Nobody Expects the Spanish Exploration
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Nobody Expects the Spanish Exploration

Just kidding. Tourism is the nation's biggest industry.

Nobody Expects the Spanish Exploration

"Lydia," people often ask upon meeting me for the first time," do you have any advice about traveling to Spain?" For twenty-one years my answer has been "No. I've never been to Spain and I don't know why you think I have advice about it." (I hate introductions.) However, by a stroke of good fortune, that status has recently changed. ¡Olé! It is thus with great pleasure that I share these newfound pearls of wisdom about travel to the land ofleche y miel.

​Strangers in a Strange Land


Lydia Bailey

Whether you are staying in a hotel, hostel, or, as in my case, a homestay, a good travel partner can make all the difference. It's great to have a buddy with whom you can chat and take turns snapping photos. Companionship is nice, but it is also helpful to have complementary skill sets. For example, while my roommate is a small field mouse, I am an emaciated sheepdog that the farmhands have neglected to feed due to the wretched drought. She nibbles half a strawberry and is so satiated, so full. She can eat no more. I eye her paella with little subtlety. "Do you want to finish my lunch?" she squeaks. She had eaten a particularly large crust of bread earlier today. When our homestay abuela leaves the kitchen, we hastily swap plates and I wolf down her leftovers. We successfully escape being chastised for leaving food uneaten (boy did we learn this one the hard way!). This tactic holds me over until an early 10 PM Spanish dinner. Portion-sizes can be unpredictable here (3€ can get me a whole Serrano ham sandwich or one [1] sardine--at the same restaurant), so together we help each other avoid hunger and food waste. A mutually beneficial relationship is ideal, so before voyaging, ask yourself, "what am I bringing to the table here?" If you can find someone who can put up with both your personality AND your deficiencies, you're in luck! Hastily purchase non-refundable tickets so they can't back out, and you'll soon be on your way.

It's like those Spanish have a different word for everything!

Taken in Spain

Lydia Bailey

I have studied the Spanish language for all of my schooling, so I was not expecting too many communication challenges this trip. As it turns out, immersion is a great opportunity to find out the exact limits of your vocabulary. Tell me why I know the words for "bankrupt," "rotary telephone," and "roller coaster," but I struggle to find the words for "dental floss," or "This is my jam!" when my jam starts playing? (Carlos Gardel's 'Por Una Cabeza' for those of you who were wondering.) The disparity between what is taught in schools and what is necessary for good communication can be stark. Thus, in the interest of sharing what you REALLY need to know, I have compiled some helpful phrases for traveling to Spain.

"Would you mind taking a photo of us, please?"

¿Tomarías una foto de nosotros, por favor?

"Please do not take our current presidential administration to be representative of all Americans."

Por favor, no interpretes nuestra administración presidencial corriente como una representación de todos Americanos.

"I recognize that you can survive on only coffee, gazpacho, and wine, but I would greatly appreciate a glass of water at least a few times this week."

Doy cuento que tú puedes sobrevivir por beber solamente el café, el gazpacho, y el vino, pero me gustaría mucho unos vasos de agua está semana.

"Is it really true that the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plains? How do y'all pull that off?"

¿Es verdad que la lluvia española se queda en las llanuras? ¿Como lo hacéis?

"Look, I know I can read, and I know I speak Spanish, and I know the streets are clearly labeled, and I know I have this large map, and I know I'm on a major road next to a major attraction, and I know it's broad daylight, but I am somehow still lost and would you be so kind as to tell me where I am and physically rotate my shoulders until I am headed in the right direction?"

Mira, yo sé que puedo leer, y yo sé que hablo español, y yo sé que las calles son nombrados claramente, y yo sé que tengo aquí un mapa, y yo sé que ahora estoy ubicado en un calle grande cerca de un gran sitio, y yo sé que hay luz diurna, pero todavía estoy perdida y por favor, puedes contarme donde estoy y físicamente girar mis hombros para mostrarme la dirección correcta?

Armed with this knowledge (and a full bottle of sunscreen), you will be fully prepared for your next excursion!

Baby You Can Crash My Car

A view of Spain

Lydia Bailey

It is inevitable. You do everything right, you take all the precautions, and something still goes wrong. To quote my grandmother's sage advice, "If everything were perfect, life would be boring!" Not something you want to hear after asking how you look in your new blouse, but wise words nonetheless. Fortunately, travel insurance can help when unpleasantries occur.

My disaster moment was getting hit by a smart car. I often jaywalked at this intersection with nary a close-call, but my luck ran out one afternoon. I heard the dull thud followed by a crunch before I felt anything. I staggered to the sidewalk, dazed. Was that blood or water from a punctured bottle dripping down my knee?

The driver stepped out of the crumpled front seat, fuming. "Look what you did!" he shouted, justifiably. I could barely feel a few bruises forming, but the hood of his car was completely smashed. Smoke began seeping out of the cracks.

"I'm sorry, sir!" I apologized, embarrassed by the massive damage I had caused to the vehicle.

"Yeah, you better be! This was a new smart car!" he raged. "You know these things can't withstand collisions with pedestrians weighing more than 50 kilos!"

I nodded tearfully. How could I have committed such a blunder? Only the day before I had witnessed a stray dog crossing the street, practically totaling a hybrid vehicle. I knew I should have been vigilant in my lookout for vulnerable cars, but I had let my guard down and would now pay the price. My heart went out to the smart car, damaged beyond repair at no fault of its own.

After apologizing profusely, I gave the disgruntled driver my contact information. There was a mountain of paperwork, but travel insurance made a bad situation much easier. Challenges remain, however, as I learn to sleep at night knowing the needless property damage I caused in such a reckless collision. It is thus with personal experience that I recommend travel insurance for ease of mind and (hopefully unneeded) protection.

4. The Tour of Babel

Spanish vista

Lydia Bailey

"Travel without being a tourist." I mean, sure. While this saying ultimately encourages visiting places without exhibiting obnoxious behaviors like blocking the sidewalk, talking loudly in quiet spaces, and turning up your nose at anything with which you are not familiar, I struggle with the ontology. It's like saying "give up meat without being vegetarian" or "kill a man without being a murderer." As long as you act right, tourism does not have to run counter-productive to genuine and respectful experiences. Many tourist activities in which native Spaniards rarely participate, like guided walks of historic sites, are helpful for better appreciating local history and culture. There is only so much information you can absorb through osmosis. This fact was pointedly illustrated when one day my friend pointed to a cathedral and said, "Look, this is the Catholic part of Madrid." While he wasn't wrong per se, I generally learn more from professional tour guides than from my fellow American 20-year-olds. So if it makes you feel better to call yourself a traveler, adventurer, or conscientious-but-not-appropriative visitor, that's fine. In the meantime, I'll be perfectly content to gawk in awe at historic architecture and magnificent museums with my trusty map, camera, and non-native accent. Tour away, dear readers, tour away! Let's just all agree to steer clear of the matching neon T-shirts.

5. Get Off My Césped

Still Spain

Lydia Bailey

Did you know that world travel can be an opportunity to make a name for yourself? Young people today can get a bad rap. From killing the paper napkin industry ("but… isn't buying according to your preferences just how capitalism works?") to moving back home with nothing but three jobs and five-figure debt, one thing is clear: we have it too easy. No wait, we have it rough--but it's our own fault. No, hold up, we're just too idealistic and naive to know how the real world works. Or was it that we're too cynical and jaded? Regardless, young people today are thought of as a sorry bunch that ought not be taken seriously. All is not for naught, however, as a trip to Spain, done correctly, can be a great way to assert your individuality and prove you're one of the good ones!

There's nothing old fogies hate more than seeing young people staring at a screen. One great way to stay off that daggum phone is to not text your mom when you arrive. No news is good news, right? If she's really curious if you made it there alive, she can just Google search "recent passenger jet crashes." Give it a couple hours; she'd find out soon enough regardless. If her internet search proves fruitless, she can safely assume that radio static from your end means your travels went without a hitch. If you really want to live in the moment, ditch the phone until you return at an unspecified date. Authentic!

There's also the controversy about doing everything for attention on social media to contend with. People of Age find boastful selfies at exotic locales abhorrent. Fortunately, there's a simple solution: don't leave any record of having gone anywhere, ever. Take no photos, buy your tickets in cash, and brandish a false passport at customs. When someone asks you how you liked Museo del Prado, violently hiss at them until they leave. Only then can they be sure that you're traveling for personal fulfillment and not social capital--the right reasons!

Older generations also love to talk about how ignorant young folks are. Sure we're less experienced, but this ignorance extends deeper than that. We are unworldly, unrefined, uncultured. We lack knowledge about the important things, like, what was it again? Oh yeah--stereotypes. Our reluctance to typify people-groups is widely interpreted as a refusal to acknowledge the Real World. Fortunately, international travel can get you chock-full of stereotype-confirming experiences! Met an Italian who gesticulated a lot? Went to a Spanish restaurant where the service was slow? Ran into an angry pedestrian in Germany? Mention these experiences to a Baby Boomer of your choice, and soon the conversation will be flowing like wine! Be sure to throw in some "Frog" jokes and perform a few accents in bad taste, and you'll be working your way up the social ladder in no time.

This is where I leave you, dear readers. You are now equipped to pick a travel partner, learn important phrases, purchase travel insurance, embrace tours, and use your trip to earn the approval of your elders. You're welcome! And please, if you have any more questions, direct them to my agent as I will be out seeing Guernica, brushing up my vosotros, and enjoying a single sardine. ¡Buen viaje!

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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