Travel, fall in love, and never come back. How simple would life have been had reality been as uncomplicated as this axiom. However, after a journey which was, in reality, curtailed to just the first two fragments of the order, a part of you does stay behind in absolute denial to returning. And a hope lingers that someday, you would lose yourself, unabridged, somewhere in the mysteries of the world. Meeting new people, making unexpectedly profound bonds with complete strangers, getting fresher perspectives on several aspects of life, exploring the beauty and richness of the culture of a foreign land and simply being inspired by the entire of it was what my recent expedition to Europe, with two other mates from school, was all about.
As highly as I had come to think of the south-western region of the neighbouring continent after several years of watching and reading from afar, the experience with yourself actually inside all those stories sure did not disappoint. After a much touristy voyage into the heart of France which included pilgrimages to the delightful Eiffel Tower, the mind-boggling Louvre and the vivid colours of Paris along the Seine, the Iberian Peninsula came in as a fresh breath of air; engulfing one into its los limites as one of its own.
The moment I jumped on the bus towards the city from the Barcelona airport, an air full of warmth and exhilaration greeted me on my way to the youth hostel, which was to be my home for the next three days. Had it not been for these spaces of accommodation, the trip would not have been worth even half the mirth. Stepping inside my dorm introduced me to a Latvian (FCB fan) who shared with me a similar passion for football, which became the foundation of a bromance that I would cherish for all of my life. Although Barca lost to PSG the night that we met, the trip to Camp Nou on the very next day compensated for his displeasure at the defeat.
Another reason why the Catalan city intrigued me so much was the fact that I had read a book called The Shadows of the Wind while gearing myself up for the Ciudad Condal. Fortunately, the Itaca Hostel (strongly recommended if you’re visiting Barcelona) was a part of the free walking tours, one out of which mapped its route through the Gothic Circle. Walking past so many of the places that I had read about in Carlos Ruiz Zaffon’s modern classic, including the Ramblas, Plaza Reial, Cala Santa de Monica, the Columbus statue and the Marina, touched my soul like something beyond explanation in just words.
The next morning, my friend from Riga departed for the Baltic, leaving great memories behind. The solitude was short-lived as I soon discovered another interesting figure in my dorm that had arrived the previous evening and had had an adventurous last night to say the least. Glad to open his eyes in his own bed, he then joined me and my Indian friends on our way to the Barceloneta beach and with so much on his plate, the Mexican-Canadian set the mood for the rest of the day. As sorrowful as goodbyes had become, the next morning we bid adieu to our new friends and the place that had given us so much; from hysterical street artists to Gaudi’s designs, from the serene beaches to free entries in parties, from people in their 30s changing careers to the ones already doing what they love, from old friends to new.
Next morning, the sun rose for us in the capital city of Portugal. Still hungover by our amour for Barcelona, we radiated from Rua Augusta and learned about the stories of the city’s rise after the horrendous earthquake that had rocked it some centuries ago. Seeking a little peace by the closing of the evening, we climbed to the highest point of the city, Miradoros to watch the sun go down. Discussing the importance of language in understanding the culture of a place, there we accidentally struck a chord with a Brazilian philosophy student who shared similar opinions. With the understanding of as many as eight different languages, the teenager’s ideas inflicted a diverse sort of though-process as the sun disappeared behind the Tagus River.
From that point till hitting the bed, the streets around the Largo Camoes to the Bairro Alto loudly announced in my face that Lisbon could easily house the most happening scenes of nightlife in the west. Fortunately again, I met this Canadian girl during the night who probably changed the course of this trip for me. After laughing my guts out with her on the first night, I never expected it to be even better on the next.
But before that, let me tell you how a nearby town called Sintra, the summer residence of the monarchs in the 18th and 19th centuries, came in as a welcome break from the late nights throughout the week, earlier that day. With a sudden drop in temperatures from Lisbon and a coarse population, Sintra seemed like a place where you can just sit and listen to the silence. It was yet another pleasant accident when one of us Indians crashed into a Londoner. Upon having dinner with her, it came to the three of us that she was a set designer and had even worked for Coldplay’s Charlie Brown video. Blowing us over with her stories, she promised to send me tickets to Coldplay’s next concert soon which gave me a decent high for the next few hours, while on the train back to Lisbon.
I wanted to take in the eve of my departure from the last destination of this trip by spending some time with myself, until I met the girl from last night once again (and The Beatles started playing in the background all of a sudden). It was when I was with her that I learnt a surprising lot about myself; about certain choices that I have made in life and the ones that I can from here. It’s remarkable as to how this one person, enters yours life out of the blue, and triggers so much thought and emotion inside you.
Even upon flying back home, a massive part of me is still wandering somewhere on the streets of Barcelona or in Lisbon, hands in hands with the blonde damsel. Coming back to reality, I currently face perpelexingly difficult career choices. However my experiences and an influx of newfangled thoughts from the short escapade to Europe should help me get through and become a bigger, stronger person in the future.
As a great man once said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the very first step.” So, why not f*ckin’ take it!