There’s something about exploring a new place with a new person. It’s true that we humans are prone to stereotyping the unfamiliar, to automatically assimilating a novelty into our schema and the way we see the world. Thus, I’ve found that it’s helpful to let these preconceived notions engulf my mind, then force myself to cast them out and let the truth take over.
The failed plan to meet up and go sightseeing with a friend left me convinced that I would be spending my second day in Barcelona entirely alone. I mused to myself that it would be romantic – I would go stare at Gaudí’s bizarre architecture, let the sea of tourists carry me down La Rambla, then find a nice bench in the heart of the city and read. Or something like that.
I exited the hostel and walked confidently toward the Metro stop. As I got closer, I realized that a girl and two guys I had befriended at my hostel the previous night were headed down the stairs into the station. I called out the girl’s name and jogged to catch up with them, rejoicing that friends had been found and I wouldn’t be subject to a whole day spent in solitude. “Hey, we’re headed to the Sagrada Família, wanna come?” one of the guys asked. “Yeah,” I beamed back.
Choosing to avoid the hours-long line to get into the church, the girl and I decided to abandon the boys (who had pre-ordered tickets) and wander our way to Park Güell. As we began the trek, the sun hid behind gloomy clouds and the mystical ambience of the previous day returned.
The walking, though long, never felt like a waste of time. We walked, we began to understand the city, and we got to know each other.
To discover a person as you’re discovering a city is a parallel experience. Everything around you is new, for both of you, including the other person. Everything is open to possibility; nothing is predictable. The extent of what I had learned about my new friend prior to our hike across Barcelona was her age, her home state, and her reason for being in Barcelona. But now, we talked about our hopes of the past and our dreams for the future. This new person and this new city were unfolding in front of me at the same time, and it was beautiful.
We spent the day discovering whimsical Park Güell, darling gift shops, and the ever-colorful, ever-enchanting city of Barcelona.