Before I start, I have to caveat that this is going to be a super belated post about my first solo trip last year to Spain. I guess with the New Year imminently arriving, I'm finally getting around to writing about this trip before I can no longer say it was "last year". I've been wanting to write about this trip for some time, even though it was a while back at this point because as I reflect back on my year, I continue to think about the positive effects and learnings I gained from that trip and how it really has paid dividends ever since.
So last August (2016), after a particularly difficult break-up, I followed the typical break-up path -- I decided to embark on my first solo trip to Spain for 10 days. I had always wanted to go there and I didn't feel like I wanted to wait until my friends could take the time off work, or for the stars to align or whatever, I just wanted to get on a plane and go. Thus, I made a relatively last minute decision to go on my own. Since it was my first time traveling solo, and being a female, I wasn't too inclined on being too "risky" with my choice of destination -- so Spain was an easy choice. As I'm sure you can tell from my blog, I've done plenty of traveling, but a lot of it has been for business and not pleasure. This trip was also my first time ever staying in a hostel! However, being a young professional and not a girl fresh out of college, I wasn't too keen on going to a cheap hostel with a bunch of young-ins. So, in typical fashion I did plenty of research (www.hostelworld.com) and made sure to pick cute/hip hostels with nicer amenities and facilities, and high ratings for social activities and less of a college party scene.
Luckily both hostels I chose (Pars Tailors in Barcelona and La Banda in Sevilla) were incredible and I had experiences that exceeded my expectations in both. To be honest, the first day at my hostel in Barcelona, I felt really sad. It was the first day of my journey, I had just left a weekend of being with all of my girlfriends for a bachelorette party, and so when I arrived at Pars Tailors, I felt extra alone just due to the sheer change in context and surroundings. It also seemed to me that everyone at the hostel seemed to know each other already as they were very friendly with each other and hanging out. I felt like an outsider and awkward to be honest. I didn’t really know how things worked. I’m generally a social person and good at making friends, but for some reason it felt particularly intimidating at that moment. That feeling didn’t last for long though. That night the hostel had a planned “Tapas crawl”. The hostel hosts took us out to a popular tapas street in the city and we went place to place trying some tapas and grabbing some beers. It was super easy to make friends with everyone then and I found out most people had just met the night before, even though it seemed they had all known each other already. Just comes to show how easy it is to bond quickly with strangers when you’re traveling! That night and the next few nights I went out with my new buddies and other new people that arrived in the coming days. By the end of the 3rd day I felt extremely attached to some of the friends I had just met! At the train station before departing for Sevilla I even shed a tear as I said goodbye to one of them I had spent a particular amount of time with.
In Sevilla, I stayed at La Banda hostel, which was really such a special place. It's a really cozy and cute hostel, that has an amazing rooftop with a view of the Cathedral. They also cook up a nightly family style dinner that is super cheap and delicious! For a foodie like me, I was kind of reluctant to "waste" a meal by not trying a restaurant in Sevilla for dinner instead, but I would highly recommend doing the family style dinner! It's just such a nice experience to sit down at a communal table with everyone at the hostel, and the food is really good. It's a great time to get to know the staff as well before going out with everyone to bars later in the night. Shoutout to Karla and Leila who work there and were so sweet and friendly to me -- meeting them totally made my trip to Sevilla :).
I absolutely adored Sevilla. It's a small town that is really the storybook Spain you're hoping for, with horse-drawn carriages, and beautiful Moorish architecture. The streets are small and easy to get lost in, in the best way. I went during the hottest season to go there, and it was seriously SO HOT. But I still had an amazing time and would go back in a heartbeat. Definitely check out a flamenco show and eat some Jamon Iberico (THEE BEST) with a glass of Cava as well. I love small towns with an older feel, and there was just something so authentic about Sevilla -- completely charming and full of passion.
The last stop of my trip was Ibiza. It was absolutely magical. Contrary to what one might think, it IS possible to have an awesome time in Ibiza and not party at their insane clubs. I actually didn't go to a single party there (crazy I know). I really had actually intended to go to Ibiza as the last leg of my trip to just chill out on the beach and check out Formentera island. However, I was lucky enough to meet an amazing local who took me around to all the best beaches, scenic local spots, and eateries in town. It is definitely a place to go to just unwind, take in some unreal sunsets, and eat/drink your heart out. It was probably my favorite leg of the trip and totally completed my "Eat.Pray.Love" experience. I would highly recommend spending a day at the beach at Sunset Ashram (I literally gasped as we approached the water), strolling around the castle "Dalt Vila" (which has the cutest little streets, restaurants, and boutiques), getting yourself a bocadillo (best sandwiches ever) at Can Gourmet, and spend a day on Formentera island. Formentera has the clearest, most calming baby blue waters I've ever seen. While I was on my trip in the other cities in Spain, and I would tell other travelers that I was going to Ibiza, every single person that had been had the same star-gazed, glowy look on their face when they reminisced about Ibiza. After going there, I know exactly the feeling. It is just magical -- go! And do more than just party, it has so much to offer!
Ok, it's almost time to conclude this and post a collection of my photos from this trip. I guess my final takeaway is that if you're at all debating a solo trip (especially you ladies reading this out there), I definitely encourage you to go. I honestly think every person should do this at least once in their life. As someone that loves planning trips and showing my friends/family the best time, I found it incredibly refreshing and empowering to be able to do exactly what I wanted. If I wanted to sleep in late after a night out until the break of dawn, I did that and I didn't have to worry about anyone else wanting to do something else. If I didn't feel like staying at certain bars, or visiting certain touristy spots, I felt no obligation to go with the people I had just met. I did exactly what I wanted, at my own pace, every step of the way. I really learned to trust my instincts and trust my decisions. These feelings and lessons have really carried through in all aspects of my life ever since. I came back from Spain with such a renewed sense of confidence and am so thankful for each person I met along my journey. I felt so much love, kindness, and connection with so many of the locals and fellow travelers. Above all, I learned that your life can look completely different in such a short amount of time. It's up to you to choose your path, and for those 10 days in Spain I felt like I was living in a different universe, far away from everything back home and I felt a real sense of the many possibilities and stories my life could have.
Like Leo told me about the blessings and positivity I received, "You have to smile at a stranger first, for them to smile back. Maybe it's the same with the world, you smiled at the world first and it smiled back at you." Just thinking about this trip makes my heart feel so full again. Cheers to more of this in 2018!