My comfort when it comes to navigating Barcelona has improved drastically since arriving here just three weeks ago. During orientation, our affiliate program took us on a panoramic bus tour of the city. I was very overwhelmed by the size of Barcelona, as well as it’s lack of normal street patterns. Over the past few weeks I have spent a great deal of time walking to class and taking the metro. However, I was yet to take a walk with the sole intention of getting lost. I chose to take this walk alone, as I like to stop often and really take in my surroundings. In regard to wandering about, Slimbach states: “We can stop at a place, focus our attention on a particular person or object, wonder, and ask questions to discover clues about something we desire to know or understand” (Slimback, pg 182).
I set out on my walk after my 9 am class on Tuesday. It is my only class of the day, so I took advantage of this free time and hopped on the metro. I live by the beautiful cathedral Sagrada Familia, which is a great area but it is somewhat far from the city center. When I got on the metro, I decided to get off at a random stop on the way to the city center. I wanted to be somewhere that wouldn’t be loaded with tourists, but also somewhere that has monuments and other things to see. When I came out of the metro, I was right next to a beautiful opera house. It lead me down gorgeous side streets, where I found many locals shopping at little fresh markets. When I arrived
at the end of the street I was pleasantly surprised to see Barcelona’s Arc de Triomph in the distance. A beautiful red color, it reminds me a great deal of the Arc in Paris, but with its own character. Barcelona is full of color, so it seemed to fit right in. As I approached the Arc I noticed that tourists again surrounded me, so I walked to the end of the walkway and entered a beautiful park. I continued along the water, and back up Las Ramblas into La Boqueria. This is a massive fresh market where the people of Barcelona sell fresh food, ranging from fruits to full on seafood dishes. This was the most pleasant part of the walk for me, because I was surrounded by more beautiful sights, smells, and people than I could have imagined. The market was packed, but in a way I enjoyed. People from all over the world were joined here in this market, enjoying the food and cultues of Spain. One minute you’re smelling fresh bread and pasteries, and the next you are overwhelmed by the smell of the sea.
The words of Slimbach “Walking is a great teacher” could not be truer. I found myself learning to be more comfortable with being lost, while also learning to appreciate the wide variety of sights and smells around me. I learned my capacity for traveling alone without guidance. Navigating the metro without a map as well as walking aimlessly would have terrified me three weeks ago, but do not phase me at all now. I think this teacher concept is interesting because when I visualized it, I saw someone else guiding me around and forcing me to enjoy my surroundings. Now I realize that this teacher is all internal. We are our own teachers; it just takes something like getting lost to pull it out of us. I hope that my time in Barcelona allows me to learn more about myself than I ever knew before.
The travelogue I chose is A Million Steps by Kurt Koontz. This travelogue
is a first hand perspective of his 490-mile walking trip along the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain. Throughout his journey he learns a great deal about Spanish history as well as himself. Kurt is on the road to recovery from alcohol addiction as well as a crumbling 4 year romantic relationship. The travelogue is full of beautiful descriptions of small towns and cities throughout northern Spain such as Burgos and Leon. At each of his stops, Koontz talks about different aspects of natural beauty to create a full description of his experience. In Meseta, he describes the sunflowers that seem to dance in the wind. While crossing the Pyrenees he speaks of the vast beauty of the mountains as well as the vultures flying overhead. While describing these beautiful sights and sounds of his trip, he also describes the internal conflicts he is experiencing when it comes to his past alcohol addiction as well as his crumbling relationship with his girlfriend Roberta. He finds solace in the other travelers (communitas) who have faced similar experiences, and finds himself growing stronger as his journey progresses.
I am so glad that I chose this travelogue because I have felt so many of the same emotions that Koontz describes throughout his journey. Although I am solely navigating Barcelona and not all of Northern Spain, the journey to find strength in oneself is still prevalent. I really enjoyed his description of his relationship because I feel as though I can relate to it when it comes to friends back home. Throughout my short time here I have realized what relationships back home are worthwhile. Like Koontz, I have formed strong relationships with communitas, which has helped me to appreciate my experiences here even more.
The picture I have chosen to represent this week is from La Boqueria, the fresh market I walked to on Tuesday. It represents the abundance of opportunity here in Barcelona. I can’t wait to see what sights, sounds and smells I stumble upon next. As Koontz states, “There is no way to be happy yesterday or tomorrow. The only time to be happy is now (Koontz, 129).”
Koontz, Kurt. A million steps. United States: Kurt Koontz, 2013. Print.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. Print.