Looking back at last month, my mind had been preoccupied with work and the realization that I was leaving the country to explore a place unfamiliar to me. The weeks leading up to my trip to Spain was filled with mixed emotions. Questions that plagued my mind at night included, what should I bring, how will I navigate with only my wife versed in the language, what neat and amazing things will we experience, and how will I keep up with my exercises. I had been so busy with my work that when the month prior to leaving snuck up on me, I was flabbergasted by how quick two years had gone by since my wife and I had started talking about taking this trip. Although, I hadn’t a clue where I was going (I left it up to my wife to choose the itinerary for the whole trip) and I didn’t know what to expect, I knew that I was going to take some time to renew my mind, body, and spirit.
Landing into Madrid, Spain as the sun rose from behind the mountains.
The trip began with the appreciation of how quickly the human mind can adapt. Typically, I am a person who needs to know enough about my surroundings to feel competent and confident so I can interact with people. I’m an extravert and human interaction is necessary. This journey took my out of that comfort zone and thew me into the great unknown. I was a man in a large country that spoke a language that was not familiar to me. Renew my mind might be the incorrect choice of words; more like enlighten my mind. My brain became a sponge and I soaked up as much of the language as I could possible retain in one sitting. My appreciation for the history and culture of the land and people was overwhelming. I became obsessed with the history and culture of the little towns and provinces that my wife and I visited. Each day we would explore a new area of the country and spend hours taking in the beauty and magnitude of our natural surroundings. I would work on the language everywhere we went and slowly was able to speak to someone patient residents. We learned why the villages were erected in specific ways, how the locals ate, and how the landscape had changed over time. We also experienced first hand the slow pace of life when the only form of transportation were your very own two legs.
At the top of Picos de Europa with a mountain goat.
The time spent walking and carrying my hiking pack gave me all the exercise I needed for the time I was gone. My body felt well worked by the end of the trip. The people in Spain normally take a siesta during the middle of the day. I don’t know why my wife and I didn’t follow suit, but by the time midnight came around and all the people of Spain came pouring out of their homes and restaurants for their “happy hour,” my wife and I were nicely tucked under our covers in our nice cozy beds. The feeling of fatigue doesn’t usually hit your muscles all at once. No, it enjoys creeping up slowly, toying with your body as to say, “you never know when I’ll put a stop to all your movement.” That came around lunch time one afternoon in Segovia after we had walked all over the village and seen the Alcazar, our bodies had started to let us know that we needed to rest and replenish our nutrients. We happily gave in to this respite at a mom and pop restaurant where I learned more Spanish because the hosts could not speak English and we were able to get all the nutrients that we needed for the next long trek on our journey. Traveling on foot gave us great pleasure in seeing the sites that would have been missed by taking a car or public transportation. (Traveler’s note: If you ever go to Spain, keep hydrated. The dry air and changes in altitude can be deceiving to your perception of thirst. Plan on buying all your water or bring a couple of water bottles, as we did, and fill them up at the local watering holes.)
My wife testing out a water hole on the outskirts of the village in Segovia.
Many of our stops along the way brought us to magnificent churches, cathedrals, and basilicas. The history of each one and the famous artists who helped create these masterpieces entranced my spirit and gave me much appreciation of life’s great gifts. The architecture and structures found inside and out were amazing. The commitment found throughout these structures exemplified that nothing spectacular can ever be done quickly. Success is only possible, when one has a plan, support, dedication, and time. In the end, I was blown away by the sheer beauty and awe of everything that I saw, experienced, and learned.
Catedral de Santa María de Regla de León
As I reflect on the trip, I also reflect on the lessons that were gained from all that I had seen. We as individuals need to step back and take in all the accomplishments that we have made in our lives. Too often we are pushed to get things done as quickly as possible. We are becoming a society where instantaneous gratification is more favorable than the long haul even if the latter is stated to be healthier. This journey made me realize the importance of taking my time and enjoying life’s every moment. By the end of the trip, I was able to come back to my life’s routine with a refreshed perspective on what I want to achieve and how it will look getting there. Remember that a journey is defined as the act of traveling from one place to another. Don’t lose sight of the end, and always keep your eyes open on the journey.