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Changing Places: Kat Selvocki on Barcelona

Street in Barcelona


I didn't have high expectations for Spain. In fact, the only reason I ended up choosing to spend time there was because I'd decided to travel by train and ferry to Morocco, picking up a friend from New York in Madrid along the way. Had this not been the case, I might have skipped the country entirely.

Yeah, I don't know what I was thinking either.

From the moment our train left Atocha, the main train station in Madrid, I was smitten. I couldn't stop gazing out the window at the Spanish countryside, the hills scattered with olive trees. By the time we arrived in Algeciras five hours later, I was harboring fantasies of volunteering on a farm for a week or ten. I could almost taste the red wine I'd be drinking in the evenings after a long day in the fields harvesting olives or almonds – or perhaps caring for llamas.

At this point, I'd only seen the inside of transit hubs and the subway. Clearly, I was crushing. Hard.

Those hours of train travel - and the time I spent in Spain the following week - captivated me. In Madrid, I gazed in store windows, drank Viña Real Oro, and consumed tapas ranging from the simple (chicken skewers) to the decadent (foie gras with apple preserves). And then there was chocolate con churros (thick hot chocolate served with fried dough for dipping), which might be the perfect food. I explored markets, sampling cheeses and meats, fruits and chocolates.

And then: Barcelona.

Over the past 15 years of my life, I've been to 30 states and 23 countries, and given the opportunity, I'd return to any one of them again. There's a difference, though, between spending a few days - or even a few weeks - in a place, and choosing to make somewhere your home. That seems obvious, and yet I hadn't thought much about it until I began walking the charming streets of Gràcia and the wide, tree-lined avenues of l'Antiga Esquerra de l'Eixample. Suddenly, one sunny afternoon, it hit me: "I could see myself living here."

Admittedly, I've settled in places that I never envisioned myself inhabiting - New York City, I'm looking at you. I've managed to make it work even though it was never fully me. I think that's part of why it was such a powerful realization to set foot in Barcelona and see a place that would suit me in terms of the culture of a city. So many things there align with the way I'd like to live: the layout and location, the food, the transit, the art and fashion, the yoga, and the lifestyle in general.

Beautiful snippets of Barcelona pop out in my mind: colorful light in La Sagrada Familia; people watching near the beach; afternoon snacks of pintxos (small slices of bread topped with various meats, fish, and cheeses, and held together with a toothpick) and red wine; and vinyasa yoga classes at studios around the city. I delighted in walking to the local market in the morning to select fresh food for breakfast: dates, chorizo, goat cheese-stuffed roasted peppers, blood oranges. I loved finding the perfect hip little shops for browsing quirky clothing and jewelry. Could my time there have been any more awesome? Doubtful. And the best part? Many of those small pleasures would transfer to my daily life even if I were living and working there.

I'm a traveler at heart, so no matter where I stay at night, it never feels like a place that will be forever. That moment of realization in Barcelona - that deep-down knowledge that I could live there - helped me consider how I want to assess cities for future long-term stays, though. More importantly, it allowed me to see what I want to pursue when the day may come to retire my nomadic lifestyle.

And who knows, maybe the next time I visit Barcelona, I'll propose. If I do, I hope the city says yes!



Kat is a photograph-taking, gluten-free pie-baking, knitting, tattooed yoga teacher and blogger. After quitting her 9-to-5 job in September 2011, she spent four months traveling in Europe seeking out adventures and delicious food. She's currently in Sydney, Australia. Kat blogs at Pierced Hearts and True Love and is obsessed with Twitter.

Changing Places is a guest post series about the power of place to change us.  You can read other stories in the series here.  If you’d like to share your story, please contact me for submission details.

Reader Comments (1)

Another wonderful story and courageous woman--great to read Kat's story! Having just gotten back from Vienna, and having seriously fallen in love with the city, I can't wait to go back. :o) A delight to be back and visit here. :o) Happy Weekend ahead, Helen ((HUGS))

May 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTracy

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