For the past few summers, there have been restrictions on what we do and where we go. This year, however, we find ourselves in an almost limitless expanse of cocktails and suntans. But it's been many months since we’ve had this much freedom in the sun. Think of last year’s summer, three years ago and how much you’ve changed since 2019. Different goals, perhaps. Changed habits. Shifting priorities. How do you fill this summer of 2022 with memories?
After finishing first year, I was lucky enough to pour a year's worth of a part-time job into a five day trip to Barcelona. And though it was much too short for my liking, I learnt enough to fill a thousand pages. Mostly, however, I learnt the value in travelling and exploring. Whether that’s developing a cultural awareness or sharpening up on being street-smart, the things you see and experience are constantly helping you grow. Especially on more independent holidays, without an adult adult (although that line is blurring now, and it’s sort of scary) or someone to hold your hand from point A to point B, the freedom of going to new places can offer you so much more.
Financially, for example, having to budget within a completely different context proved pretty interesting. There are a countless amount of culture changes which impact how much or how little something costs. A bottle of wine in a Spanish supermarket is almost a third of what it is in Scotland. That, along with the more affordable fresh fruit made it a welcome adjustment into the European aesthetic of a white wine and green grapes night.
The amazing gastronomy Catalunya has to offer was such a great way to explore both the local culture and taunt my budgeting skills. The idea of sitting on a kerbside café sharing a paella not only sounds delicious, but also reinforced the communal closeness of the Hispanic culture. There are so many small moments, of what you drink, how you eat and where, which, despite seeming isolated and even insignificant in their own moment, contribute to the way in which whole cultures exist. From immersing yourself in the local community (as with anything) you learn to understand a wider and more global picture. To see another way of life other than your own.
Not only do you learn a different way of life but as you work your legs across a different city (wearing your trainers out slowly in the process) your brain works harder too. Granted, most of my decision to go to Barcelona (and then Valencia later on in the summer) was to practice my Spanish skills, and see the extent to which my confidence in speaking to people grew. You don’t have to have a full blown conversation with the taxi lady about the change in sexism to practice your language skills here and there. Grasping a different language helps you improve your cognitive skills, engage further with the place you're exploring (and, if you can speak it well enough, helps you avoid sneaky tourist scammers charging you more for a bottle of water just because of your accent). Don’t be shy to converse with anyone with your 70 day Duolingo streak- the important thing is to try!
I truly believe you see parts of yourself you never would have before when you’re travelling solo. The encounters we have definitely have a lot to do with this, but so are our reactions to these experiences. This applies whether you’re in another country or another part of your city.
Whilst it is good to have a basic plan or outline for things you want to see and do, travelling independently allows you the liberty of spontaneity. Putting yourself out there leads to so many other paths you could explore. From the people you meet, to the new food you eat. What you learn when exploring is priceless, so go forth unto someplace new!
Anisha Minocha is studying English and Spanish at the University of St Andrews. She is a passionate writer and poet whose work has been published in anthologies, magazines, blogs and won competitions. Contributing to Sink Magazine, she is keen to utilize the voice of young people and share work through her creative writing blog. As a climate activist, she has combined her love for words and the planet in a performance of spoken word at the Royal Exchange Theatre in 'Letters to the Earth'. She also co-runs Young Friends of the Earth: Manchester and has organised workshops, participated in panels and spoken at Manchester Cathedral.
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