We are so stuck up in our own world; we have no time to pay attention to anything else or anyone else. We live our lives on autopilot. We read some newsfeed on Facebook and look at some pictures on Instagram that we forget in the next five minutes. We become oblivious to everything but us. I recently realized that I was the same. I was self-centered without wanting to be. I thought I gave a damn about the world but I didn’t. That changed, when I travelled to Spain and Portugal.
I am not going to preach about how great it is to travel. That even if I try is not going to communicate the message until you experience it, but I am going to share my experience about the knowledge that I received and how that broadened my horizons on issues that I would have cared less before.
The moment I arrived in Portugal, I was faced with an ardent task of carrying my 45 lbs. suitcase up the hill to my apartment that I was renting; mind you I am a 95 lbs. girl. It was a 10 minute walk which felt like an hour. That is when I realized that I am in a completely new country with a topography that I am not used to. I walked up that hill while stopping multiple times to catch a breath and when I finally reached, I saw a view that completely mesmerized me! I knew at that moment that I would not experience this anywhere else. While walking through the hilly streets of Porto, I experienced architecture that was completely different than the United States. It was more culturally driven with an attempt at modernization. The environment was cozy with people always smiling and drinking and always ready to help. Although the help stopped at the few Portuguese men who tried selling fake weed to me. Porto was my threshold to the new world.
Next was Lisbon, which was marvelous, more because of the people and the hostel that I was living in. The whole city was celebrating their Independence Day at the time I was there and the excitement in the people was making me excited. The streets would be filled with music and food and people would be out on the streets drinking at 3 am. Also there were an abundant amount of tourists. The first person I talked to was from the hostel I was staying in; he was this guy who was sitting on a long dining table with a bunch of people from different countries laughing about something that I had no idea about. I made my way to the table with a drink I do not remember the name of but that tasted really good. I sat down in an attempt to meet new people and really awkwardly introduced myself. He sheepishly laughed at my attempt and then I got more comfortable and reintroduced myself. He was from New Zealand. I had never met someone from New Zealand before and this was exciting for me. We started talking and he told me that he was on a holiday just before his new job started and I told him that I was on a study abroad trip, studying architecture. It was a long, really fun conversation and weirdly it touched the subject of cricket. He knew the cricket teams I was talking about and that made me really happy since not many people I usually talk to know about it. Throughout the 4 days I stayed there, I met a lot more people from different countries and I found out so much about those people that I will remember for a long time coming.
Spain was the next stop and in particularly the city of Granada. It is a small city with the main attraction being the Alhambra. Everything seems to be surrounded by the majestic presence of the castle, if not literally then symbolically. The streets are filled with shops that are named the Alhambra. There are influences from the Mediterranean region through food, spices, and sometimes even clothes since the Alhambra was built by Mediterranean people. I had expected to be blown away by the architecture of the palace, but I was left disappointed. One of the main reasons was due to all the tourists being there taking pictures which also increased a lot of security blockages. I wanted to observe some peace and sketch in the once magnificent castle but was very restricted. Although I did end up drawing some spaces when the security wasn’t looking and the tourist weren’t bothering. Overall Granada wasn’t one of my favorite cities but it did give me a lot of knowledge on the history of Spain and the influence of the Mediterranean on it.
The last city that I visited on my one-month travel was the famous Olympic city, Barcelona. The first feeling that I felt when I reached the city was that it felt a lot like New York City, and unlike any other places I recently visited from Portugal or Spain. The streets were crowded, lots of people selling things. Public transportation was abundant and the buildings were a mix of contemporary and historic but the modern element was really prevalent. I stayed there for 21 days and most of those 21 days I was functioning as a college student. I would go the university from 9 am till 7 pm. When I would get some free time I would explore the city. The city in general is very open with a lot of history to it. The residents are welcoming to the tourist and there are a lot of places and events based on them. Two things that I would take away from the city was the beach, and my project that I designed. The former is one of the reasons people come to the city for and I can totally understand why. The beach is marvelous even if it is man made. The latter is dearer to my heart since it is my design. When I was functioning as a college student, I designed an archaeological museum in the Gothic district of Barcelona. It is supposed to showcase the Roman and the 18th century ruins that are underneath the site and through the amount of time I spent on the site and designing it, I fell in love with my project. I can envision the people visiting the museum and using the space outside. It, I think, is the best take away from Barcelona I can get, since even through imagination I have my own building there and whenever I visit again I am going to remember that.
Throughout the month, I spent so much time thinking about life, the priorities I have in it and what matters most to me. I was so confused whether architecture was the right major for me but this trip gave me a new direction to think of in terms of what I want to do and how I can do that. This was one of the best decisions I ever made.