Dear Fellow Adventurer,
I have discovered during my past several months here in Spain that there are a lot of obstacles to traveling that no one told me about. Granted, I wasn’t surrounded by a gang of worldly travel aficionados. So now I feel the need to impart what little knowledge I’ve gained in order to enlighten whoever this advice might help.
The most important piece of advice I could ever give you: When living in a foreign place, expect to Be Lost.
There are a lot of ways to Be Lost. The most commonly known way is a matter of questionable geographic location. Is it panic-inducing? Sure. Time-Consuming? Occasionally. Soul-crushing? Certainly not. No, fellow traveler, the worst way to Be Lost cannot be fixed with a map or phone GPS.
I have Been Lost here mid-conversation with my host mother when she asked about my family and I realized that this woman who I will have lived with for 3 months would and could never meet my parents. I have Been Lost when I arrived in the city of my dreams and looked around to see that none of the people I loved most in this world were there. I’ve Been Lost while sitting in my own bed, looking down at sheets that didn’t belong to me in an apartment that did not belong to me and wondering if there was anything in the world that truly did. Being Lost is an almost out-of-body experience. Unlike with lost keys or a lost hair-tie, the Lost Self forces you to acknowledge that a small part of yourself you’ve always taken for granted is no longer there. And for a person like me, who values a strong sense of self above all else, this goes against every rule I’d ever laid out for myself.
The only way to combat this feeling is by getting lost. Confusing, I know, but there’s a difference. Being Lost makes you realize how out of place you are. Getting lost is the thrum of your soul when it resonates at the perfect frequency with your surroundings. When I get lost, I am able to find a home in unlikely places:
The Royal Palace in Madrid. Beaches in Barcelona. Chinatown in London. The Trevi Fountain in Rome.
It is only through getting lost that I’ve found and even created new parts of myself that I never would’ve known without rebelling against the way I’d been living before. By doing something so outrageous, I’ve come to know that I can be brave and capable and, yes, a little bit reckless. I’ve fallen in love with places I thought I’d only ever see on a tv screen.
I’ve ran my hand along Colosseum walls and listened to Big Ben’s midday toll. I’ve mastered the Madrid transportation system (two words: OBONO pass). I’ve eaten Tapas and Aperitivos and everything in between. I’ve jammed out to killer playlists with my friends in the living room of an Airbnb apartment as pasta simmered on the kitchen stove. The best moments, though, were when I truly gave into my surroundings. Whether that was belting out my best rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody on karaoke night at the local pub or sitting in the sun at Buen Retiro Park, it didn’t really matter.
To quote our generation’s greatest philosopher, Marshall Bruce Mathers III:
“You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime“
Take a chance. See the world. Get lost.
UAH Alumni, Mya Richardson