Adios espana

I really love Andalucia. In my opinion, it is hands down the best region of Spain. The streets are lined with orange trees and palm trees and the sun shines off the white painted buildings while horse drawn carriages stroll through the streets.

Granada and Sevilla are rivaling eachother for the number one spot in my heart. For now, I have decided that it's a tie and I'll have to return to both to sort it out. Granada sets itself apart from any other city with its heavy Arabic influences made evident in the Albaycin district and the stunning Alhambra palace. It is also one of the few cities left to still offer free tapas with every purchased beverage. Yes, you get food with every drink you order, even if it's non alcoholic. There is also a vibrant music scene thanks to the high number of musically talented backpackers flocking to the city.

Sevilla is beautiful and charming and filled to the brim with history. Priding itself as the jumping off point for Columbus' voyages to the Americas, you notice 15th century history everywhere you turn. It has more of a city feel than Granada, which is more like a big town than a city. Both places have strong Arabic influence from the times of Moorish reign and the effect on the architecture is stunning.

For our last weekend together, Meg and I hitched a ride to the Atlantic seaside town of Cadiz. Rumored to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe, it boasts 3000 years of history and invites you to frolic on its beautiful beaches. I'm not ashamed to say that we did not explore the city at all and instead spent both of our days sitting on the beach and watching the surfers. It was warm enough to sit all day in a t-shirt and we even managed to acquire some tan lines.

My favorite quality of Europeans is their immense pride for their home country or city. I have been all over the world and met my fair share of Europeans and all of them claim to be from the "the greatest place in the world!" or "the most beautiful place in the world!" In Seville they will tell you how it was once the most important city in all of Europe because it was the center of the spice trade. In Venice, the venetians will explain their history and point out how they were once the center of commerce in Northern Europe and arguably the most important city during the Renaissance and Middle Ages. In Rome, you will learn about the vast Roman Empire and how it has influenced an extensive list of cities and countries. I once met 2 Portuguese guys in Laos who claimed that Portugal was the most innovative and influential country in the world. We went bowling and they said that the Portuguese invented bowling. We drank beer and they said that the Portuguese invented beer. They made these claims constantly throughout the night until it became clear that none of it was true. Nonetheless, they were very proud men. I envy that pride. I'm not exactly someone you'd call patriotic. 10 cumulative months of backpacking and I've had more moments of shame than pride when discussing my country. I realize that I hit the jackpot when I was born on US soil and I do of course have a lot of love for America but it's amazing how different the world is outside of those rigid US borders.

While I may not have an overwhelming amount of pride in my country, I have begun to have great amount of pride in myself. I may not be hitchhiking a boat across the Atlantic like some are and most days I really don't feel that I'm doing anything out of the ordinary. There are loads of people doing exactly what I'm doing. But for the standard American it is not the norm. Modesty gets the best of me and I often forget how much I am doing. I hesitate to celebrate the amazing accomplishment of following my heart and my dreams. I fail to recognize that although I may not be breaking new ground in the travel realm, I am in fact doing something pretty cool and hopefully if nothing else, I'm inspiring others to do the same.

Today marked the end of one adventure and the beginning of another. I always hate goodbyes. Whether they are said to people, places, or things, I always seem to create this final sad scene in my head. Moving out of my apartment in Boston, I can remember walking through the hall and thinking, "this is the last time I'll shower in this bathroom" or "I'll never walk in the door and leave my keys on this table again". Even in the moment, I realized how crazy I was being. Completely overreacting to a very ordinary situation. But I'm a nostalgic person by nature and as such, I feel sadness with every impending farewell. So naturally as Meghan and I spent our last few hours together this morning, hanging on the roof of our hostel in Seville, I started reminiscing in my mind about the past 3 months. A trip we discussed with excitement all summer and now it's already over. 9 countries, lots of laughs, lots of food, and a giant handful of adventures. We tried not to make the goodbye too dramatic for fear of tears so a quick hug and an 'I love you' and I was off to the airport.

Fast forward a few hours and I'm sitting in a hostel in Marrakech, listening to The Doors while a loud Moroccon guy smoking hash interrupts my train of thought every couple of minutes to yell over, "America, you know this song? You know this band?". It's weird that I've just spent 3 months traveling in western countries and haven't once felt that I've really been traveling until this afternoon. Finally some culture shock! It's a familiar rush of excitement that I've been longing for since leaving Asia last April. Camels on every corner, women in hijabs, Arabic writing everywhere. I feel like I'm in the Middle East and it's a very new experience for me. Morocco is my first African country and its unlike anywhere I've ever been before.

{I've had Shakira singing "it's time for Africa" in my head all day (waka waka eh eh) }

I've only caught a small glimpse of Marrakech because I arrived in the main square and am staying just around the corner. This souk, the Arabic equivalent to a market or bazaar, is a flea market on steroids. It is absolutely insane! It's a massive square filled with food stands and shops selling everything from spices to shoes to lanterns. It's a bit of an assault on the senses but after such a long time in monotonous European cities I find it to be invigorating. I was on edge when I first arrived because I've been warned about the dangers of traveling alone as a woman in Northern Africa but that feeling has quickly dissipated. Yes there are men trying to lure you into their shops by constantly complimenting you and trying to engage in conversation but they're just trying to make a sale. A simple and firm "no" seems to be enough to ward them off, and when all else fails I simply ignore. Other than some harmless harassment, everyone I've come in contact with has been very kind and helpful.

I've only caught a small glimpse of Marrakech because I arrived in the main square and am staying just around the corner. This souk, the Arabic equivalent to a market or bazaar, is a flea market on steroids. It is absolutely insane! It's a massive square filled with food stands and shops selling everything from spices to shoes to lanterns. It's a bit of an assault on the senses but after such a long time in monotonous European cities I find it to be invigorating. I was on edge when I first arrived because I've been warned about the dangers of traveling alone as a woman in Northern Africa but that feeling has quickly dissipated. Yes there are men trying to lure you into their shops by constantly complimenting you and trying to engage in conversation but they're just trying to make a sale. A simple and firm "no" seems to be enough to ward them off, and when all else fails I simply ignore. Other than some harmless harassment, everyone I've come in contact with has been very kind and helpful.

I've got my alarm set for 8am tomorrow so I can get to the bus station early enough to buy a ticket and make my way to the surfer clad beaches of Agadir. I've got a welcome committee picking me up from the bus station and although I haven't even met them yet, I have a very strong feeling we're going to get along well. It's a pretty cool thing having friends and friends of friends scattered all over the world. I'm one lucky chick!

Molly Rose