For just a blink in time, you'll have a new life.
You’ll be surrounded by new, brilliant people.
You’ll make lasting bonds faster than you thought possible.
You’ll be exposed to new, incredible stories.
You’ll get a small glimpse of the vital pieces that really make a city tick.
You’ll make a fool of yourself with the language over and over again.
You’ll make a fool of yourself in general; it’s what you do.
Your liver will de-friend you on Facebook.
You’ll be happy. All of the money and hassle will have been worth it.
Your perspective and understanding will change forever.
For the longest time, that was what travel was for me.
First impressions can last a lifetime. Everything you may ever see, touch and know about a city is crammed into your fleeting time there.
I guess you can compare it to reading a new book.
After you’ve read through one, it goes on the shelf with the others, taking its place in your memory forever. Maybe you’ll read that same book again, maybe you’ll fly back, but more likely than not, you’ll go in search of new books, new countries and new stories.
Just like books, the greatest places in the world call out to be appreciated again and again.
The great cities - the ones you feel connected to - are hard to leave.
I once flicked through a few pages of Barcelona in 2009 while hungover and tired at the end of a European tour.
I also remember sangria. Dangerous, unfathomable amounts of sangria.
I loved it all, but I never thought I’d come back.
Then opportunity knocked.
Barcelona is now the place I’m calling home for a while and one of the great flukes of my life.
I’ve been lucky enough to find great accommodation, work from home and use it as a base to explore this city, the country and re-visit some of my favourite spots in Europe.
This has changed my experience of travel in the best way. I’m off the clock. I’ve found more time to appreciate everything - a little longer than the usual blink.
For the past couple of months, one of my challenges has been to try and explain to family and friends what living and working here is like.
I could tell them that the weather is perfect every day, that the people are beautiful, complicated and inspiring and that the history is more interesting than I imagined.
I wouldn’t be the first, nor the last.
I could also tell them that grocery stores here do not bag your shopping - a true blow to the 10 people waiting behind me while, for the first time in my life, I had to figure out which arrangement wouldn't destroy my eggs, bread and $200 worth of supplies. I have a new-found respect for the staff at Coles. What a nightmare.
Until you see this city for yourself, what I say would never really do it justice.
But nuts to that: let me tell you about my new town and its people anyway…
Live music and art powers the city and is the pulse of its streets. During beautiful summer nights almost every street corner is a stage.
Rushing and urgency are not things that happen here - You go at your pace, I’ll go at my pace and we’ll all be happy, stress-free and really late together.
They smile like my late grandfather used to - as if they’ve been holding in a hilarious secret for months.
Children still play together outside. It’s a shock to the senses. There are mini-Messis playing soccer on my street every day, weaving through people and cars until the sun goes down.
Large crowds of people drinking together outside is not an event that requires police attention. They abhor drunken violence and pity the tourists that try to introduce it to them.
Sleep is a myth. From what I could understand from one local, it was outlawed at some point in the 17th or 18th century and everyone seems to operate fine without it.
A 'normal' dinner time is not a concept that receives a lot of attention. Nor are street signs.
They’re kind. They’re impossibly-patient. They’re always willing to help.
They’re passionate about the things that really matter and guard them fiercely.
Almost everyone I’ve met speaks five or six languages. There's a point in most conversations that I sit in quiet awe, then feel like a simpleton with my almost-one-language.
Las mujeres. Wow. They’re fun, intelligent, independent and ambitious - just in case the unfair levels of natural beauty weren't enough. The local men are luckier than they will ever know.
Even in a city teeming with thousands of tourists every day, there is a real sense of community - a sustained focus on being together as much as possible. The buildings, the streets, the festivals, it’s all designed to bring people closer together - to create an atmosphere where people feel they belong.
The best things in life are to be shared with those you love. For better or worse, Barcelona shares better than any city I’ve ever seen.
Sitting on my balcony at ridiculous o’clock last week, watching my football team hurt my soul from half a world away, I saw a perfect example of what makes this city so unique.
Making her way past my building was a classy, beautiful woman in her mid-to-late 50s, dressed immaculately. I'm sure she had come from the ballet, the opera or the wedding of 15th century royalty.
If she wasn’t sitting in a shopping trolley, completely drunk with her husband pushing her along, she could have passed for royalty herself.
She’d had a big night, that much was clear. She was relaxed, giggly and did that classic drunk thing where her whispering was somehow louder than yelling.
The husband, a silver fox dressed in an immaculate suit, tried to quiet her down, but gave up and joined in as she began to sing.
What a picture they made. He pushed her along, expertly avoiding the rough bumps in the old concrete, looking down on his inebriated wife with that loving, proud look you may see from a parent appreciating a child’s first drawing.
I know you’re only two years old, but your picture looks nothing like our house and you somehow got paint on your Dad’s new television set honey. But, I love you and at this moment I can’t explain how happy I am that you’re here and that I’m the one who gets to see these ridiculous things.
His look translated to:
I know you’re only 62 years old, but your singing makes no sense and it will be a miracle if we make it home without you being very, very sick. But, I love you and at this moment I can’t explain how happy I am that you’re here and that I’m the one who gets to sing with you and push your drunken, crazy ass home.
This is the scene that encapsulates the book I’ve been reading these last couple of months.
A book I may never put down.