One year ago, I descended from a small airplane onto blazing tarmac at the Victoria Falls Airport in Zimbabwe. After months of waiting, finally, I was getting the fix I had been itching for.
Travel, my enslaving drug, absorbed straight out of the dry African air and rising heat waves, permeated every pore, releasing powerful hits of euphoria directly into my bloodstream.
For 10 days, I savored the high. It spiked with every exotic vista, every elephant and hippo sighting, every pulse-pounding zip line, every boat-tossing sea wave, and every fascinating person I encountered. One of those fascinating people informed me point blank with solid matter-of-factness that if I wanted to travel the world, I should just do it.
Then the dreamy euphoria was gone. Cold turkey.
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One month ago, I exited the Barcelona Airport into chilly early morning rays, jet-lagged and squinting. The drug-like elation I’d been expecting, for some reason, wasn’t flowing. In my small hostel room, I felt like the wallflower at a high school dance—Spain was all around me, vibrant and alive, having a great time dancing to the beats of life, while I sat alone on the sidelines thinking maybe I shouldn’t have come.
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My post-Africa trip withdrawal was the worst it had ever been. I began feeling anxious. A jittery pit lodged itself in my stomach for months, refusing to ease up.
But WHY was I constantly on edge? Why wouldn’t my heartbeats settle? I couldn’t put my finger on the cause. Finally, not knowing how to make it stop, I met with a psychologist who prescribed anti-anxiety pills. They offered some relief.
I immediately began planning my next trip. It was nearly a year away, but might as well have been a hundred years away. And the 10 days I could spend discovering another mind-oblitterating part of the world might as well have been a single hour. I was happy and excited at the thought of my next adventure…and simultaneously already defeated.
The familiar travel itch was itching just below the surface, and I was helpless to feed the craving. But then…the epiphany…
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Spain, I’ve now learned after a full month of exhilarating travel, is a country with very little time for those who choose to cling to their anxieties, or hide away in the safe obscurity of shadowed corners. Here, my only viable option was to haul myself up and join the dance—vivir la vida loca, no matter how much my inner wallflower protested.
I was forced to push myself out into the glittering Spanish sunlight, take deep, intoxicating breaths of the beauty that surrounded me every single day, let the adventure percolate through every artery—and just GO.
The high, my passion for travel, has returned more fiercely than ever as I’ve explored city after remarkable, history-saturated Spanish city.
I’ve walked miles upon miles upon miles through gorgeous twisting cobble stoned streets, infinitely more than I have ever walked before. I’ve become accustomed to drifting to sleep while electric twinges flicker up and down my calves, ankles and Achilles, and my feet throb dully. I’m almost a touch proud of the thick calluses forming on my foot soles, my wimpy version of a soldier’s tattoo. It will be interesting to see how my feet continue to transform throughout my journey (I hope they hold up).
Each place I’ve stayed (somewhere between one night and four nights) has a character all its own. Charming, clean, light-filled hostels. Musty, dark, creaky hostels. Comfy modern hotels that feel like my own personal piece of Eden. Old run-down hotels with lights that don’t quite illuminate, faucets that don’t quite produce water, and toilets that don’t quite flush.
I don’t need as many THINGS as I thought I would. Little by little, my obscenely burdensome pack has slimmed down as I’ve recognized the foolishness of wedge-heeled sandals on uneven cobble stones; the unnecessary weight of multiple long-sleeved shirts, extra socks, and 11 pairs of underwear; the silliness of specialized make-up brushes and more than one color of eye shadow. And the TWO cameras and TWO tripods I packed now induce a hearty laugh-cringe.
I’ve learned that hot water is a celebration-worthy luxury, even if it only lasts for a few fleeting minutes. Hostel dorm rooms are not as horrible as I thought they’d be, though it largely depends on the natural nocturnal volumes of its occupants. Hotel common areas and free city walking tours are the #1 best places to meet new friends (an art form which I am slowly but surely picking up).
I’m not as lonely as I started out, or as I was worried I’d be. I’m perfectly satisfied with my own company, and also happy when I travel with old friends, or make new friends. This is a fantastic realization, since much of my time is spent solo—and for now, at least, I’m ok with that.
Contentedness on the solo scale is helped along by my computer, with access to my friends back home via email and Facebook, of course, and my favorite travel blogs. My eReader topped up with books of amazing travel writing. My iPhone, which, even when it’s not functioning properly as a communication device (that would be 99.9% of the time), it still works as another eReader, handy for stag meals in restaurants.
This one in Madrid, for example:
Spain overflows with dizzying quantities of awe-inducing spectacles. I’ve explored magical caves and vivid beaches, dashed madly through some of the oldest cities in Europe, and chased after Spain’s breathtaking Flamenco dancing through charming Andalusia. I feel as though I’ve been gifted a Pandora’s box, but one filled with only good and beautiful experiences.
During my month-long sojourn from northeastern Barcelona and Majorca to the southern trifecta cities of Seville, Cordoba and Granada; to Madrid in the middle—I’ve begun feeling a surge of creativity, a miniature Renaissance de Kirsten. My neglected zeal for photography is flooding through me again, a replenished desert stream. My passion for writing—tamped down for so many years by the creative exhaustion and pressures of writing nothing but deadline-driven marketing copy for eight hours per day, five days per week—is flourishing again with a splendid vengeance.
But, now I must say adios to amazing Spain, the country that’s given me back my intense, addicting love of the road and every extraordinary, thrilling, challenging, new and sublimely different experience that comes with travel. I can’t wait to see what spectacular sights lie just around the corner…
…and it’s funny, I realized the other day that I have completely forgotten to take my anxiety pills in weeks. I no longer need them. The relentless internal jitters have relaxed, and my heart now thumps at just the rate it should, growing steadier with every step.
Month two adventures coming soon… Portugal and Morocco!
Explore my complete Spain photo galleries HERE — if any strike your fancy, they can be purchased in the form of prints, mugs, refrigerator magnets and more, for a pretty decent price. Any purchase of my work goes to help fund my global adventure, and I am very grateful for the support! 🙂
Categories: My Wanderings: Month-in-Reviews