When I flew to Paris in January, I hadn’t slept in 24 hours. I was leaving the people I love for 5 months, and I had no idea what to expect.
Two months later, I was flying back to Paris again. But this time, I had 3 hours of sleep, a lot less money in my bank account, and I couldn’t wait to get back to the things I knew and loved about France.
I had just spent 10 days in Spain (and “Catalonia” for everyone who thinks that argument holds value), and while I desperately tried to relax and enjoy my time, I couldn’t help but look at the journey from a journalist’s eye.
A lot of newsworthy things happened, and I learned a lot of valuable lessons. So here it is (a bit late, but still relevant): How to do a 10-day trip throughout Spain as told by a 21-year-old journalist whose knowledge of the Spanish language is minimal beyond gato and perro.
Do take a 15-hour megabus ride
We decided that busing it from Paris to Barcelona was worth only having to pay 20 euros. We later discovered that we may have been wrong (thanks, old man in front of me) but overall, it left us with some interesting experiences like: stopping at random French gas stations, learning to sleep in awkward positions next to strangers, and priceless additions to our twitter feeds:
My piece of advice: Just because you think you know where the megabus station is located in Paris, you probably do not. And just because you consider yourself a relatively healthy person, you’re probably still not in shape enough to run the last 5 blocks with a giant backpack. You will show up 3 minutes after the bus was supposed to leave, and the bus driver will be very angry at you for the remainder of your very long journey.
Do stay at hip hostel and befriend your fellow hostel mates
I wouldn’t have considered myself to be the type of person who would choose to stay in a hostel, but Spain changed my views. My trip would not have been as educational, crazy, inspiring, or enjoyable had it not been for the hostels where I stayed. As previously mentioned, my Spanish is very limited so it was great knowing we had permanent tour guides in the hostel staffs. But the most important thing was the people we met (you know who you are). You taught me so much, even if it was just that you are all great people who know how to live it up.
My personal advice: With good company, comes a few bad experiences. Be aware that living in a room with random strangers has the potential to go sour quickly. Sometimes, your hostel mates will drink too much and ruin your entire room–don’t ask. (But honestly, it’s a risk you should take).
Do Not think you’re getting a good deal when you see a 3-course meal advertised for 9 euros
Amidst searching for food close to the beach in Barcelona, we fell for a common tourist trap: signs for tapas, paella, and dessert for 9 euros. The atmosphere was great–cozy heat lamps under cute white tents–the food, was not. But the most disappointing moment came when our waiter finally dropped off the check and we saw the giant sangrias we were all sipping on were 11 euros each (so much for our deal).
My personal advice: pick a real restaurant, pay the full price, read a physical menu. It might seem illogical to your food-deprived, tired from walking the streets of Spain body, but I promise you’ll be happy in the end. And if you’re not? Well, you know where you can buy a giant sangria.
Do Not Eat churros in Madrid
I spent a lot of useless money on our 10 days of travels, but buying a churro was by far the worst decision I made. I can’t say I’m the best person in the world to judge a good churro, and I’m aware that my autobiography will probably be titled “great expectations.” That being said, there are better ways to experience the wonderful city of Madrid. The churros were subpar, the restaurant was crowded, and you’re ultimately left with a cup of melted chocolate that you have to awkwardly sip or chug to “fit in.”
My personal advice: Head over to El Madrono to experience a flavored liquor in a shot glass made of chocolate-dipped waffles. It’s the better way to drink chocolate.
Do visit famous clubs like Razzmatazz and Pacha
The historic sites were impressive, but the clubs in Spain were by far the most memorable. If you’re trying to be a budget-conscious backpacker, you might skip out on the clubs after hearing about their 17-20 euro entrance price. Don’t. If there’s one thing the Spanish people know how to do it’s party, and the big clubs are a necessary component to experiencing that culture.
My personal advice: As cliched and “so 2011” YOLO is, it’s pretty applicable when it comes to the club scene. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “clubber,” go solely to be part of the pure insanity inside. You’ll leave with stories you may (and may not) want to repeat.
Do spend 1 euro (but let’s be real, more like 5 euros) at Taco Bell in Madrid
When I decided to spend half of my trip to Spain with my brother, Marty, I didn’t think he would take me to Taco Bell. I’ll admit it–every now and then, I’ll enjoy the casual Taco Bell taco (no shame). But when you’re in places with such great food like Spain, Taco Bell wasn’t necessarily my first choice. Yet what resulted was glorious and the perfect opportunity for a journalist to people watch.
My personal advice: Get there early. We had to stand with our trays full of 6 beers and 6 tacos each awkwardly amidst Madrid Taco Bell lovers. The best part is that you don’t need to know any Spanish to enjoy this little luxury. You simply have to walk up to the counter, say “Taco Tuesday,” and await for the best 1 euro you’ve ever spent. And while you’re at it, take the opportunity to chat with the locals who have to touch shoulders with you anyway.
Do visit Ibiza
If I had a euro for every person who told us we were going to Ibiza at the “wrong time,” I would have been able to buy a lot of more beer/taco combos. But here’s the thing: the only thing wrong about those people saying we were going at the “wrong time” is that they were wrong! Go to Ibizia in the summer, in the winter, on a weekend when you’re incredibly bored, for you birthday, to elope, for whatever. JUST GO. It was stunning, tons of fun, and effortlessly flawless.
My personal advice: I realize that I’m not doing a very good job of remaining objective, but I have no regrets. Ibizia will always have my heart. I have no real advice to give here.
Do not let anyone tell you a trip to Spain isn’t worth it
Living out of a backpack and sharing a room with six other people for 10 days was definitely stressful. At times, I wanted to give up and I truly thought there was zero hope for my sanity. (when in reality, all I really needed was a shower and a few shopping sprees–muchas gracias, Ibiza). But the memories–of traveling with my brother, of riding the Barcelona metro for hours without ever actually reaching a destination (Julia Reed), of falling asleep on the beach atop rocks–made everything worth it. I wouldn’t trade the lost euros, the sore feet, the puking hostel mate, or the pure frustration for anything.
It wasn’t “Sprang Braaaaak, YOLO 2015”. It wasn’t PCB. It wasn’t a week trying to hide my greek letters.
But it was better.