“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal of what we imagine of it.” – Cesare Pavese
My time here in Barcelona has been nothing short of exceptional. However, there are moments where I have a sort of clarity about my circumstances. I realize that even though I am calling this place home for the duration of my stay, it’s nothing of the sort. I own nothing in this home – I have no rights to change or alter my surroundings. It’s true that I am invited to feel at home, but in reality, it’s more akin to staying in a hotel – the kind where if you even touch the candy on the dresser, the ultra-sensitive scale detects your curiosity and charges your credit-card. So, in an effort to avoid such charges, you spend your entire stay cautious and in a certain state of anxiety.
Don’t get me wrong – I am elated about my circumstances in Barcelona. My host-parents are the best, the food and living conditions they provide for me are top notch. However, it’s just not like home. A lot of that is partly because where I am is missing the people that mean the most to me in my life, such as my parents and girlfriend. Furthermore, there is a persistent awareness that all of this is temporary – as I write this I am already on the downhill side of my time here. Because of the lack of loved ones and this temporary circumstance, it’s difficult to ever truly feel at home.
I would say I feel most at home when I’m just out in the city, or seated at a quaint eatery among locals – watching futbol. Barcelona is no longer an unfamiliar and daunting dame. With each day that I’m here, it feels more like I live here, the streets are familiar, the neighborhoods recognizable and the people identifiable. It feels good to have some wayward soul approach and ask for directions, and without hesitation I can respond in English (and maybe Español!).
So, is traveling a brutality? I suppose it is, no more than life itself. After all, I believe that life is really only defined by our experiences, which only come to us because of our innate drive for adventure. Socrates said the unexamined live is not worth living – I would add that life without travel is not worth living. So in this respect, a life well lived is not without a bit of brutality. A little suffering and pain helps articulate and emphasize those moments of splendor and beauty – of which Barcelona is more than not.