Traveling is a truly humbling experience. Whether it’s a road trip to a neighboring state or an international adventure, the process of packing-leaving-wandering is exhaustive in the most satisfying way. My adventures in Spain have helped remind me of my most basic needs. Between the early morning flights, long train rides, and hours of walking I’ve regretted not refilling my water bottle or taking a bathroom breaking before boarding. Sometimes I accidentally end up not eating for 18 hours as I frantically rush through cities and I become a hungry beast. But as horrible as all of this sounds, sometimes it’s worth it. Between swimming in the Mediterranean Sea for the first time, hiking the jagged sides of the Montserrat Mountains, or peacefully strolling through the Cathedral-Mosque of Córdoba that once hold 25000 worshippers, I can’t be anything but awe-struck and inspired.
So yes, all the physically exhausting aspects of traveling under a tight schedule and a low budget are overwhelmingly tiring the experiences are more than worthwhile. But after a few days of lumpy beds and no sleep, you start to realize how human you are. We are fragile and tender bodies that need to be well maintained. I’m lucky enough that I’ll be exploring over 12 cities in 5 countries this semester but I think my experiences so far have taught me that studying abroad isn’t a vacation. It’s not just being elsewhere for four months because when you start to do that and you don’t eat or sleep well cause it’s “a once in a life time experience” then you start to miss out on a lot of experiences. It’s hard to go sightseeing when you’re too exhausted to think or it’s exhaustive to keep exploring a castle if you’re absolutely parched until you have a headache. Part of treating yourself and loving your travels is taking care of your fundamental needs.
One of my favorite quotes about traveling is by Bill Branson who once said, “To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” He hits the nail on the head when he talks about “so familiar it is taken for granted” –I’ve mentioned this in blog posts before that yes, Spain isn’t all that different from the US. We have many of the same luxuries but there are just the tiny cultural nuances and some fundamental culinary differences that you have to embrace with open arms. But when all of Maslow’s (see here) physiological needs are unsatisfied it’s hard to experience anything in an open, positive manner.
So my tidbit for advice for everyone abroad or just traveling is this: Remember to take care of yourself. Eat well, eat local, sleep enough, and always splurge on clean water. Don’t take your adventures for granted and try to breath in the local life and let it change you—traveling is a magical adventure and a great privilege, so never miss an experience just because you’ve trashed your body.
Sending peace and love from Madrid!