Bienvenido de Vuelta! I know it has been a while since you have last heard from me, but I come bearing new perspective and experiences. I needed a break from Social Media, and all things work to clear my head and to figure out my next steps since the last post. So let’s begin!
Before talking about my first solo trip, let me make a long story short and catch you up on what has happened over the last few months. My job as a language assistant ended at the end of June, and I decided to stay in Madrid rather than go home for the summer because I was afraid I would lose the Spanish that I had learned over the past ten months. To stay, I obviously needed a job to save up for September and October, seeing as though, language assistants do not get paid until the beginning of November.
So, I opted to try Au-pairing! It was a good experience, but I will tell you every person should try this, as it could be a natural contraceptive for many. Taking care of three kids and while teaching them English was rewarding especially when I would see an improvement in their speech, but it was A LOT of work.
Between cleaning poop daily coming from the youngest boy to chasing around the middle child, begging her to finish an English activity, and reiterating to the oldest that she is not in charge, I have come to the conclusion that kids may not be for me in the near future. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed the experience and the family. I was even able to explore more of Spain with their family. I enjoyed the beaches of Valencia and Alicante, the Castles and green pastures of Toledo, and the quaint historic towns of Salamanca and Segovia. Since I literally only spent a day or two at each place, I will just say that I was enamored by the preserved architecture and unsurpassed beauty of each pueblo.
So, with that said, I was reminded of one of the main reasons why I wanted to stay in Madrid for another year; that is to travel solo. I’ve always wanted to do this to see if:
A) I could actually get back home safely
B) If my friends were correct when saying that you gain a different sense of independence and confidence as a woman.
Now, don’t get me wrong, last year I traveled with one of my favorite…and only travel buddy, my sister, and enjoyed every minute of it. It wasn’t the fact that she was my sister that made the experience priceless; it was the fact that the experiences that we had obtained would have only happened with her. We usually feel the same way when traveling together such as: having hunger at the same time; nothing is worse than being dragged along from site to site while seeing spots because of dehydration and malnutrition, laughing at hypothetical situations based off of something we saw someone doing, or making the best out of bad situation if our original ones fell through.
“The Misadventure of the Bing Sisters”, as I would call it, had us missing planes, sleeping in airports, being cussed out by an Abuelo when I wanted to take her picture only for her to smile for the camera after I offered her money; And let’s not forget the time when my sister thought she had joined a cult when her original plan was just to get some yoga in. Nothing beats having a partner in crime while seeing the world, but it was time to fly solo.
Bizkaia, Bilbao was a site to remember. Trees and rolling hills surrounded a well-kept and elegant city. When I arrived, I was a little nervous because I had to find my hostel and hope that the pictures were the same in person as on they were on the internet. I have been fooled before ladies and gentleman! I proceeded to take the local metro, which was very easy to navigate, pretty cheap, and only 20 minutes away from the bus stop. Upon my arrival, I tripled checked to see what kind of room I would have and practiced how I would articulate that in Spanish. The hostel was very clean and big, which was the reason as to why it was a bit pricier than what I expected. Not to mention I thought I was getting lucky and paying for a small room where I would share it with a couple of girls. However, to my surprise, the two girls ended up being twenty men and women and three grizzly bears due to the ridiculous amount of snoring. My eye spasms describe precisely how I slept that first night.
So, needless to say, adjustments were made with earplugs and a pillow over my head. After checking into my room, I decided to hit the town running and go to the Guggenheim Museum, which was a stone throw away from my hostel. The first thing you see when you arrive at the museum is a gigantic floral sculpture of a puppy. I asked a woman standing beside me while admiring it if she could take a picture. After I gave her my phone to take the picture, I noticed her moving further and further away from me to capture the entire dog behind me. However, I found myself reluctant to smile because I was focused on fixing my lips to shout, “Ladron!” had she entertained the thought to take off running. HA! Thank God this did not happen. After the picture was taken, I entered the museum taking in modern Spanish and contemporary Basque artwork. Each floor had something different to offer the eye as well as the sculptures outside of the museum. I will say I did get reprimanded for getting too close to one of the art pieces in which case my Spanish went out the window and the empathy I was hoping to obtain from the security guards while stressing my American accent, was not given. It didn’t work…at all. Since I was here for several hours and was starting to get hungry and tired, I opted for an early night since I booked a bus ticket to San Sebastián for the following day as a day trip.
Saturday morning arrived, and I was too excited to go to San Sebastián. I heard so many great things about it. I was only going for a day, and the round-trip ticket only cost twenty-seven euros. So, I had to make the most of it and make the day stretch. Luckily, San Sebastián is very small so, you can see a lot in little time and have a satisfying trip. As soon as I got off my party bus aka Premium bus with ASLA, I was able to walk twenty minutes to the nearest beach, Playa de la Concha. Although the water was frigid, the weather was just right where you could soak up the sun rays and enjoy the slight breeze that bounced off the water. I decided to stay here for about three hours to reflect, pray, and just think about life. The next move was to get some food in which I stepped into a Kebab place that was cute, cheap and a bit dirty; yes, unfortunately when asking for utensils, I was disturbed when the chef wiped the knife off with his bare hands after having scrounged around to find one and handed it over to me with a smile. “Thanks,” I said. *
After that, oh so pleasant experience, I roamed the streets for another hour, making small talk with the locals before I noticed a hiking trail. At the top of the mountain was a beautiful view of all of San Sebastián and when you walked a little bit further up, there is a café that sits right on top of the mountain allowing you to drink a coffee or wine for 2.50 euros. Simply blissful. As I sat down at a table that bordered the cliff, I couldn’t help but take in everything that was going on around me. A waiter taking an order, a couple enjoying each other’s company, a group of 20-somethings laughing at each other's jokes; moments like these really allow you not to take life for granted and to appreciate the now.
I think that is what I learned on this trip; to appreciate the now. I was able to reflect on this during my bus ride back to Bilbao and during the breakfast the morning after. The confidence and independence were definitely gained throughout the trip, but the sudden realization of being truly blessed to experience different destinations, cultures, and enjoy being alone without feeling lonely is definitely a place that I am thankful to be in. I think everyone, should take time to travel alone, explore and sit with one's thoughts overlooking a beautiful view.