As my backpacking through Spain and Portugal journey ends, I reflect back on my trip and what I learned from my European travels. Barcelona, Madrid, La Coruna, Granada, Ronda, Sevilla, Salema, and Lisbon – I learned something from all of these places. While some things taught me a lot about traveling and cultures, I also learned a lot about myself on this trip.
Check out the entire journal – backpacking through Spain and Portugal.
Reflections on Spain and Portugal
Overall, the trip was a bit disappointing. I expected more and was a bit disappointed by Spain. I enjoyed my time in Ronda, Granada, and Sevilla and liked Barcelona. However, I wasn’t as excited about this trip as I have been about trips in the past. Maybe it was the fact I don’t speak Spanish or have never been that interested in the culture. Even when we got there, there were things about Spain that I didn’t like as I enjoyed other cultures and countries much more.
This is not to say Spain isn’t a great place to visit. They have a culture and history unlike any in Europe. I really loved Portugal and wished I could have spent more time exploring that. I am glad we took the route we did as each place got better and better. Portugal was a great ending to the trip.
What I learned backpacking through Spain and Portugal
This trip revealed a lot about me personally. I hate bad directions and getting lost and am frustrated when things are out of my control. I faced some personal struggles and saw how weak I am.
There were also more down moments and frustrations than in previous trips. I realized this trip didn’t live up to my expectations and that I had a lot to do with that. Unlike past trips, I spent most of my time just seeing things.
There were also more down moments and frustrations than in previous trips. I realized this trip didn’t live up to my expectations and that I had a lot to do with that. Unlike past trips, I spent most of my time just seeing things. I need to stretch myself beyond my comfort zone to have experiences.
Experiences like our time with Anahid and Max and Ana, our time with Leah in La Coruna, and a soccer game in Barcelona. I can’t blame things that happened or a lack of enthusiasm for Spain as the reason I didn’t enjoy this trip as much. If I compare this to previous experiences, the best moments are those you make and create with other people. That’s probably true in my life here back in California.
My best memories
- Barcelona soccer game, surrounded by locals cheering on their team
- Time connecting and having fun with Leah, Clever, Shawn, and friends in La Coruna
- Sitting down and talking with Max, Ana, and Anahid about life, experiences, politics, and travel.
- Running into these new friends as we wandered around Ronda
- Salema – local town, Figueira (nude) beach and new experiences, hiking along the cliffs over the beach, walking on the beach and looking up at the stars
- Going to the movies in Lisbon enjoying a movie with the locals, laughing at scenes in two different languages
Looking back, the best moments were experiences with other people, with God, or just going out of my comfort zone to enjoy a new experience.
While every person is different in terms of the things they like and dislike, here are my lists for this trip. These lists may say a lot more about me than the places I visited.
- Smoke, flies, being lost and not knowing where I am going, fried foods and oils, modern art, tour groups (even when I have been on a tour, I didn’t like standing out), my negative attitude and frustrations, not knowing the language in the country I am in, places that are too crowded, people making out (not just kissing) in public places like a crowded Metro, Rick Steves’ poor directions and maps, being pressured at touristy places to buy something or eat somewhere, sidewalks too narrow for pedestrians and streets too narrow for cars, too many Euro coins in my pocket, tourist who are too loud and obnoxious and don’t respect the culture and country they are visiting, jet lag, Madrid, the Alhambra, bullfighting
- European futbol, eating good local food, internet cafes, hanging out with old friends like Leah and meeting new ones like Clever and Shawn, connecting with a place because of the people you meet and get to know, seeing Clever’s excitement as I gave him the Barcelona jersey, Renaissance and 16th through early 19th century art, art museums, Toledo’s cathedral, Thyssen museum, Olympic stadium and museum in Barcelona, Sevilla, Granada, Ronda, tree lined cities in the middle of big cities, meeting and connecting with Max and Ana, connecting with a local like Anahid, Salema, beautiful beaches in quiet towns, hiking cliffs overlooking the beach, first time experience on a nude beach, going to the movies in a foreign country, too many stars in the sky to count on a moonlit beach, slowing down and enjoying the beauty and peace of creation, port wine, Lisbon (city, people, and culture)
I never seem to travel without learning something. I always learn something about the art or history of the city I am in. However, I tend to learn a lot more about myself – some good and some bad.
Even on this trip, my eyes were opened and my mind expanded to never look at the world the same again. My memories of this trip, both good and bad, are more meaningful and capture more than any of the 1000 pictures that we took. It wasn’t the best trip to Europe I have had. However, a lot of the blame for that falls on me for things I did and didn’t do.
Backpacking through Spain and Portugal allowed me to explore these two amazing countries. Even though I took this trip to explore and learn about these two countries, it was these two countries that taught me a lot about myself.
Read more about my adventures and the entire series in Backpacking through Spain and Portugal
If you are interested in checking out more of Spain and Portugal, check out these Rick Steves videos on Barcelona and Lisbon.