There comes a time in every university student’s life when you begin to feel lost at sea. The path seems to continue with no destination, and with the same pattern repeating itself over and over again. You see everyone around you going through the same motions: lectures, projects, exams, drinks with friends, again, again and again.
There are people who seem to have their lives planned out with internships, opportunities, vacations or relationships lined up. Others seem to have no plans at all. We continue to sail in the same direction, hoping that we will finally arrive at our “destination”. But what is this destination? Is there really even a destination? When these existential thoughts enter your head, it’s time to consider changing directions. The mental state you have found yourself in can eventually sink your boat of mental health. So, how does one go about changing the direction of your boat before it sinks?
In my experience, changing course means taking a couple days for myself to remember what is really important, and doing something spontaneous and new to remind myself that each day is unique. When I begin to feel uncertain about life, even though my schedule feels predetermined and repetitive, I choose to do something spontaneous to challenge my uncertainty. This change of direction gives me peace of mind and control over my own life.
Someone close to me once told me that it is better to get lost at sea than to never set sail. It has taught me to never fear embarking on a new journey. My best friend and I have a pact that when we are both extremely burnt-out, we have ourselves an “Eat, Pray, Love” weekend. Inspired by the Julia Roberts 2010 film, it means we get out of Madrid and do just that – eat all the food, drink all the drinks, and just disconnect from the monotonous day to day. From past experiences, I have learned, developed, and perfected the Art of the Weekend Trip which requires one friend, a curious mind for adventure, and the desire to learn something new.
The first trip came about last October after my best friend and I found ourselves sinking in our boats. It was one of those moments where life hits you with an all time low. The kind of low where she ended up with self-cut bangs and I ended up blonde. It was at that moment that we both bought train tickets to Granada, with no plans, thinking we would surely regret this because it was right before midterms. All we knew was that we needed to run away from Madrid, escape, or at least procrastinate dealing with our issues. In retrospect, taking that time to ourselves helped us better prepare for our responsibilities as we had time to rest and disconnect.
We decided that only the two of us from our friend group would be going because we had a feeling that by isolating ourselves, we might discover something new. The weekend trip is different – it’s not a group trip. By traveling with one person, you give light to those conversations that you thought would never leave your head. You are strangers in an unknown environment, and to take on the adventure you end up getting to know each other on a deeper level. We are forced outside of our comfort zone to think openly and become more flexible, allowing experiences to take their course.
Our flexible mindsets led us into a little marketplace that set the tone for the wonders of the trip. Both starving, and knowing that we likely couldn’t buy anything because there was no way for us to cook it, we looked around in awe of the fresh and colorful assortment of seafood. I wonder if it was my friend’s experience and fascination with the delicate art of filleting fish, or my foodie facial expressions that imagined the taste of the fish, that caught the eye of one of the sellers. Happy to make a sale and passionate about her produce, she began explaining the Mediterranean textures and flavors.
We were so invested that we both telepathically began to brainstorm how we could eat a whole raw fish. Our disappointed faces, and explanation led the woman to provide a solution that neither of us would have imagined. The woman would filet the fish and give it to one of his friends at another stand to cook for us while we enjoyed her fresh gambas at the wine and tapas stand in front of hers.
The market was a community that was as interested in us as we were in them. It’s that curiosity that fueled the conversation turning into hospitality, and new knowledge. This experience led me to appreciate “fate” or “chance”. For whatever reason we were both in this specific location, at the right time, that led us to meet these people and experience something that neither of us saw in our future. There’s a certain excitement to our choices and their unknown outcomes. And once it’s known, we may be in complete shock about the result.
Neither of us are very religious people, but we both wanted to leave this trip feeling enlightened. We decided that our partying habits of Madrid needed to stay in Madrid. That left us wandering the streets, museums, stores in search of anything that would consult us.
In search of new knowledge, we ended up at Alhambra: a palace that survived the Nasrid Dynasty and Spanish rule. A society inside of a society, a fusion of Islamic architecture and the Spanish renaissance, inspired the symbolism that indicated something beyond us. Although the circumstance of this palace was one of conquest, rivalry, and tragedy, it now stands with its own destiny. Admiration is the role of this palace. It inspires and reveals the uncertainty of the future, and the struggles of the past. A lesson taught through aesthetic and beauty that has the capability to reach millions. Everything is developing towards something and it is not our job to understand it as we cannot foretell the future.
Our journey led us to the top of Granada’s hills, where the gypsy cuevas sang with the sound of flamenco and heels clicking. The love, anger, laughter of the family performing was expressed with great passion through dance. At the end of the show I looked over at my friend to see her eyes filled with emotions and tear drops from the excitement. I began to giggle at what I believed to be immaturity. But then, a revelation struck me: I was one being emotionally unintelligent. Why must we conceal our emotions? We have lost the innocence and imagination that brought purpose and humanity to our being.
Innocence and immaturity are seen as synonymous, and have pushed away our inner child. The child that is curious, easily intrigued, and allows itself to express every emotion. We must continue to search and please that child if we are ever to understand ourselves and what drives us.
I am one to romanticize life, I always have been. Unfortunately, I now realize that much of what led to this trip was me somewhat convincing my best friend to feed into our delusions. After such disappointment with reality, was self-love what we were trying to achieve?
I ironically bought a blend of tea that was supposed to help you find love. We laughed about it because it seemed hopeless, but a small part of us wished for it to work. With the rose and lavender taste still lingering in our mouths, we went on our way to treat ourselves the best way we knew how – shopping! My friend met a love that would not disappoint, new shoes, that would also change our fate. We both agreed that it was a match made in heaven.
After a successful shopping spree, we ended up getting a coffee. Enjoying the breezy and sunny weather of the south of Spain we observed the peaceful pace of the locals. Little did we know that as we were intrigued by the locals, they were intrigued by us as well. Sitting next to us were two old Spanish men enjoying their cafe con leche gazing at us. They began to speak amongst themselves trying to decipher what they deemed excotic. My friend got up to use the bathroom, leaving me in the quiet plaza. All I could hear was the old men’s conversations.
They argued about where my friend and I could be from not knowing that I understood everything they were saying. I could sense them deeply staring, and one of them with a warm tone said, “where could she be from? She looks like a muñeca de porcelana” (porcelain doll). I was flattered by the compliment but too embarrassed to keep eavesdropping.
My friend returned, still in awe of her new shoes. Concerned that someone might steal them, she decided to put them on. Whether it be superstitions, divine feminine energy, or a instinct, I trust that gut feeling, so I agreed.
As she took out her new shoes, one of the men leapt out of his chair and knelt down on one knee. He grabbed the new shoe and slid it onto her foot, as if my friend was Cinderella waiting for a perfect crystal slipper. The other old man giggled in excitement to see his friend flirting with a young pretty girl. We conversed with them a bit, and they continued to innocently flirt with us. Then, my friend and I went on our way giggling about the chivalry of the two old Spanish men. Although we didn’t find love in Granada, we left with hope, and a funny story.
Still uncertain if romantic love exists, we learned that chivalrous men do exist. All we can do is wait, meet new people, and hope for love.
Switching directions is about changing your state of mind and perspective, regardless of where you find yourself. It allows you to refresh and confront your issues with a clearer mind. To be honest, after the trip our problems were still there. But getting away ended up giving me one of the greatest life lessons. I came to the realization that no one really knows what they are doing. We are all sailing to an unknown destination.
Even if you imagine your destination, you do not know for certain that is where you will arrive after your voyage. So enjoy the present, the company you have, and create adventures that your younger self would be ecstatic to hear about. Today, my friend and I look at those obstacles with a certain pride for overcoming them, and at the time finding the peace to do so.