The Spanish countryside whizzes by me as I write this. I’m three weeks into a one-month tour of the southern half of this beautiful country. It’s hard to believe it has been so long already.
This train nearly left without me. I missed my first train by seconds. There was another train, 30 minutes later. I would arrive at 12:55, the exact time my 2nd of three connections was scheduled to leave. I think that’s the last time I want to run 1/5 of a mile with 55L on my back.
Many thousands before me have made similar trips. I’m not charting many new paths. As travel goes, Europe is pretty easy. But for me, this is a huge trip.
My comfort zone used to not extend beyond the US. I rarely reached beyond a few select states until a year ago. Each time I reach beyond that, I’m doing something for the first time. The further I travel, the longer I stay, the greater I extend my comfort zone.
This is the power of firsts. And I have many of them on this trip, so far.
- First time in Europe. And first time fishing here – more on that in another post.
- First time going city to city using only public transit and my own two feet. First time backpacking.
- First time living out of a backpack or suitcase for a month, period.
- First month-long trip to anywhere…
..All with no prior planning beyond a roundtrip plane ticket.
There is a certain level of chaos to this experience that drives me. It wakes me up. Everything opens to chance. The chance to meet, to discover, to grow, to change – even if I screw up or miss something.
I won’t see it all. I skip many things others come to see. Personally, I prefer to do. I enjoy seeing architecture, but I prefer to see things that weren’t made by man. If there’s a challenging hike to get there, the views are that much sweeter.
I choose my days the morning of, or a day or two in advance. I think the train system likes travelers like me, they charge three times as much for this spontaneous method of travel. For me, it’s the price of feeling free more often than not.
Note: I did not feel so free as I ran to the train, hoping it wouldn’t leave without me. “Idiot” would better explain my feeling as I ran and watched the clock tick away.
Even that experience brought potential for positive change. I learned to leave for trains earlier, in case the conductor is feeling like having an “early day”. I almost got to learn how to reschedule my 2nd and 3rd connecting trains without cell service or wi-fi. I was spared that lesson this time, but something tells me it will happen eventually.
I got to exercise my improving Spanish while running towards a train and asking for directions as the track had been changed. I got lucky they saw a confused man sprinting through a train terminal for what it was, rather than someone up to no good.
They probably thought I was an idiot, too, but that’s ok. I sense they assume that about most American tourists already.
My next stop, Malaga, presents some firsts as well. It will be my base for five nights as I explore hikes and treks in the surrounding area.
I’m walking Caminito El Rey. It is a narrow hike, most of which hugs a cliff high above a river gorge. It was considered the most dangerous hike in the world, until renovations two years ago. Now it’s safe for most people. It makes me wonder if I would have done it two years ago. Probably not. I was raised to have a deathly fear of heights, and I’ve been overcoming it gradually.
Part of the Caminito Del Rey in Spain