It had been a long trip. My best friend, Emma, and I had already been travelling for over five weeks through Europe. With so many cities to visit and attractions to see, we felt guilty for taking even a day off to rest, so we’d spent the past several weeks waking up early and sightseeing all day, everyday. Obviously, with so much planning and travelling and little time to ourselves, we were exhausted. All I really wanted was a day to myself, to spend in my pyjamas, watching crap television and sleeping in late. But I was only in Europe for two months and I didn’t want to waste even a second of it “doing nothing”, so I continued to wake up early and make the most out of every day.
By the time we had gotten to Barcelona, however, our exhaustion with constantly having to do research and plan out our days had reached its peak. Both of us were tired of constantly scouring the internet for things to do in our current destination. We had tired of planning. We decided (by default – since neither of us felt up to doing more research), that this time around, we were just going to wing it.
On our first of three days in Barcelona, we simply walked around the city, discovering the Olympic grounds, The Palau Nacional, as well as several churches, shopping centres, and street markets. On our second day, we decided to go down to the beach, and spent all day lying in the hot sand, sunbathing, and playing in the ocean. Later that night, we got dressed up and decided to have an authentic Spanish dinner – complete with a beautiful paella, calamari, gespatcho soup, and two pitchers of sangria. On the third day, we continued to discover the city on foot; visiting Montjuïc Castle, more churches, more street markets and more shopping.
By the time we’d left Barcelona on the fourth day, we were satisfied with what we’d seen of the city and boarded our train to take us to our next destination of Marseilles, France. It wasn’t until a few days later, when we met a lovely girl named Laura, in Nice, France, that we became aware of our blunder.
“Oh, you were in Barcelona?” she asked. “How did you like Sagrada Família?”
“Umm…” we mumbled. “I’m not sure we went there, actually…”
“You didn’t go to Sagrada Família?” she responded, shocked. “Well, what did you think of Park Güell? It’s beautiful isn’t it.”
“Ummm… I don’t think we went there either,” I shrugged.
“Girls!” Laura exclaimed, “You didn’t go to Park Güell? What did you do in Barcelona?”
Emma and I turned to each other, embarrassed, and wondered the same thing. It was at that moment we realized we’d made a big mistake. Our laziness and exhaustion from travelling so much had cost us from seeing several famous Spanish landmarks.
If we had just done a quick google search, or visited a tourist information centre, Park Güell and the Sagrada Família would’ve been some of the first stops on our list. Unfortunately, because we never took the time to do our research into the top attractions in Barcelona, we missed out on some incredible experiences.
As well, because we were on a budget, we decided to save some money by walking everywhere on foot. This meant however, that we never really wandered outside of the few kilometres around our hostel. Since Park Güell and Sagrada Família were on the opposite end of the city, we never happened to stumble upon them. Of course, we had a map of the city with us that showed us Park Güell and Sagrada Família on it, but because there are so many parks and churches in Barcelona, we didn’t think they were anything special.
Needless to say, we learned our lesson.
When you first start planning a trip, it can seem overwhelming to try to plan out an itinerary that spans multiple locations over a course of several weeks or months. In fact, it’s hard to even know where to begin. Nowadays when I travel somewhere new, I always make sure to google, “Things to do in ______”, as well as visit a tourist information centre and get some information on tours, attractions, and general sites in the area. If you don’t have access to the internet, even something as simple as talking to your hostel or hotel receptionist for advice on where to go can help a lot. When in doubt, ask a local. They always have the best tips and insider advice.
After Emma and I discovered our travel blunder, we made sure to start doing our research again before we arrived in our new destination. Travelling can be a lot of work, and there’s certainly a lot of preparation that goes into it, but as I learned the hard way, spending the time to do your homework about a new place, is certainly time well spent.