It was a Tuesday in May 2019. I was “working from home” which is really a code phrase for doing some work but mostly relaxing and having a day for myself. As I laid in bed and scrolled through Instagram, I noticed, that day in particular, many of my friends were off traveling and exploring the world. I thought to myself “I haven’t been out of the country since last year, and I have the time and resources to go somewhere if I really wanted to”. I immediately went to Skyscanner (best app for finding cheap flights to anywhere in the world) and browsed a few options. I saw “SFO to Barcelona for $350 roundtrip” and was completely stunned. With almost no hesitation, I booked the flight. I hadn’t discussed it with anyone (friends or family), and had not checked in with my colleagues at work. It was the most spontaneous thing I have ever done. The trip was in August so I had about two and a half months to get everything else figured out. When I told my managers about my upcoming trip, they were thrilled for me and very encouraging. My friends were excited for me. I was excited for me! This was my first solo trip and I wanted it to be special. In the months leading up to August, I looked into hostels and flights throughout Europe, and wardrobe shopping. I am a planner at heart, so the prep work to get ready for the trip went smoothly. Reality finally set in when I landed in Barcelona on August 20th. At that very moment, I realized I didn’t know anyone there, and I barely knew any Spanish. To be completely honest, I had a mini panic attack and thought to myself, “Can I do this? Will I be ok??” When I got to my first hostel in Barcelona, the front desk staff were very nice, and reassured me that I was going to have an amazing trip. They were correct! I spent 5 days in Spain and 3 days in Portugal. Each day that went by, I met friends along the way. Barcelona brought me a little piece of home with Julia and Callie (who are originally from Huntington Beach, California). Ibiza put my undeniable faith in strangers Mack and Phillip (who guided me through a wild night out). Madrid strengthened my friendship with Ruben (he is a coworker who I have become amazing friends with and he is originally from Madrid), bonded me with my spirit kween Cat (as we danced the night away in the most famous club in Madrid, 7-story Kapital), and allowed me to explore with a fellow solo-trip goer, Ayohenia, and had an impromptu dinner with before I parted ways with Spain. Lisbon encouraged me to be bold and free-spirited with Christy and Holly, as we took on bar crawls and the hostel experience.
The food was incredible in both Spain and Portugal. The vendors and restaurant staff were very welcoming and each of them were interested in hearing my story and what brought me to this trip. I am now a big fan of tapas, sangria, churros, and paella. Rosi La Loca was my absolute favorite restaurant! I had Prawn tacos, spicy potatoes with aioli, lasagna, house sangria. In Portugal, Portugal in a Pot was my favorite dish: stewed fish, shrimp, bisque, cilantro, rice. I had wine or sangria every meal because wine-not?? It’s 3-4 euros by the glass (sometimes cheaper than water!). Compared to SF prices, this sounded like a pretty sweet deal to me!
There are moments of the trip that I still to this day can close my eyes and perfectly reminisce on how beautiful the moment was for me:
- Swimming in mediterreanean sea while in Ibiza
- Gazing upon the sunset overlooking all of Lisbon and listening to the live music in the City Center
- My first motorcycle ride through the streets of Madrid
My insecurities were on full display. I have always had a fear of being in a crowded restaurant, sitting by myself while I attempt to enjoy a meal. The root of my worries stem from feeling like an outsider; feeling like I don’t belong, or that I was not good enough to have company surrounding me. I swallowed my fear as I sat at a table for one, ordered my first meal, waited in silence as I observed my surroundings, and people-watched. At first it felt very uncomfortable, but once I settled into my surroundings, I regained a sense of purpose. My confidence sprouted. Throughout each day and each meal, I would quickly find myself in enriching conversations with my table mates, waiters, and the restaurant owners. They all saw something in me that I was trying to search for in myself; the desire for adventure and the strength to dive into new experiences. As each day of the trip went by, I empowered myself through trying things that are completely out of my norm. I am a very type A personality and like structure and set plans. Traveling to a foreign country solo taught me that a set plan is not going to see itself through exactly how it was originally planned. I learned how to be flexible in many situations, but also give myself the liberty and autonomy to go off the straight path. Most mornings I woke up with only 1-2 items I absolutely wanted to see and do, but when I did them and the path I took to get to them were completely impromptu. I know that if I tried to plan out every second of this trip, I would not have met the amazing people I did nor immersed myself in all the unique and cherished experiences that I still reminisce about to this day. I learned that even though I was traveling solo, I was never alone. I had a team of people rooting for me to live my best life from back home, and I had many strangers turned friends to uplift me along the way. I learned to let go of control and let my experiences take me on the best journey of my life.
Watch the full compilation of my trip on Youtube!