One month. I’ve been in Barcelona for one third of my total time here, and my routine has taken shape. My situation is unique because I feel like I’m not quite on vacation, but not quite living a regular day-to-day life. (There I go, being an antevasin again…)
On vacation, we generally explore a new city and its tourist attractions, we lie on the beach or by the pool, we say “forget the budget” and go out for dinner each night, perhaps splurging dessert, and we buy souvenir trinkets and post cards. In regular life, we clean dishes and do laundry, make dinner and go to the office.
So, what am I doing?
Well, I’ve been looking inward a lot to answer that question. Boy, some icky inner demons have come up in the process.
One of the reasons I haven’t written much about my trip so far is that I feel like I haven’t done anything special or cool since I’ve been here — which, by extension (according to some of the thoughts that come up in my head) must mean that I’m not special and not cool. There have been some moments that have been difficult emotionally: a few mornings, I ask “what shall I do today? Something boring no doubt.” Those thoughts lead to the hard feelings that I need to face.
Before this trip, I knew I had those negative labels about myself; they’d come up in meditation sessions, and I already shed healing tears. As I mentioned in my first blog post, I also knew that during my trip I’d have less of the usual distractions — going to work, paying the bills, watching TV — so that any of these negative thoughts would have more time to come up to the surface. This inner work has been as much part of my experience as the activities I’m doing.
So, what are my days like?
I generally start the day with breakfast and doing the dishes. I don’t have a large sink, so I don’t let stuff pile up too long. I also prepare some food that I can take out with me throughout the day.
A friend asked what I’ve been eating during my trip. The answer is that my diet is similar to what it is back home. I have yogurt, individual-size pudding cups, granola bars, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, and green salads here and there. Remember that I’m not quite on “vacation mode.” I’ve quit my job for this trip. Unlike a normal vacation, I’m not going out to restaurants each night, knowing that a paycheque is waiting for me once I return to normal life. Remember also that I’m vegan, so I can’t walk into any ol’ restaurant and eat a meal. Back home, I tire of asking if a dish contains any animal products; now imagine asking those questions in a language I’m not 100% comfortable with.
After my morning prep work, I often read my email. I sometimes get caught up reading other stuff on the internet too.
If I’m low on supplies, I’ll walk to the grocery store. The subway would be faster, but I don’t have anywhere I need to be, so I don’t mind walking.
If I don’t need groceries, I sometimes choose to go the beach, sit in a park, or walk without a destination. When I walk, I’ll also enjoy the plazas and ramblas along the away. I’ve gotten a local library card so that I can have new reading material for the beach, park or walk.
I make a meal about once per week, and have the leftovers for the next few days. These are usually simpler versions of what I make back home. I don’t have all of my usual kitchen tools (a vegan without his high-powered blender!) or even a full spice rack, and I don’t know if I want to buy a bunch of stuff which will weigh down my luggage when I come home. I don’t want to leave anything behand either — my landlords gave me a kitchen tabula rasa, and I want to leave it in that state.
I video-chat with family once per week. This helps soothe the homesickness that comes up, and it’s also the only real conversation I have all week.
Some people have personalities where they find an opportunity to strike up a conversation anywhere. I’m not generally like that. You add a language barrier, and I don’t converse much at all. I guess my Spanish isn’t as good as I thought.
I haven’t been totally conversation-free. A clerk in a all-vegan grocery store explained how their cheeses imitates Gouda, mozzarella, cheddar, how they’re spreadable, meltable, contain probiotics — I guess vegan topics are universal, so I was pleased with myself that I understood a lot of what he said. I’ve come across some Canadians and Americans and talked for a bit. I’ve also spent the day with a friend in another city, but I’ll talk about that in another blog post.
I’m not sure how I feel about the “cone of silence” I find myself in. Some days, I don’t seem to mind, and other days it feels lonely. There may be an inner demon lurking there somewhere.
But, among my “not doing anything”, I have seen some neat stuff in Barcelona, and I have travelled a bit outside the city. I’ll save those for another blog post. For now, I’ll leave you with a great view from high up Barcelona’s mountaintop.