By Sean Kimball
Benvinguda. Bienvenidos. Welcome. I stood in the airport surrounded by a wide array of people speaking an even wider variety of languages. I heard my first language, English, as it pleasantly filled the eardrums of my monolingual family, all of whom were apprehensive about a weeklong stay in a county where they had little understanding of the language spoken. I heard my second language, Spanish, which provided me with an overwhelming sensation of excitement and confidence in my ability to converse and communicate effectively. I heard something strange. It sounded like Spanish, looked liked Spanish, and even made you think you were hearing Spanish, but it wasn’t. It was Catalan. Immediately upon placing one foot on this new continent, I was struck with a realization that I was no longer en Los Estados Unidos: everything I was about to experience would be entirely new, exciting, and cultural stimulating. I was in Barcelona, Spain.
While in the Spanish Mediterranean metropolis, my family and I did everything a typical Barcelonan tourist should do: we walked down Las Ramblas, a famous street that runs from the center of the city down to the sea front which maintains the tradition of the market with street side vendors selling all items imaginable; we witnessed La Sagrada Familia, an iconic Catholic church designed by Antoni Guadí that has been under construction since 1882 and whose beauty and extravagance is clearly reflective of the years of dedication and construction; we visited Camp Nou, the stadium for world renowned Fútbol Club Barclecona whose capacity is a mind blowing 100,000—put into perspective that is more than twice the capacity of AT&T Park in San Francisco.
These sights were undeniably incredible, but they paled in comparison to the simplistic, everyday activities of the city; merely walking down a street, having a conversation with a local, or tasting new Spanish flavors provided me with pleasure incomparable to any tourist attraction. Rather than see the sights as a typical visitor to the city would have done, I attempted to immerse myself as much as possible in the culture of the city and after several days of living the Barcelonan life, I soon had no desire to return to the American culture that I felt so distant from. I wished to remain in Barcelona, remain in Spain, remain in Europe, remain out of the states and continuing exploring and discovering these new exciting experiences.
Prior to this trip abroad, I knew that I had a strong desire to travel; after this trip, however, this desire had been transformed into a necessity. While I love the place I live, the people that surround me, I have an overwhelming desire to seek out the world beyond the city limits of Petaluma or the borders of the United States. There is so much that the world has to offer and teach, and I plan to experience all of it.