I found myself walking without direction and alongside a big wall that seemed to have no entry at all.
I stopped walking and finally accepted two sad realities: that my feet were killing me slowly, and that the map that I had bought, so excited, when I arrived that morning to the city, had not helped me at all.
I had been walking around the historic center of Toledo for more than half an hour, thinking that there was more to see, but that “that” has just not yet appeared before my eyes. Of course, the truth was that before leaving Madrid, I didn’t do an essential task before going to visit a city: check the most important tourist spots.
I stopped and appreciate the beautiful landscape before me.
I had never been so lost.
I had never felt so alone.
Yet I had never felt so connected with myself.
That was when I realized I didn’t need anyone’s company to have a good day in a city I didn’t know. Of course, no one says “always go alone” when you are traveling around. Nobody ever says that because we, humans of the world, are a race that can’t be alone for long, we are always searching for partner to share our adventures with,
On the other hand, traveling alone has certain benefits (which later I assimilated more specifically when certain points, which still meant no absolute truths, coincided with others, on other trips and other people). I’m going to mention the main ones:
- You walk at your own pace, no one hurries and no one delays: The time is yours and you distribute it the way you feel is right.
- Eat what and where you could possibly want: When you’re with more people traveling around, there should always be some kind of agreement when deciding what and where (and even at what time) to eat. In some cases, you may lose some time or even get into petty arguments and bad times.
- Focalize your way: You can choose what to see and not see in every city you go. No need to be forced to go to a site that really doesn’t grab your attention just to please another or others.
Yes. I must admit that having mentioned those 3 benefits of traveling alone, leave me with a very independent and perhaps lonely taste in my mouth. Don’t feel bad if you identified with these seemingly positive criteria that keep the desire to not be true, we’ve all been throw that.
On the other side, there are also many benefits (that I will mention in another post) when you choose to travel by group.
But that was not the case for me, in my fourth day in Spain.
That day, I woke up with an extrange eager to leave Madrid, not in a bad way of course. I realized that being in Madrid connected me with cities that, later on, It would be difficult to return.
I grabbed my purse. Money, phone, camera and personal documents. Went to the train station and bought the first ticket train to Toledo I saw, without really knowing what I could find there. It seemed exciting.
I then came across this cobbled city that dates back to distant eras. Back to the kings and queens who came to their castles. To tangled streets. Cold weather, very cold and then, of course, rain.
I walked a lot with the map at first. I didn’t dare to take any public transport because, although the language was not the impediment, I consider myself a fairly clueless person and easy to get lost in some unknown place, as it was in this case, Toledo. So, I walked a lot. Perhaps more than what people usually walk.
Finally, as I mentioned people, I left the map and started to ask strangers how to get to this or that place, where to eat, among other things. It is always the best option to ask a local.
My feet started to hurt me 4 hours after going up and down stairs and long roads connecting the historical center and the outskirts of the city. After that, I knew I had to start giving me little breaks to survive, after all, I had about 6 hours left to take the train back to Madrid, according to my ticket (later I discovered that the hours are not absolute, and sometimes you can go to the destination you want, when you want).
I ended the day at a small cafe, just outside the historic center, in an area that really, had nothing special. Being there, calm and warm with a cup of coffe and cream ( so cliché), I wrote down three basic principles that needed to take knowledge of when launching into a walk of almost a whole day to get to know a city:
- Travel light: Preferably with a backpack and not a purse or something similar. Just take the basics, your survival kit if you want to call it that way.
- Wear comfortable shoes: It is simply essential for you to spend a nice day without worrying about your feet. Trekking shoes are always the best option.
- Do not be afraid to talk to locals: Finally they are who will help you to get to really know his city. Yes, you’ll encounter some unfriendly people, but I have a theory (unproven) that out of 10 local people, 7 are nice with disorientated tourists like us. It’s not a bad rate after all.
Well, although as I settled into my seat on the train back to Madrid and swore solemnly that I would never wear those shoes on a trip, I found myself using them 4 months later, for a three day electronic festival where, in addition, I jumped by more than 6 hours each day and added a walk of 2 hours a day… but that’s another story to tell.