My story starts here, back in the summer of 2015. This was back when I was quite materialistic, spending all my money on things, always needing the latest phone or jacket. At this point in my life, I felt like my life was in a loop, doing the same shit every day. I realized I need to change it up, and do something new with my life. Alas, a cheap flight to Barcelona was my calling, and I impulsively clicked 'Book'. Now, 2 years later, I can truly root my newfound lust for adventure to this experience.
I sat in the airplane heading to Barcelona with nothing but excitement and wonder. This is my first time travelling solo, first time in Europe, first time staying in a Hostel, and there were so many unanswered questions which added to the excitement.
The bus ride from the airport to the city was so memorable, to this day. I looked out the window in awe, examining the landscape, architecture, people, cars. I was so present, woke, and in the moment at that moment. Once I arrived to the doorstep of Hip Karma Hostel, I opened the heavy doors of a building that seemed hundreds of years old, with such an authentic character. Immediately, I left my stuff, and went walking. From day until night, I would aimlessly walk and get lost, loving every moment. The Gaudi architecture, wide boulevard of Las Ramblas, amazing (and surprisingly affordable) food, and magnificent parks all came together to make this city one of my favourites!
Returning to the hostel at night, I saw people from all over the world mingling, sharing experiences, and having a great time. I wish I had the courage to come up to people and start talking, but the reality is that I was missing this confidence. I was afraid of rejection, thinking what if they think I'm a loser for travelling alone? So, I would lie in bed, and hear everyone having fun in envy. I felt lonely. I wasn't going to let this put a damper to my awesome trip, so I decided to change.
Barcelona isn't just a memorable trip just because of city, food, architecture, weather, and all the other amazing things that make this city great. No, in addition to that, it is the city where I learned how to let go of my fear of rejection, and fearlessly introduce myself to new groups of people, in hopes to make some new friends.
After the second day of exploring the city, I returned to my hostel with a mission: make friends. I was surprised how easy this was! Make eye contact, smile, and ask "hey, where are you from"? Using this technique, I instantly connected with backpackers from all over the world, and the trip became so much better after that. I made plans to explore the city with some tourists the next day, and the nature of my trip instantly changed. Now I had people to share my experiences with, and I was surprised about how much I learned about other cultures through making friends and backpacking, hearing their stories, seeing their way of life, and catching cultural differences.
I felt more open, free, and ready to connect with anyone who was willing to have a chat. It's almost as I was making up for lost time. I got to practice my Russian and hear the stories of living in St.Petersburg with a Russian couple in Parc Guel. I met some Aussies, and realized how much slang and how different their language is. I met a guy who introduced himself as a "Kiwi Sparky", which I later learned means an Electrician from New Zealand. I met some locals, who showed my their favourite spot to get tapas, and what streets to avoid at night.
At this point, I realized, that I am living at the peak of my life. From the moment I was born until this point, my experiences in Spain were by far the most exciting and exhilarating point in my life, and I have reached a pivotal point where I re-evaluated my life. I was working in Toronto, spending all my money on things that become old and obsolete, and missing out on all this adventure and experiences. I am so thankful that I reached this breakthrough in my life at such a young age, as I spent the next 2 years backpacking to over 27 countries, but those are all stories for later!
Pub Crawls, market full of delicious street food, clubs, cathedrals, beaches, grand boulevards and squares, I was in heaven! My next destination after Barcelona was Amsterdam, and off I went with this new found sense of freedom.
What to do:
Barcelona is an amazing place to discover on your feet. Walk around, look around, and take in the beautiful architecture and people and smells and life around you. It’s a really special place, the locals love to enjoy life, and the city is bustling with life. Take a stroll down Las Ramblas to see a grand boulevard that rivals the great streets of the world. Walk around La Boqueria Market, and explore the tastes, smells, and colors of Barcelona. Tons of merchants sell products like fruit cups, juices, meats, cheeses, seafood, sweets, and much more. Explore the great works of Gaudi, including the majestic Sagrada Familia, the stunning Park Guel, and the Casa Batlo. Most free walking tours will go through at least one of these buildings. A trip to Barcelona is not complete until you discover these, as you won’t find anything like it anywhere else in the world. At night, definitely walk around and discover the many little cafés and bars, the prices are relatively cheap, and drinks are much more affordable then nearby cities like Paris or London. A good club to check out at night is Pacha, right near the water and beach.
The great thing about Barcelona is that it’s a walkable city, and there’s not much planning that needs to be done. Arrive to the city, and find a map available at any hotel, hostel, or tourism center and walk or bike around, just don’t forget to take it all in!
Barcelona is my favorite city in Europe, and you’re guaranteed to have a good time! I travelled solo, but the social atmosphere in the city ensured I was never alone for even a second. At any time during the day or night, there were tons of people wanting to explore, party, swim, and have a good time. Pub Crawls and Hostel Events are the easiest way to meet people!
Where to stay:
I stayed at a few hostels in Barcelona, and my favorite one was Kabul Backpackers. It’s in a great location overlooking a Plaça Reial, a great square with bars and restaurants coming right off of Las Ramblas. The reason I loved this hostel is because they had a very social atmosphere with 2 bars, a huge common area, a gorgeous rooftop patio, and lots of cheap beer (1 euro!). They have lots of events and pub crawls, and you have to try really really hard to come here and be alone.
I also stayed at Hip Karma Hostel, which was very different from Kabul but I still enjoyed it very much. Also with a great location, this hostel is in a very old beautiful building which feels very authentic to Barcelona. This is a much smaller hostel with a family-like feeling. I made some great friends, and we were drinking 2€ (which was surprisingly very good) bottles of wine on a beautiful balcony overlooking a lively street in Barcelona. There were people up until 3/4am (during the busy June season), and there was always something to do. There’s no bar and not many organized events, but I still had a great time.
Lastly, I stayed at St. Christopher’s Barcelona. St. Christopher’s is a chain of hostels found all over Europe, and there’s also a lively bar, organized events. One thing I didn’t like about this hostel is that the bar is open to the public, which sounds great in theory but there were many local people sitting in tables with their friends, and not in the mood to make new friends, so it was slightly harder for solo travellers to make friends. I still made some great friends, but with more effort than the other places. I stayed in different St. Christopher’s hostels, and they are all quite similar.