Once upon a time, I had dreams of studying abroad in Spain. Or hiking the Camino del Santiago during a summer whilst in university. Alas neither of those things happened and I visited a whopping 70 other countries before ending up on the one I was crushing hardest on? Well, what happened was… I went to a college that had no formal study abroad agreements in place. I didn’t have the large sums of money saved up to be a tourist for an extended period of time. And while hiking the camino would not have cost a ton of money, it would have taken me away from the opportunity to MAKE money. And as a perpetually broke college student, I needed the money. Besides, I didn’t want to just have a casual fling with Spain, I wanted to MARRY Spain.
And so it was, like any proper crush, Spain and I flirted with each other for years. I had the opportunity here and there to spend a day or two, but I wanted more. If Spain and I were going to meet, I wanted it to be more than a one night stand. And so we never met. Oh, we got close. That one time I was in southern France comes to mind, but it was never meant to be.
And so I passed through 70 other countries on 5 continents before I made it to my beloved España. How was that even possible? And 20 or so years ago, my Castellano was pretty dang good. So good in fact that every other Spanish-speaking country I visited, assumed I was, in fact, a Spaniard . But time passed and Spain and I were never quite ever able to make it work. My once fluent Spanish faded to a slightly better than most people I know.
I chose to visit North East Spain for my first visit — not an area most choose. Who knows why. I still want to visit the south and the west and even the northwest…the areas that don’t necessarily get all the love. Sure I’m passing through Barcelona and Madrid, but I’m also showing some love to Zaragoza and Logroño too.
I, perhaps naively, thought my Spanish would rush right back and I’d have no problems communicating. Perhaps has I chose to visit any other part of the country, I wouldn’t be struggling like I am. But here, in the northeast, Catalan is the preferred dialect. With its love of the letter X, it sounds familiar yet not. And in the almost 4 years since I’ve been to Europe, things have changed. Cards are accepted nearly every where. Cash machines are slightly harder to find and you really only need that in smaller towns and on public transportation.
So like everything lately, my re-integration into the traveling lifestyle has been a bit of a struggle. But it just like learning to walk again instead of being expected to sprint out of the starting gates without issue. I’m hardest on myself. Why should I expect myself toto be fluent in a language I haven’t spoken with any regularity since 2011. Why should I “just know” how things are in a place I’ve never been. And while I haven’t figured out how to turn on the lights in my hotel room, I’ve managed to figure out the heating system. I’ve also procured food and drinks, navigated the local bus system, and acquired long distance train tickets. So there’s that.
Shout out to Kylie Minogue’s Can’t get you out of my head for supplying this post’s title.