Touristy me #1- a visit to Barcelona

© Jenn Shallvey

© Jenn Shallvey

I am sharing here a bit of a travel post for a change. Not my normal blogging mode but what feels right. Plus I am travelling with my laptop and truly enjoying sitting in a cafe and writing in another country.

I am in Barcelona traveling. Today I wandered around the streets. If you were one who did not watch or read the news you would assume life is as always. People go about their work, tourists amble about with smartphones aiming for the perfect selfie. It feels like any other city. 

Then I notice more. I don’t know if it is me or perhaps just because I am so highly aware of events that have unfolded in the last week. I see frowns. Lots of frowns. On the bus I am on it is most pronounced. I am on a local bus, not a tourist one. There are locals getting on and off the bus.  My luggage and I share three seats so I do draw some attention.  Being out of place I smile at each person that wanders down the back to find no space. No smiles back. A slight raise of the lip perhaps.  This is followed by my enquiries of people around the plaza as I try to find my way to my hotel. Am I scary, strange or just too obviously a tourist?

Irrespective of the happenings here I was going to a country I dreamed of visiting when I used to learn Spanish in my school days. I set my sights on one day travelling to Spain. Here I am almost 40 years later finally do that.  I used to live in a place that effectively was bilingual - nearly 40% of the population spoke Spanish as well as English. Having permanently moved away from that place some 25 years ago I am a little rusty. 

Here I am in a ‘real’ Spanish place I wanted to be but tired, exhausted and lost. After 24 hours and a bus ride in the city I was now only 2 km from my hotel.  So perhaps it was the state that I was in before boarding the bus that scared people.

I checked into my hotel and settled. A nap, a shower and a clearing meditation. So much better.  Ready to venture out I decided to wander and explore. On foot, I visit the area within the kilometre radius of my hotel. A few shops catch my eye. In I go to check things out. When greeted out comes a garbled attempt at Spanish. Not even a chance of Catalan. In response are puzzled looks. A few more exchanges and I either get - oh I speak English or a smile and an attempt to try to communicate. It is a different exchange. 

So what is different? My energy. Yes I really felt different when I arrived. I was exhausted from flying for a day. Prior to departing the only focus in the news of my destination was the attack. It was front and centre of my awareness.  The contrast between my enthusiasm of travelling and this reality was challenging to balance.  

In my walk around later I was back to ‘being me’. By this I mean I was not distracted, emotionally all over the place. I was centred and grounded. I simply gave myself the space and time to do so. I could embrace the city in it’s wholeness, not just the stigma of the event. I became informed by the reality, the place and the people, not the news media.

Oh how I wished I was fluent. I feel it would take living here for that to happen. Perhaps something to add to the next phase of life (for known as empty nest stage).  It is amazing though how a simple smile can cut through all language barriers. This became my standard. The more I smiled and did not expect anything in return the more I actually got smiles back.  

Even more fun was the laughter at trying to understand me in Spanish. My highlights included visiting a small local bookstore and perusing the Spanish version of the self help section. Yes people are seeking mindfulness and inner strength here too.

I also enjoy observing people just going about their day. Living myself in a tourist city I know how it feels to just go about your day and have people observing. I might be at an iconic place at home that the tour bus just stopped at. Here I am across the world being the tourist and it is no different. Only I enjoy more being a bit off the ‘tourist’ path. 

Whatever I do while here I know I will only get a fractional glimpse of a whole culture, people and place. I would love more, yet appreciate this moment.