Even when you're making a courageous step toward the unknown, it's natural to want a safety net. When we decided to go, it was hard to take the first steps without something known to hold on to, like the railing on a rickety bridge.
To be completely honest, I think this is why we chose to go to Spain first. Yes, it made total sense to begin at one side of the Mediterranean and work our way around to the other, and it's good to have a plan.
We also have dear friends who live an hour outside of Barcelona, and I think it was comforting to begin our open-ended adventure with some sort of familiarity.
Apparently, (though I thought I had and that was the point of the trip to begin with) I'd not really learned the lessons of those last two and a half years. The brave thing isn't just the step itself; it is a blind faith that accompanies it. Just a few days before we were set to leave, there were terrorist attacks in Barcelona, on the same block where we'd planned to stay. There were travel advisories against the area. Something like that happens, and--selfishly, I know--you ask a million questions all over again. Trevor and I sat across from each other at the kitchen table while we called the airlines and Airbnb and read the news and tried to figure out what was the best choice for our family.
Sometimes, you look challenges in the face and say, "I will not be deterred!" Sometimes, you reevaluate and reroute. And you know what? Either one can be fine, at any point, for anybody. People are different. Our motivations and purposes and levels of comfort are all different. If you had planned to fly to Spain and then someone crashed a car into your hotel and you decided not to go, I'd say, "Totally understandable." For us--and maybe it was the courage we'd collected along the way--we said, "We will not be deterred!" We flew to Barcelona anyway, with no real plan.
The thing is, this was the golden move. This was the choice that set the tone for everything else. We believed in the dream we'd mapped out for ourselves and decided that obstacles weren't roadblocks or warning signs; they were just opportunities to stumble into some other sort of adventure. With a few days to kill between our arrival in Barcelona and when our friends could meet us, we booked a last minute stay in a charming Catalonian village called Igualada. And this is where the richness of what our travels would be began to unfold. I'm not saying that it's wrong to be careful; but I do have to emphasize this: For the last four years, all of our best adventures were birthed from a very scary place.
We'd unknowingly booked our stay over the Festival of St. Bartholomew, the patron saint of Igualada, and what we thought would just be a brief stopover became an intense immersion into culture and tradition. We watched parades of giants and dancers and fireworks that would absolutely be illegal in the States. We tried orxata and tomato toast and gourmet creations from a surprise Michelin Star restaurant down the street from our Airbnb. We stumbled through those first days of jet-lag, gratefully learning the rhythm of siesta. We humbly learned the differences between Spanish and Catalan, doing our best to order the local wine and cheese and olives through a patchwork configuration of language and hand gestures.
To trust the adventure--that's what I think about when I think about our time in Spain. Thank goodness, because, full disclosure: the first few weeks of our time abroad were hard for me. We were exhausted and culture shocked and a little unsteady in what it was, exactly, that we were doing. But Igualada was sort of like the adventure within the adventure, the lesson within the lesson: It's not going to look like you imagined, but it's going to be really, really good.
From there, Gabri and Marta scooped us up and toured us around all the beauty of Catalonia. We visited their hometown of Capellades; climbed to the monestary on Mount Serrat; sampled traditional cuisine in Fussimanya; splashed in the sea in Cadeqúes; and explored the medieval village of Rupit at dusk. At night, we'd tuck the girls in, and we'd gather around tables with Gabri's family and friends, glasses never emptied of red wine and cigarette smoke swirling up under dim lights, conversing into the furthest hours of where the morning is still called "night".
When it was time for the trip to begin, it certainly felt like the rug was pulled from beneath us. But then, the lesson of Spain was to trust that the way would be made clear; and once we did, we found exactly what we'd wanted as a safety net: familiarity.
A place doesn't have to look like your home to feel like one. By the time we left Spain, we were at home on the road again, ready for anything awaiting ahead.