September 24, 2012

I am now at the halfway point in my trip!

Traveling no longer feels novel or unusual. It is still exciting and eye-opening, but I now feel that movement is normal and this this is my whole life. This often happens to me a couple of weeks after a change ó the change itself becomes all-encompassing, and I almost canít even imagine life before or after. After another month of travel, I know that it will feel good to be back in Portland with my house and my roommates, my friends, theatre, the dogs, but I am still content living this current version of life.

This trip has also served the purpose of refocusing my energy. Over the past couple of years, I have often found myself dwelling on what I don't have. For whatever reason (and Iím not sure that there even is a reason), life decided to put certain plans on hold for me, and so now I am trying to make the most of this time and to take advantage of its opportunities. Itís hard sometimes when so many of my friends are on the path I was once on, but this trip is helping me remember how many other things in life are important. I still hold that LOVE is the most important thing of all, but there are so many different kinds of love ó love of place, of story, of independence, of self, of discovery, of adventure, of experienceÖ Iím not saying Iím there yet ó why is it so alluring to focus on absence over presence? ó but Iím working on it bit by bit (and, currently, country by country)Ö

When I opened the Barcelona tour guide yesterday, I got that excited and anxious feeling ó excited because Barcelona seems like such a great place, and anxious because I have this odd need to see it all at once, in an instant, not missing anything, and I need to have started before this moment (hello, type-A). With hindsight, itís a good thing that Iíve allotted ten days in each city ó though itís certainly not enough time to see everything, itís enough time to do most of the things I want to do, and to get a good feel for the place.

When I arrived here today, I had the same disoriented feeling of cognitive dissonance. Plane travel often does that to me. (I had originally thought I would be taking more trains on this trip, but this option wound up being far more expensive that hopping from city to city by air.) Emerging from the airport shuttle and into the PlaÁa de Catalunya was also visually overwhelming ó I broke my (cheap) sunglasses yesterday, and so the blinding light left me feeling confused and disconnected (and hot). Eventually, however, I found my way to the Metro and then to the hostel. (Apparently, Barcelona is a very difficult city to Couchsurf, so I had to get a bed in a hostel for my first three nights here ó at $12 a night, though, I can swing it.)

I spent a few minutes gathering my wits at the hostel and then went off to explore the Grŗcia. This part of Barcelona used to be its own town, but Barcelona subsumed it in 1847. It apparently still retains its unique feel, though, with its narrow gridded streets and small market squares. Itís now inhabited by lots of young families and lots of hipsters. I walked until I was thoroughly lost and the muscles in my legs were buzzing and then eventually found my way to La Pedrera, one of GaudŪís hallmark Moderista structures.

So, at the turn of the 19th century, Barcelona was doing quite well for itself. The Industrial Revolution brought in lots of money for civic development, and freed up room for artistic and social advances. Onto the scene come a few wildly talented young architects ó Antoni GaudŪ first among them ó who completely flaunted the architectural standards of the day, incorporating curves, crafts, whimsy, nature, and functionality into their designs.

To be honest, I had never heard of GaudŪ until today (well, the name sounded familiar, but I couldnít have told you who he was), but after touring one of his masterpieces and then walking through the exhibits on his life and work, Iím kind of in love. And itís that new, exciting crush-love. Seriously, guys, if you arenít familiar with his stuff, Google that shit.

When I have a quazillion dollars, I am going to design a house incorporating many elements of GaudŪís works. For now, however, I might just need to settle on visiting as many of his buildings as possible, and then, I dunno, getting an awesome coffee table book back in Portland.

I went to a Grŗcia Couchsurfing meet-up tonight in a cool bar with lots of books, high ceilings, and great lighting. Ordinarily, meeting a bunch of new people all at once is a little intimidating for me, but everyone there (some thirty of them) was so nice and so open and so friendly. I wound up staying for about three hours, having great conversations with lots of people who live in Barcelona, as well as people from Northern Ireland, Poland, the Netherlands, Italy, and a couple people from the States. And it wasnít a letís-get-crazy-drunk-and-then-have-sex crowd like Iíve seen in a couple of the hostels ó it was just a bunch of great people hanging out and swapping travel stories. Iím in a hostel for three nights, and then I have a host set for the following three nights, but Iím still looking for a couch for the remaining four nights I am hereÖ Iím crossing my fingers that one of the Barcelonans I met tonight might have availability.

Also, humble brag: I totally had a three-hour bilingual conversation tonight. The chitchat all alternated between English and Spanish, and I didnít have much trouble keeping up, both in comprehension and in speaking. A couple of the Spanish people also told me that my accent was quite good. /brag

Iím now back at the hostel, writing away on my top bunk. This hostel is pretty chill. Itís certainly nothing like the swank hotel in Lisbon (I am currently sharing a very small room with nine other people), but as long as I have a bed and a locker, itís all good. As long as nobody snores. At least before I fall asleep.