Hola from España! I am so so extatic to tell you that I am in Toledo, Spain with one of my very good friends, Marta!
Ever since Marta left, I knew I would visit her someday. I thought that someday was when I graduated in 2018, but God had different plans. In August of 2016, I started day dreaming about visiting Marta and surprising her in Spain. Both my parents and my own doubts stopped me from thinking further about that option. I don´t mean anything against my parents because I can only imagine how scary shipping off your daughter to Spain sounds. In about September, my sister, Bekah, asked me randomly if I had thought about visiting Marta in the summer of 2017. I told her yes, but I told her that it could never work out and that our parents were against it. With lots of talking and debating, we finally started thinking seriously about it, even my parents started considering it! Finally, we emailed Julio, who is Marta´s father, and he got back to us soon after saying that the surprise would be wonderful and he even invited me to stay all summer! I am oh so thankful for Marta´s parents and family through these last few months with taking me into their home and taking care of any needs or questions I have. Since then, Marta´s parents and I have been planning this for about 9-10 months and I am so happy that we pulled it off.
I was able to surprise Marta on June 14, 2017. And let me tell you . . . it has been hard yet amazing.
I had so many expectations of traveling that I didn´t even know I had. I had the pretty and edited Pinterest pictures, the girls with wine and perfect photography shots, the YouTube videos that only showed the good things, the meeting of new cultures, and the beautiful places that you see all over the world. While traveling is all of those things (sometimes) it is also overwhelming, a culture shock, exhausting sometimes, and hard to adapt to the new culture around you. The first and second day were really tough on me because of the jet lag, the culture shock, the first time traveling, and the new language around me that I barely knew. I got frustrated at myself for not knowing any Spanish and for being so shy or quiet. I got overwhelmed by being surrounded by Spaniards and only hearing Spanish. I felt lost and alone sometimes because I didn´t express how I was feeling to Marta. I almost broke down with my sister who, thankfully, understood everything I was feeling. I then realized all the expectations I had for this trip. I know how bad I can be with expectations and I decided that I would not have any for this trip. Boy was I wrong. I had so many that I didn´t even know about! I had a perfect idea of traveling in mind. Keep in mind that this is the first time I have traveled alone and out of the country and to Europe of all places! I had expectations of traveling that were so easy and care free. But, it is hard to adapt to a culture and to have an open mind. Having an open mind and a better world view is so vital. I am also starting to learn Spanish and am actually starting to like it when the locals speak Spanish. I love the beautiful language and being surrounded by it has started to help me gain an ear for Spanish. I was kind of hit in the face after staying here and realizing that, yes, traveling is wonderful, but also very tough.
After saying all of this, I don´t want to sound ungrateful or negative in any way. I have improved so much after the second day. I have been able to talk to Marta, who constantly asks how I am doing, and we have spoken about the different things that I am feeling. Marta has been so kind and understanding while also being gracious and even teaching me some Spanish. I have met some of Marta´s closest friends who are some of the most compasionate, caring, and fun people to be around! This trip is already teaching me how to step outside of my comfort zone and to come out of my shell for a little bit. It has been amazing and so much better the past few days. Spain really is a dream. The Cathedrals (featured in the image), the flats that lead up to the library at the top of Toledo, the “old city”, the many cobblestone streets, so many people, and the fun parties at night. I have begun to adapt to the culture and to give myself grace since it is the first time I am traveling independently. Traveling is amazing when you actually immerse yourself into the culture instead of just being a tourist. You get to know the history and the lives of the locals that live in the place you are traveling to. You form friendships with people around the world! And you broaden your world view with new ideas and values. Yes, it is hard, but I believe I will learn so much from this small trip of three weeks. In summary, traveling sometimes isn´t all its cracked up to be becuase it is so much more in a different way. You learn so much and grow so much with the challenges that come with traveling. Each person may respond differently, but everyone will learn while abroad. Get out there and have adventures that get you outside of your comfort zone and that challenge you. Go out and travel to see the world.
My family has been here for me. Marta and her family are here for me as well as her friends. And most importantly, Jesus is here with me. He is the same all knowing God that understands me and is here with me every step of this journey. I hope to grow with Him in this adventure as well and to learn that He is always constant. He is so good and gracious. I believe that He has planned this trip and knows everything that is coming my way. He is with me every moment and I lean on Him for strenght and for peace when feeling confused or overwhelmed. My God is good.
All in all, travel when you can. It is possible friends. I was able to work and save money in order to pay for this trip. Don´t let fears hold you back because it is so worth it. I will be updating once or twice a week about my travels and will let you know about everything that is currently happening! Love you all and thank you for listening.