Growing up, I was lucky to have my parents take me on trips constantly, going around Romania, exploring the country side, hiking mountains and relaxing at the seaside. Later on, when it became easier for Romanians to go abroad, my family took some short trips to popular destinations at the time, such as Turkey and Greece. The tradition continued through my university years, but this time I chose the company of friends and friends-of-friends.
It was in February 2010 that I decided to take my traveling to the next level, put on my big backpack and go on a solo Spanish adventure. I’d stay in Spain for as long as the money would last me. I had taken a gap year while studying for my masters, so I had no deadline, that’s why I didn’t even buy a plane ticket back home. It was the first time I went on a trip with an open return date.
A Spanish Adventure
I started my trip in Madrid. I did not spend much time there, as I was mainly interested in the Prado art museum. I basically spent an entire day inside the museum, it impressed me so immensely. I probably spent about an hour just in front of Velazquez’s “Las Meninas”, going back and forth a couple of times. After I finally forced myself to leave the museum, I went straight to the coach station and embarked on a bus going to Seville.
The Andalusia region was one of the main reasons I had chosen Spain as my destination for this trip. I spent between 2 to 3 weeks in Seville and Granada and I was not one bit disappointed. Moorish style architecture, flamenco, tapas with your beer, UNESCO sites all around, amazing cuisine, what else could you ask for? There were orange trees all around, impeccably dressed Spanish women walking proud on their high heals, you could hear the many tourists talking in all languages of the world, everybody was snapping photos. All in all, there was a vibrant and cheerful atmosphere, locals and world travellers coming together to enjoy this magical place.
It was in Seville that I stayed in a hostel for the first time. The international atmosphere, the great people I met there and the affordable accommodations that hostels offer budget travellers, along with the magnificent charm of the Andalusian area appealed to me so much that I ended up returning to the beautiful city of Seville just a couple of months later, taking a job in one of the many youth albergues in town.
Leaving Spain and the Conclusion of the Trip
My first open-ended trip finally came to an end in Barcelona.
Like many other tourists in this city, I had the misfortune of getting robbed and having some of my money, my ID card and my phone stolen. This incident, along with the tension I felt in the city (much different to the calm and relaxing atmosphere I had gotten used to in the southern part of Spain), drove me back home one week later.
Despite ending the trip on a low note, this escape marked me profoundly for the long run.
Knowing now what travel really felt like, all I wanted was to do is see more and more. Solo travelling did not scare me either. I discovered that it can be much easier to create connections with other travellers when you are going solo, avoiding the temptation to stick to group activities and communicating only with people in your own company.
This Spanish adventure ended up being the start of many trips I took from that point on and it made me come to one of my biggest realizations to date: that people are people everywhere you go and an open attitude will take you a long way.
Iulia Iuga is the author of The Pink Moustache, a collection of sophisticated travel stories. A perpetual expat and wanderer, Iulia is now temporarily back in Romania, her home country, where she is spending her last months on the old continent, preparing for her biggest adventure to date: backpacking all the way to China, where she is to spend the next couple of years. Contact Iulia on Twitter: @moustache_pink