Where did we leave off last, dear readers? I think it was after my whirlwind weekend in the Pyrenees, yes? I wish I could say I have been up to just as much fun filled adventure these last seven days, but in reality I spent the better part of the week with my head buried in a pillow. I thought I was on the mend after my case of the flu from the week before, but I woke up Monday morning sick again, this time with strep throat.
It feels a bit poignant to have had such ease in receiving medical attention here in Spain, when back home, the government is shut down and the country in an uproar over this very issue.
I’ll save my opinions on the broader issue for another day, but I’d like to take just a moment to observe that it took me about half an hour and $20 to get treatment and medicine. Being the uninsured person that I am, in the States the whole process of seeing a doctor, getting a prescription, then getting the prescription filled, would have likely taken hours of time and cost me something more like $200 when all was said and done.
Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…
During the course of our trip last weekend, it became increasingly clear that Santi’s interest in me is more than friendship, and he asked me to please stay in Spain so we could spend another weekend together. On one hand, my broken and shriveled little heart is having a very difficult time accepting Santi’s affection, and my scared animal brain is listing all the reasons why there has to be a catch somewhere.
First of all, did I mention that on the day I rushed out the door to make the train to Segovia, I was wearing a pajama top as a t-shirt and was in such a hurry that I forgot to brush my hair? Then I spent two days sick on his brother’s couch, and completely failed as his co-pilot… So I’m not quite grasping the appeal. And I’ve also been feeling impatient to get moving beyond the borders of Spain, as per my original travel plan.
But on the other hand, I really like Santi too, and wouldn’t it be a shame to miss out on spending time with a great guy, just because I had an agenda and I wasn’t willing to be flexible? And what if I’m just using my “plan” as an excuse to run away, because I’m scared to open my heart to someone again?
These arguments went back and forth in my brain pretty much all day Sunday, as I was trying to formulate my decision. But then the hand of fate intervened with a case of strep throat, and I had no choice but to stay in Madrid for another week, most of which I spent sleeping.
The small fragments of time I spent awake during the week, I started to talk myself into the idea of not leaving Spain at all, and reworking all of my plans so I can spend as much time with Santi as possible during this trip. But there was also this quiet little voice of honesty somewhere in my brain, making the observation that this plan to stay in Spain might be only a little bit about Santi, and more about the fact that I’m just really uncomfortable traveling alone.
Sure, plenty of times I have ventured off to new locations on my own, but I’ve always settled in somewhere and made friends very quickly. Roaming around alone, day after day, is not something I’ve ever done before, and frankly it makes me nervous to think about.
In any case, Saturday rolled around and Santi and I decided to take the train to Salamanca. Although it’s only about a 90 minute drive from Madrid, the train is a slow rumbling affair that snakes through beautiful countryside, taking an extra hour of travel time to get where it’s going.
We took the first train of the morning, and Salamanca was crisp and cold, and mostly still closed up when we arrived. Before starting to explore, we found a little cafe and bought muffins and coffee to warm up and wait for the city to come to life. The cafe had a wall covered in napkins and Post-it Notes left by other travelers. Most of the notes just had names and dates of the people who’d visited, like the one Santi left for us:
But a few had words of wisdom scribbled on them, one of which jumped out at me, and I was sure it was some kind of cosmic answer to my dilemma.
The note featured a little diagram I’d seen before, the one that displays two circles: “your comfort zone” and “where the magic happens”. Not surprisingly the two circles do not overlap. Under the diagram was a message, “Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone, I’ve never been sorry when the magic happens.”
Better to just let that one sink in for awhile.
So off we went into the heart of Salamanca, which is yet another heartbreakingly beautiful old city with gorgeous architecture and towering trees. The city is known for its university, and it does have this intellectual feeling hanging in the air. At one point we came around the corner to find one of my favorite lines of poetry spray painted on a wall beneath the cathedral:
“I want to do with you what the spring does to the cherry trees.” -Pablo Neruda
On the train back to Madrid, I started to toss around ideas with Santi of what we could do on the weekends if I stayed in Madrid. We continued the conversation into this morning, when we took another day trip, this time in the other direction, to the city of Cuenca.
The old city of Cuenca sits precariously on several hillsides that drop off dramatically into steep canyons. The hills and streets of the old city are said to be haunted. I don’t know about that, but they definitely are beautiful. Unfortunately I had zero photography mojo in me today, but here’s a tiny peek at Cuenca’s gorgeousness:
When we stopped to grab dinner near the train station, our waitress asked us how we liked Cuenca.
“We loved it, it’s beautiful!” we both answered.
“It’s even more beautiful in the dark!” said our waitress.
Which prompted Santi to turn to me and say, “We should come back here sometime and stay overnight to see the old city in the dark.”
Making plans. For the future “we”. Gulp. Two years ago I think my heart would have been flip flopping with joy and excitement to hear that, but now I’m just trying to accept the sweetness of it, but mostly feeling like a nervous chicken.
On the train back to Madrid this evening, I told Santi that as much as I like him, I really just have to continue on with my plans to see more of Europe. I promised to return a few days in advance of my flight back to the States, so we could see each other again.
I’m not sure which is the bigger comfort zone, the one I’m breaking out of or the one I’m retreating into, but traveling onward just feels like the most necessary choice at this time. And so tomorrow, France, and let there be magic!