“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” – Miriam Adeney
In 2007, I fell in love…but maybe not in the way you are thinking. In early February of 2007 I got off of the plane in a city and country I had never been to before. Looking back now, there are many reasons that led me there: my love for the Spanish language, my desire to speak it, the experience to get out and see the world, to get TEFL certified, and, ultimately, as I told many people, “to find myself”. That sounds super cliche now but I didn’t really know how else to say it. I’m not even sure then that I knew what I meant. I just knew that staying in the states wasn’t giving me what I needed and I needed something more.
So, as I mentioned, in 2007, I fell in love! I fell in love with a city, with a culture, with people, with streets and artists, with food and music, and, ultimately, by the end of that year, with myself. When I returned to the states and began my Masters in Hospitality and Tourism Management, we immediately had to start thinking about a thesis. I thought long and hard about my topic, about what I wanted to research and learn more about, and what I thought I could give back in this paper. It all came back to this beautiful city that I got to call home for a brief time in my past. Barcelona opened my eyes to a whole different side of how a city and it’s people can change tourism in a city, and I knew that this would have to be my topic: “Tourism under Dictator & Democracy: How the Catalan Culture and Catalan Nationalism have Affected Tourism in Catalonia, Spain throughout Changing Political Power”. I could go on and on about my findings and even share that paper with you, but I’m hoping you get the point. The Catalan people, their beautiful culture, and the love and pride that exudes from every corner of the city is like nothing I’ve ever seen or lived in since. I miss it every single day of my life.
Do you ever look at your past and think, “Did that really happen?” I think that all the time. “Did I really live there?” It seems so surreal and too perfect to have been a piece of my puzzle. Although it was long ago and the memories become harder and harder to keep clear in my mind, I can feel Barcelona in the depths of my heart and soul, I truly can. When I start to travel down memory lane I walk the streets in my mind, I walk up to Parc Guell and down to Parc Ciutadella, down Las Ramblas to the Mediterranean. I eat patatas bravas and croquettes and tortilla de patatas, I take the train down to Castelldefels and Sitges and admire the coastline. I see all of the shops and the smell of the food. I can hear the people speaking in Catalan and in Spanish, I can hear the laughter of children playing with their families at all hours of the day, and the folks dancing during all of the festivals in the streets. I can taste the wine and the Estrella Damm, and, in these memories I am at peace.
I cry now thinking back on that short time in my life. It changed me. See, I didn’t just fall in love with the city and the culture and the people, I truly fell in love with myself. After I left I finally understood what it meant to “find myself”. I can’t explain it in a blog and I may not even be able to explain it in person, but just know that that place holds the biggest piece of my heart that any place ever will and I adore it!
When my news alert popped up on my phone yesterday my heart sank and I felt sick to my stomach. NOOOOO!!!! Not there! All of the memories came rushing back and it’s like someone had attacked my home. With so much going on here in the states I was already on an emotional edge. This attack sent me over.
I guess I’m writing this for me and for whomever will listen. My heart hurts and I was so scared for loved ones that still live there. The picture of perfection I had in my mind felt like it had been struck with a rock. What I do know about Barcelona and the Catalan people, and what they taught me in 2007, is that they love HARD! They love one another and Catalonia harder than anything I’ve ever witnessed and they will not be taken down by this hate. They fought Franco and his regime and their cultural nationalism only becomes stronger through things like this.
Our media spends a lot of time sharing so much of the hate in the world. Believe me, I know it’s there and I know it must be fought, but let’s all focus a little more on the love that counters this hate. Love really is stronger, I can promise you that! It’s lighter to bear and it brings us together. Let the Catalan people be examples and mentors of love and unity. If you want me to tell you a story or two I’d be glad to.
As I’ve heard many times in my life, “Home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling.” I feel home this week and home hurts. Part of my heart remains in Barcelona and yesterday that piece broke. I know they will come back from this! Their tourism may take a hit but it will bounce back, my thesis tells me this 😉 People and culture make a city/region desirable and Barcelona is a city that I think many people have always longed for but just don’t know it yet. Go there! Give back to this city after all of this! And open your heart to all that it will give back to you. Who knows, you may even “find yourself” 😉
Barca, you will always be the one that got away! Destiny sure did it right bringing me to you. T’estimo!