How did I discover my love for travel? They say you discover the power within you in your most difficult moment in life. It was year 2015 and I was getting married , an arranged marriage and yet I was excited that I would be going abroad on a holiday for the first time with someone who will be my friend for life. So I booked a holiday trip ( others called it honeymoon) to mauritius. Yet the dreams were shattered when I was told once the marriage will not last right after the marriage ceremony was done. Yes I was suffering from depression right after that and its in that moment I realized that I was postponing all my dreams I do not know for what. I was doing pretty well professionally and I had a network of friends and family who are really supportive of me. Yes I went to mauritius, but it was not fun. And it was late in 2016 that I seriously thought of going on solo trips. I had been on business trips to middle east in past all alone and I thought If I can survive that I can survive anything. I was strong enough to come out of a failed relationship/marriage if ever it was and then I started planning that I will be going to Europe in the summer of 2017 as a birthday gift to myself. Well why not if you have the means and will right?
So that is when I decided to travel to UK ( London and Manchester) , Spain and Netherlands. Unlike many blogs you read , I did not plan much as I just packed my bags, applied for visa and booked my trip to London. The objectives were simple:
1.To watch my club play ( Manchester City Fan- There is a backstory to that as well)
2.Watch Messi play in front of my own eyes
3.To travel and explore the unknown and fix myself
And there I started my trip on 11th May 2017, just after my birthday and I had booked my hotel in Wembley area of London. Upon arrival I realized that I'm pretty good with travel logistics and quickly got hang of the London Tube system. But first day I just wanted to chill in my hotel room ( Oh yes I had booked a hotel room from my reward points).
So it was 12th May 2016, I had all day to myself with no plans. Started my day with visit to baker street.
Another mistake I did was didn't factor in the cold of london. So I spent a good hour inside the 221B baker street. And then I explored the oxford and piccadilly circus areas. The vibe of both areas I can say is really positive.
Well there are many blogs about london so I wont bore with details as its a blog of my experience and how Travel cured me.I had my first experience of the walking tour thanks to strawberry tours and covered most of the touristy things thanks to them.
May 13th was a big day for me, left early morning to watch first live football match of my life Manchester City vs Leicester City, and boy it was a dream come true for me. I had a fun day , enjoyed with the fans in the Fan park both pre and post matches, sang the club anthems like blue moon and wonderwall with a beer in my hand, danced with the fans in the street.
May 14th was my last day in London and I covered the london eye and boat tour and also attended british academy awards.
May 15th was the second phase of my trip, and I arrived in Madrid the sunniest city of europe. It was also the first time I was staying in hostel. So took the metro from the airport ( first rookie traveler mistake I made here- bought the sim-card at airport) . So the hostel experience was amazing, I stayed in a hostel known as the Hat which had a cool rooftop bar and also amazing sangria . I still remember first person I met was an algerian guy, we were talking via google translate. So in the rooftop bar I met two amazing guys from netherlands and I also enrolled myself for the pubcrawl. It was a fun night I made some friends for life . I also did day trips from madrid to toledo and segovia ( Baby pig in segovia is a must). You can check my instagram page for the pictures . Toledo is really pretty and beautiful I spent a day there and I wish I could have stayed there longer.
Another amazing story was I met this biker from france normandy. I was resting in my room and he arrives and asks me if I want to hangout with him. And we took the map from reception and went on ticking the all special places( Mind you I spent 5 days in madrid and did a walking tour - You can eat amazing 3 course meal at la latina street for 13 euro with a drink for lunch available from 1 PM to 3 PM at most of the restaurants in la latina) . So we spent the afternoon and evening checking out places and me showing him hidden places and places I found via my travel guide and we arrived at the museum and boy my first visit and I fell in love with the art. I ended up spending nearly 3 hours ( Sundays the entry is free in Madrid).
After Madrid my next stop was cordoba, a city with mixture of moorish and christian heritage and had a mosque church ( again check my insta). Best thing about cordoba , well its got to be the walk, the old town , flowers, the sound of water everywhere. The food and people. Its a small town with wonderful people. I feel one day is more than enough here.
Next stop for me was seville . I had seen seville in GOT and also Starwars. Must visits are the alcazar and the cathedral. Also the modern part. Again I met really amazing people at the hostels. Hostel to stay- BlackSwan hostel. Pro tip- Order drinks and tapas is free in seville. Also if you have a chance to attend a match of Seville FC please attend ( Tickets are as cheap as 15 Euro). Another thing to keep in mind, you may not get meal post 11 PM ( unlike other spanish cities)
From Seville my next stop was Granda. Alhambra is truly marvelous and yes you have to see the flamenco only in granda. The food is mix of spanish and arabic. Its a youth city and you can party here all night long. Summers can be really hot. From Granda my next stop was malaga.
Malaga has a really beautiful beach. Its a city where pablo picasso was born and its a city where you may see the famous bull fighting. Also Famous actor antonio banderas has a house here and if you are lucky you can see him. Its a city full of music and amazing food. I was able to attend a local wedding and boy what an experience. Spanish people know how to enjoy and party. We danced and partied on the street.
From malaga I took a bus to valencia. Valencia has amazing boat parties and also the old part of the city is really beautiful. It also has food market that is centuries old. Pro tip- join the walking tour by free tour valencia and know the history of the bats and connection to valencia. Also watch football match at famous Mestalla Stadium. And yeah don't forget to eat the famous paella. You dont get it better than valencia throughout europe. From Valencia you can take the ferry to Ibiza and yes Ibiza is party capital dance till you last :)
My next stop after ibiza was barcelona. Famous catalan capital. Amazing food, people and yes gaudi. The architecture is just out of this world. Also check out nearby gems like tarragona and girona . If you plan to go to the beach, I would suggest tarragona over barcelona anyday. I spent nearly 5 days in barcelona and its one of my favourite cities in europe. I also decided to watch barcelona play copa del rey final. The final was to be played in madrid and I took the train from barcelona to madrid , traveling with fans, going to the fan park, singing go barca and other songs and partying on the street of madrid pre and post matches and feeling the love of the locals , I had the best time of my life.
That was the end of my spanish adventures.
Being in a place where people are so warm and friendly. Working in a hostel and also a vineyard, learning local language and experiencing the culture truly changed me as a person. Learnt patience, learnt about art, learnt about wines. I can go on and on. I have not posted the pictures here as I just wanted to share my story with the world. You can follow my journey @ instagram.com/rk1086