The day began in a misty fog, as did my emotions. I felt calm, yet uneasy. I had nothing to worry about, yet I was pensive, anxious about the giant moves ahead. Though the weather was hazy, positivity surrounded my departure. A smooth drive to the airport was followed by the kindness of the airline luggage attendant, who allowed my massive duffel bag to exceed the standard 50 pound limit. After saying my final goodbyes, the sun started to push through the clouds, giving the outdoors a fresh glow. Before boarding my first flight, my mom told me that she saw a rainbow, a good omen for my travels. With love, I was off.
Making the Most of the Journey
Enjoying the travel as much as the destination is a common recommendation, often a metaphorical morsel of advice. I decided to practice the literal roots of the phrase on my way to Spain. With a short layover in Chicago, I chose deep-dish pizza for lunch, even though I’m a thin crust kind of girl.
Though my Midwest NFL team didn’t make it to the playoffs this year, I tuned in to the final minutes of the Minnesota Vikings game against the Seattle Seahawks, which played on nearly every TV in the O’Hare airport. I held my breath with the locals as the Vikings prepared to kick a field goal to overcome their one point deficit. From my TV set, we heard an eruption of shouts from down the hall. Our programming was delayed, but the commotion did not disclose the outcome of the kick. Soon enough, we discovered the devastating Vikings loss, but I enjoyed my time in Chicago just the same.
The experience began to become a reality while I waited at the gate for my flight to Madrid. When announcements for the flight were made in Spanish before English, I knew that that would be my new normal. I was comforted by the abundance of college-aged girls on the flight, reassuring myself that I was not only capable of making this journey, but ready to do so.
After picking up my luggage, I took the Metro to a hotel, my orientation site. Compared to the Washington, D.C. Metro, Madrid’s Metro system was even more user friendly. Though the directions and stops were in Spanish, the signage was clear and helpful. Anyone with basic knowledge of public transportation would have no problem navigating Madrid’s Metro.
Having never been to Europe, emerging from the metro for the first time was thrilling. I knew I wasn’t seeing anything close to the best that the city had to offer, but I was still stunned by the authenticity of where I stood. Though cars and motorcycles zipped by, there was an underlying maturity that I did not truly understand about Europe until then.
With time to kill before the rest of my program arrived, I wandered around a small section of the city. Starting small, I mustered up enough courage to ask for a bagel in Spanish at Starbucks, and the barista replied, “For here or to go?” Slightly comforted at the sound of my native language, but slightly annoyed that it was being used, I ended the day with that small internal conflict, but alsopride at my travel accomplishments, wonder for my new city, and excitement for the next day.
- It’s okay to cry when saying goodbye. Be grateful for what you are leaving, but be excited for what you will gain. Know that traveling is only temporary, and that you will return.
- Look on the bright side and take advantage of any situation. Detours can bring unexpected fun.
- Deep pockets are essential to traveling.
- If you are using public transportation in a foreign country, make sure that you have knowledge of using it in your home country: similar systems, different language.
- Try to speak the language. Not only try because you are on someone else’s turf, and therefore expected to adjust to them, but for your own sake. It puts you out of your comfort zone, challenges your brain, and is one of the many wonders of travel.
Paz, Amor, Madrid