Solo Traveling. What exactly is it? Some could say that moving to another country where you didn’t know anyone could be considered “solo traveling,” But not to me. I have too many friends in Spain and rarely find myself lonely. No, solo traveling to me is going somewhere alone and being alone.
Five years ago, that would have sounded awful to me. Five years ago, I wanted to be surrounded by people at all times. I was enamored with the idea of having friends around and traveling/experiencing life with them. Who can you relive the memories with if you are by yourself?!
However, here I am, twenty-three years old, and the day I booked my single ticket to Santander, Spain, I had tears in my eyes from excitement. I don’t know if it’s because I am older or just strange, and even though I am not tied to a husband or children, moments to be completely by myself have been hard to come by. In short, the thought of being by myself in a new city for an extended amount of time made me giddy.
One little side note before I continue on about how my solo traveling experience went. I know that traveling alone scares some. It is definitely not something to take lightly! You are more susceptible to things happening when you are not in a group. But do not let that scare you. Be smart. Walks are great, hiking is wonderful, doing either of those things at night in an unfamiliar city or anywhere for that matter, not so great. The point is, have your wits about you. Just some advice…also I could say this a million times to my mother and she would still worry about me. It’s their mom job, just suck it up and listen to the lecture again.
Moving on! This past weekend was a Puente, in Spain. This means that we, as teachers, were fortunate enough to have some days off of school! Instead of relaxing, for most auxiliares, that meant t r a v e l i n g. Like I am sure you have already guessed, I took this opportunity to try some solo traveling. I have many friends who have traveled alone many times and they raved about it. They highly encouraged me to give it a shot; so how could I say no!? Three weeks ago I decided I was going to give it a try and I booked a ticket to a small city in the autonomous region of Cantabria, Spain called Santander.
I had wanted to go to this city for a while. A part from being a beautiful city with mountains and pre-historic cave drawings (which I still haven’t seen, but it’s on my list), the Palacio de la Magdelena, in Santander, is where one of my new favorite Spanish television shows was filmed! I was super excited to go to this city and fan girl in peace. What I didn’t expect however was how much I would fall in love.
I was told growing up that “a friend is a need answered” and as much as I truly have grown to believe that saying, I also now believe it could be applied to cities. Santander was a need answered. I needed the time away. I needed to be with me. Now, as much as I want to share how meaningful the experience was to me on a deeper level because would I be Makenna Schrader if I didn’t? However, I don’t think I have the words yet…give me time (so…to be continued…).
But what I can tell you is what I did with my time in this beautiful seaside city. First, I should tell you that Santander is located on the northern coast of Spain with beautiful cliffs that jet out into the Bay of Santander. Basically, it is a paradise for natural paisaje (landscape) aficionados like myself. The beautiful mountains engulf your view to one side, while the fantastic architecture makes you feel transported in time, on the other.
So what did I do with all my time? I walked. I walked…a lot. My poor white converse have been with me through a lot already and now they have been with me through a 14 mile hike back and forth along the Santander coast (my feet kill actually thanks for asking). What I decided to do was grab a map of the city, follow the coast and only stop when I wanted to stop. The beauty of solo traveling at it’s finest. The best decision I made was choosing my favorite instrumental album (kudos to Yiruma’s First Love album) and letting myself get lost for hours walking up the coast (I was moved to tears at some points #pathetic). It was beautiful and fulfilling when I didn’t even know that I was feeling empty.
After about an hour of this, I ditched the headphones, walked the coast with sand between my toes and water splashing my legs (by the way it was sixty and sunny all weekend…yes, I got sunburnt). I finally reached the Palacio by noon and proceeded to walk around the entire estate dreaming of Julio professing his love for me (SWOON). I was also lucky enough to catch a tour of the inside. I was in heaven.
After the tour, per recommendation of my hostel receptionist, I kept going after the Palacio. Most people stop at the peninsula, but as Anna told me to do, I just kept walking. It made the three course meal I treated myselfon the way, guilt-less! As I kept walking, I came to the Parque de Mataleñas. This was a well-trekked trail (AHEM FOR MY MOTHER’S SAKE) that followed the edge of the cliffs. I walked this entire path until the Faro de Cabo Mayor, a beautiful lighthouse on the cliffs. The trek was long, I was sweaty and gross, but I have never had so much fun on a hike. By 5pm, I was overjoyed and ready to turn back.
Fourteen miles (over 20km) later, I was back at my hostel. Exhausted and sore, I grabbed pinchos with a friend (a happy coincidence that a friend from Logroño was in Santander and staying at the same hostel) and went to bed.
As I am sitting journaling this blog entry, from this beautiful view (refer to image below) I feel a deep sense of happiness. Santander was my need answered. It was my time to figure some things out, to be intellectual, but also to lighten up, to do exactly what I wanted to do, and to enjoy a beautiful city. Sevilla will always be the city where I fell in love with Spain, La Rioja will always be my home, and Santander will always be the city that stole my heart…my hidden gem.
My advice is book the ticket. Spend the night in a city. Go without a plan. Don’t be too serious. And most of all cherish the time that you have to be alone. Growing up brings wonderful things, but it also gets inundated with people and demands. Take time to marvel at something because you want to!
Sending happiness to all!