This year I went on my first solo trip to Barcelona, Spain… and it was life changing.
None of my family members could believe that I was going to commit to a 4 day trip to a country I’ve never been to before, though to be fair, it was a semi-spontaneous booking and I knew that I’d be staying at a hotel that was close to everything.
I’m a first generation (if you can even call me that) immigrant to the UK, who spent exactly half of my life being raised in Bulgaria, and the other half immigrating and going through the English education system in London. Travel had never been part of my life until I turned 18 and became financially independent. My first ever trip was to Toronto, Canada when I was 19 and prior to that I flew solo to the motherland. It’s safe to say I didn’t have much experience with planes and travelling abroad of any sort.
My family weren’t big travellers either; nobody ever embarked to anywhere outside of Europe let alone take a solo trip. So I thought to myself, that’s them and I’m going to do me. I will travel, go on this solo trip to Barcelona and prove to myself that I’m able to spend time by myself as well as get around all on my own without the help of anybody.
To set the pace, I took a coach from Kings Cross International to Stansted Airport and embarked on a 2:30 hr flight to Barcelona. As you can imagine, I was 2 hours early to the airport and even that was cutting it ‘too close’ according to my mother.
I can’t lie and say that I’m not a procrastinator by nature, so I went into the country pretty much plan-less. I vaguely went over “top 10 sights to visit in Barcelona” whilst at the airport but honestly, I knew my best bet was to freestyle it and that’s exactly what I did.
Once I boarded the plane, and the overhead operator announced that the plane will be taking off soon I had this almost out of body experience in the sense of “holy shit, I’m really in this b**ch and I’m about to do this”. There was no going back now.
As excited as I was, I couldn’t help but let my mind spiral to thoughts that weren’t so pleasant. Thoughts like: What if I get kidnapped? Is my Spanish as good as I think it is? What if I get lost and my battery dies? What happens if I’m out on the streets past 9pm and its dark? Are men just as scary abroad?
Despite having these thoughts I decided that this is something I have to do for myself and I knew that this would be the trip of a lifetime as corny as it sounds. I visited the beach, stopped by a cafe every morning, ate and drank my cafe con leche whilst remembering to say my “por favor” and “gracias” along the way. Manners are universal, don’t forget them at home.
What’s funny is that Barcelona oddly reminded me of back home. The trees, air and breeze felt all too familiar. If you’ve watched the movie Moonlight, that one beach scene where Kevin is describing the wind passing through the neighbourhood to Chiron, where it feels like everything just stops. Yeah *THAT* scene… is exactly what it felt like being there. Like everything just stops, and for once I was able to breathe. My thoughts slowed down, I saw the world clearly for the first time in forever.
In a way, spending my 22nd birthday on the 22nd day of the month felt almost symbolic. I’m sure the moon was full, and everything was just right.
The trip although brief, made me realise that I enjoy my own company (maybe a little too much). I’m able to spend time by myself, and really immerse myself in the Spanish culture. It reinforced the fact that I am capable of taking a leap no matter how scary and foreign to me and just going for it. Fear is only what you make of it, and my fear of travelling alone to a different country other than my own has been completely dismantled.
Needless to say, when I had to make my way back to London the feeling of sadness swallowed me whole. I didn’t want to come back to reality because I knew I’d have to wake up from this beautiful dream called Barcelona and get back to my day to day routine.
To summarise, Barcelona changed my life because I now feel invincible, unstoppable and more self assured than I’ve ever felt before. These are feelings that were foreign to me prior to travelling solo, and these feelings I will remember to cherish forever and keep close for all my future trips and endeavours.