I have been traveling through Spain for a little more than two weeks now. Longer than most vacations Americans take yet I realize about half as long as the typical month long European holiday. Many of my friends and family have asked, “how’s it going”, “what’s it like traveling alone”? I thought I’d give you the rundown on my wanderings, what has worked well, what I have enjoyed the most, where I may have made a not so great decision, and anything in between.
Starting out at the pace of staying three or four days in a location at a time, and not having each of those locations fully planned out ahead of time has been exhausting. I wasn’t exactly fully rested and thinking with all my capacities when I left Denver on July 19th. I had been frantically packing, moving, transitioning my work duties, saying goodbyes to loved ones and honestly I was emotionally and physically wiped out. This was brutally obvious as I arrived in Madrid, but I recognized it and made a vow to listen to my body and allow for those moments of rest and rejuvenation to take place. It would have been much better to pick one location and stay for about 10 days to unwind, slowly acclimate to my new world and to gain the strength and courage to face this journey. But I didn’t do that and here I sit in Alicante, my fifth location since arriving in Spain 16 days ago. I woke this morning to a beautiful view overlooking the ocean and the peacefulness of the city was the perfect backdrop for my morning meditation and reflection on the patio outside my bedroom.
All my accommodations, with the exception of Ibiza have been absolutely perfect. I stayed at a hotel in Madrid that had a metro stop right outside, and was walking distance to beautiful parks and museums, great tapas bars and shopping areas. My Airbnb’s in Seville, Málaga and now Alicante have been nothing short of 5-star! If you are interested in getting the links to any of the places I’ve stayed please reach out. Airbnb uses a term called Superhost to identify hosts that have superb ratings and really go above and beyond. Each place I’ve stayed thus far has been a superhost and they have lived up to that rating.
And now to Ibiza, great idea bad execution is the only way I can describe this experience. I was sitting in Seville and was getting a little nervous that I didn’t have my stop after Málaga planned. Looking at a map of Spain, I had originally planned on getting to the coast in Málaga and making my way north. As I looked at different destinations, I became very curious about the Balearic Islands which include Mallorca, Menorca, Formentera and Ibiza. I was craving some rejuvenation that comes from laying in the sun, preferably at a pool with the sound of the ocean nearby (not too picky, right). I really wanted to visit Mallorca or Menorca but couldn’t find any available accommodations and the flights from Málaga were extremely expensive. Maybe it was sleep deprivation, heat exhaustion or too much sangria in Seville, but I booked a flight, four nights hotel (that had a pool) and left bright and early on Monday, July 30th and landed at Ibiza airport at 8:30 in the morning.
I hadn’t done any research about the island and I figured that even though it IS the biggest party island in the world, there had to be some other redeeming qualities like beautiful beaches, great restaurants, you get the picture. And I do love electronic music, so who knows maybe I would visit one of those iconic Ibiza nightclubs and dance off a little steam. After a 30 minute cab ride to the opposite side of the island from the airport, the cab driver started winding through tiny streets lined with rundown buildings and dropped me off at the hotel. As I walked inside, the lobby was filled with twenty somethings all with British accents loudly rehashing their events of the evening before that I think had just ended a few hours before that moment. I made my way to my room and the halls reminded me of a college dorm, although much cleaner, thankfully. As I plopped down on the bed, I thought I was going to burst into tears, but instead I just laughed. I had picked this part of the journey, I was here for the next four days and wasn’t about to let everything I was seeing around me get me down.
I quickly learned that while Ibiza is a relatively small island, it’s very isolated and each area is vastly different. I had selected a hotel in West Ibiza, the old town area is in the southern part of the island, the east side has a hippy feel to it and there didn’t seem to be much in the northern part of the island. Without a car, travel throughout the island is quite difficult. Unless you are staying at a four star resort, the happenings in Ibiza all center around the huge nightclubs or outings on the water. There’s a bus called the Discobus that departs the bus station at midnight and on the half hour after that, to take people to clubs. Some of these clubs hold 10,000 people and cost 60€ to 75€ to get into. All the big name DJs have shows in Ibiza and I imagine their sets would likely start at 3:00 or 4:00 AM. Instead of jumping into that insanity, I sought out the limited bus service and traveled to some of the best beaches, explored the old town and enjoyed the breathtaking sunsets available only on the west side of the island, just a short walk from my hotel. Good food was a struggle to find since most visitors in this area weren’t as concerned about quality as they were price. But the people watching was worth having to buy a bottle of Cava and eat a 16€ Caesar salad my first evening to watch the sunset at Cafe del Mar. My learnings from Ibiza are that I’m never going to go somewhere because I think it would be cool to say I’ve been there. I’m a planner and planning has served me well in life and while there may be some places where you can wing it and all is good, I recognize that other places may require a bit of investigation to be assured of a memorable experience, positive memories that is.
Traveling alone definitely has benefits and challenges. If I want to spend the hottest part of the day in my air conditioned room, cozy in bed reading a book – so be it. Exploring cities and seeing sights alone has been comforting too because you go at your own pace and see exactly what you want to see. At times, eating has been both a struggle and a joy. In some locations, like the lively tapas bars in Madrid, the atmosphere was so electric that it called out to be enjoyed in the company of others. In other spots, sitting and people watching was better than any historic sight I could have visited. I’m carry a small journal with me everywhere I go and have been capturing moments that bring a smile to my face, or make me think about something I want to explore. One of my dinners in Málaga, I was eating at a little cafe oceanside called El Cabra. One of the waitresses saw a friend of hers passing by with her toddler in a stroller. Her face lit up as she rushed towards them, and as she bent down to kiss the little boy in the stroller who was directly facing me, his face emanated bliss. He grinned the cutest grin you have ever seen. It was pure joy as the woman approached him. It reminded me that children have the purest souls and they know who and what brings them comfort, joy and love. I would have never seen that interaction had I been engaged in conversation with someone or had my head buried in my phone. As I jotted down the thoughts of that interaction in my journal it opened my heart and my mind to being more aware of those moments where I was feeling joy.
So here I sit in quiet Alicante, planning my day which includes storming the Santa Barbara Castle followed by a evening event of Spanish wine and cheese tasting. We shall see what unfolds tomorrow.