE YOU if you love enjoying scenery on road trips, you will NOT be able to sleep. I didn't take pictures, but I enjoyed every bit of the sights. The landscape was STUNNING. Along with the clouds, the mountains off in the distance, the greenery. It was just absolutely perfect. My exhausted (and relatively sick) self was like, "nah, I can't miss this. I can sleep at my hostel" (usual trend I have at this point).
Speaking of usual trends, I have another one that pretty much any backpacker can relate to. The process of GETTING TO your accommodation. Like seriously, in a foreign place, with potentially completely foreign language? Sometimes you can't even GUESS because it's so different. You just ADAPT. Tired? Hold out. You can't just set yourself down just ANYWHERE if you have your entire life on your back. You tough it out and figure it out. Paired with no phone service, and get to hunting down that wifi! The absolute moment I ever get wifi, I IMMEDIATELY send out like Morse Code to my loved ones to let them know I'm safe, while simultaneously downloading maps in whatever direction I need to go. Then I leave wifi again and head out in the "dark". You just get used to it. And it's really not so bad. You start to feel like kind of a badass once you get the hang of it.
This is another big thing I've learned about being on the road by myself with my life on my back for so long. Honestly? Small things don't even phase me anymore. I remember losing my mom's house key on my key chain with a portable can opener I'd had for YEARS on that thing in Greece, and looking at it like, "well, what EXACTLY am I going to do? Spend the rest of my time in GREECE looking for this item that's most certainly NOT going to affect me in the next 5 years? No." Sometimes, it's the sentimental value of things that affect you more than the practicality of it. And you just learn to let it roll off your back more because that's literally the only option you have.
In Spain, getting to Madrid, and then going off on my own while still battling a ridiculous cough, I had to make the choice between sitting at a local McDonald's I had found and just GETTING to my hostel where I could absolutely collapse in my bed (HOW MANY TIMES I'VE DONE THIS), and of course, as I almost ALWAYS do, I chose to delay my gratification and just order an Uber and get to my hostel. It wasn't too difficult to navigate, but honestly, travel wears me out too, and I've thankfully developed a system for myself that allows me to soak the most up out of each trip that just works.
Getting to this hostel, I learned a really important lesson (ONCE AGAIN). I had never done this before, but somehow I had just misread dates and actually NOT booked for the right nights at this place. The second I realized, my stomach DROPPED. Where the hell was I going to sleep with everything booked up??? Well, as luck would have it, there was a private room above this particular hostel available for the night that would allow me a much-needed PRIVATE night. Turns out it was CHEAPER than booking the hostel room. Worth it? ABSOLUTELY. I had another glorious night to ME. I could dance naked if I wanted, or basically anything else a woman does when she's traveling solo!
As beautiful as Madrid is, I'm not sure I would spend extensive amounts of time there. I was there for about 2 days and felt like that was enough. I also might have managed to visit during a holiday I wasn't previously aware of. Constitution Day. I learned pretty quick that visiting anywhere during holiday season can EASILY hike up the prices of anything you have interest in. I still enjoyed my experience, but I definitely felt the prices hit my wallet a bit.
When I finally got to my hostel, I met a few girls who were booked and ready to attend a climate change summit happening the following morning. I thought it was a great idea, and FREE. Meaning I could be part of something bigger than myself and learn so much, hear from highly distinguished people from around the globe, and spread an extremely important message FOR FREE. And it was WORTH IT.
After this summit, my friend (an American who I met in Budapest....I love traveling) and I went off on another adventure and ended up spending most of the evening together. We agreed on how much we've become pros at this "winging it" backpacking lifestyle. It's always great to connect with someone else who just GETS IT.
Fast forward to the following morning, and I'm headed off to Segovia by train to meet another friend (social butterfly here!) and explore the beauty of this town! Actually, small towns remind me how much I love traveling because they are so specific in the vibe and atmosphere. Like, you just get a feel for what to expect when you get there and it's pretty great. Despite the rainy weather, we had an amazing time and I'm super grateful to have been able to meet up with her and enjoy a new place with a like-minded friend. We took plenty of pictures and even got a bit drunk (I mean, HELLO). And despite the fact I had to leave early the next day for my flight back to Budapest, it was ALL worth it.
I would DEFINITELY come back to explore Spain some more, and would happily meet up with these friends again. Travel is just SO beautiful, and SO life-changing. I feel world's different than I did when I first started this adventure of a lifetime. Every day is a new adventure in some way or another, and it's beautiful. Life is good.