The View of a Lonely Traveler Visiting Barcelona
I’ve been waiting for it to hit me. Barcelona, the incredible city I’ve run off to to hide from all the boring parts of life that have been slowly becoming more and more necessary. Obviously sangria and tapas beat tax codes and angry e-mails from landlords every time, right? Fucking yes. The decision to come here was so easy that it just never hit me; the excitement, the hugeness of what was about to happen.
It only became a problem when the people who I told about the trip were more excited than I was. Partly this was deliberate; not wanting to rub my amazing luck into their faces. But it was also just because the closer I got to leaving, the less real Barcelona seemed, even when constantly listening to the stories (everyone has stories and will tell you all of them), and fanatically reading Lonely Planet guidebooks.
I thought maybe it would hit me on the drive to the airport, a last minute rush of excitement, anything. It didn’t. It didn’t hit me when I went through customs, not on either of my eleven-hour flights, not as I sat in a sweaty daze waiting for my bag to appear on the conveyor belt.
When I finally got into my taxi, I rode into town with a lovely middle-aged Spanish man who made uncomfortably frequent eye contact with me while singing It’s Raining Men along with the radio. He was creepy in a nice way and everything was so confusing. When he dropped me off at what was supposedly my new apartment, I felt sad to see him go.
Being alone in Barcelona, standing, looking, maybe freaking out a tiny bit, I realised that no amount of looking at maps that my parents shoved in my face, no amount of imagining or dreaming can prepare for you for a big, bustling, pulsing city. So fucking alive. Hearing the stories, looking at the pictures, it just isn’t the same.
It felt hot, but also breezy. Busy but also relaxed. Full and empty. Dirty but clean. Long straight roads and winding alleyways. It’s an impossible place to explain because it’s such a mix of originality and clichés. There’s live music everywhere in the streets at night, markets full of colour and enough choice to make your brain explode. It smells like spice, sweat, occasionally pee. There are too many adjectives, superlatives and adverbs I could use, but also not enough to really describe anything. I could eat an entire thesaurus and still not be able to shit out enough words to explain this place. I can’t explain it to anyone because I can’t even explain it to myself.
Even when I know exactly where I’m going, I still feel a little bit lost. Having so much to take in and discover, that’s what’s exciting about Barcelona, and what makes any pre-trip excitement a mere shadow of what you’ll feel once you’re here. Barcelona never hit me because there is no way to imagine it until you are in it, and even then it’s so big and full that it’s hard to believe where you are. It never hits anyone, it just introduces itself with a series of tiny bitch slaps – the good, kinky sex kind of slap that hurts for the right reasons.
That’s why you’ve just got to fucking get here. Drop your briefcases, your Bic pens, burn your textbooks and give your shitty retail job the finger. Nothing in life is as important as walking down Las Ramblas with minimal ideas about where the fuck you are going, or picking tapas off a menu without really knowing what you’re spending your money on. You think you can “quench a thirst” by following a few whimsical travel Instagrams and watching Vicky Cristina Barcelona, but how is that meant to work when you don’t even really understand what you’re thirsty for?
Sell your shitty car for parts, borrow your Dad’s old tramping pack, tell yourself that you’re better at speaking Spanish than you really are. Just say yes. Get on a plane. Get here. And if you’re scared, the city won’t look after you. But I know a few people who will.