With my green card in hand and freedom to leave the United States and return without an issue, I decided to travel to Europe for the first time in almost two years, this time Spain, from December 18 to 23, 2018; I chose Spain because the sun sets too early for my liking in December in all the other European countries I considered. By the grace of God, I located a bundle deal on Expedia impossible to pass up, one KLM and the rest Delta flights and a four-star hotel for five nights for only $1,085.06. Though I considered adding Portugal for a day to the trip, my hotel being in Madrid would have lost me over half a day simply going to Portugal and coming back, which felt foolish for my already limited time to adventure. Instead, I focused solely on Spain, covering Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, and Seville in these five full days.
Many travelers prefer otherwise, but I, especially when only journeying for a few days, prioritize seeing as many tourist attractions as I can and move about at a pace with which many would not be able to keep up. I checked off the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, Royal Palace of Madrid, Almudena Cathedral, Plaza Mayor, Museo del Prado, San Jeronimo el Real, Buen Retiro Park and its art gallery, Palacio de Cristal, and San Anton Market in Madrid, Toledo Cathedral in Toledo, Alcazar of Segovia and Segovia Cathedral in Segovia, and Seville Cathedral, Alcazar of Seville, Torre del Oro, and Plaza de Espana in Seville. (This list does not include the meticulous city tour of Toledo and Segovia led by Amigo Tours, Madrid in the Spanish Civil War tour with an Airbnb hostess, and Torre del Oro cruise tour in Seville.)
I appreciate history and find it awe-inspiring I can easily spot objects hundreds and thousands of years old anywhere in Europe, unlike in America where anything several decades old qualifies as monumental. The ornateness and immensity of gothic cathedrals mesmerize me but at the same time make me wonder, “How can anyone worship God here without being distracted by the extravagant setting and never-ending tourists?” As expected, I struggled substantially with the normalcy of public smoking in Europe. I, practically allergic to cigarette smoke, despise the sheer ignorance and selfishness of smoking in public and could not bear observing hawkers smoking as they sold their handmade materials and artworks, a mother smoking in her infant’s face, and a young woman even smoking in the garden of the Alcazar of Seville, to whom I said, “You know you’re not supposed to smoke here,” but I doubt she understood or even heard me. Linguistically, I was humbled. I have traveled to more countries than I can count off the top of my head, and not once had I experienced prior to this trip an overwhelming majority of natives speaking to me in their mother tongue, in spite of their knowing I speak English and zero Spanish. Up to this point, I had assumed I could survive anywhere in the world as long as I spoke English, but here I thought, “Maybe I should have learned several useful phrases in Spanish.”
Traveling expands horizons and perspectives on the diversity of the world, one of the main reasons I enjoy doing so whenever I have the chance; I do not view traveling as solely vacation but also education. Physically, my traveling could never be categorized as vacation; according to my health app, unsurprisingly, I walked (and occasionally ran) more than 51 miles and climbed 124 floors in these five days. I am grateful to Jesus for granting me yet another opportunity to explore a gorgeous unfamiliar historic territory and soak up His beautiful Creation.