I knew my trip to Europe would be an adventure. It always feels that way when you go somewhere new and drink up a different culture. And starting off in Barcelona, I had plenty to work with: tapas, architecture, vino, beautiful mediterranean beaches… the list goes on. But one of my best adventures there wasn’t one that I expected.
After dinner on our last night, my family and I went to the roof of hotel 1828 off La Rambla for some cocktails before turning in. It was Saturday night and the city was slowly coming more and more alive. I wanted to join the people around me and experience Barcelona's nightlife, but as I looked around our cabana, it was evident that my family was fading quickly. If I went out, I’d be on my own.
About that time I made eye contact with a guy at the cabana diagonally across from me. He smiled, and we exchange glances a few more times over the next couple of minutes. He was with two other guys who looked shamelessly European and around my age. About the 6th or 7th round of eye contact, he waved me over.
I hesitated. If I’m being honest, I don’t usually bite when it comes to situations like these. I’m oddly prideful and tell myself that I’m above being the desperate, googly-eyed girl that engages so easily (which in all reality probably just makes me seem rude and unapproachable to most men. I’m working on it). But for whatever reason— let’s call it the vino or Barcelona’s energy, this time I walked over.
It turns out the guy I had been exchanging looks with didn’t speak a lick of English, but his friends spoke a fair amount (enough to easily understand me but still adorably failing to make grammatically correct sentences). They were from Bordeaux, France on holiday for a few days. We drank champagne and talked for a while before they told me they were about to go out and invited me to come with them.
Again, I hesitated. I’ve seen Taken. It was 3 tall, (and strong from the looks of it) French men- and then me. I was in a foreign country I was just getting the hang of. It was dark. And my phone was dying.There were plenty of practical, play by the rules voices going through my head. But my gut wasn’t threatened. It told me to go. So I did.
I walked over to tell my family, and much to my surprise, my dad didn’t try to fight me. I know he respects that I’m a completely independent and self-sufficient adult. He knows that it’s not his job to tell me what to do anymore. But I still expected him to throw a fit for trying to leave with 3 strangers. But instead, he paused for a minute (still with a concerned dad face) then finally replied: “They seem like nice guys. But if for some reason I’m wrong- I want you to bite and kick and scream and yell, and then run like hell.” Needless to say, that advice from dad took my nervous voices from about a 3 to at least a solid 7. Nonetheless, I still went. We walked down the street to a hostel to meet up with the rest of their friends. Pretty soon I found myself in a room with about 12 French men. I had my guard way up. I subtly stood in the doorway and kept one foot kicked back behind me in case someone tried to close it abruptly. I had my head on a freaking swivel- ready to react to anything.
They all talked to me like I was some exotic animal they had never seen before. “You AMERICAN girl?” (followed by sentences spoken to one another in French that I didn’t understand. Nervousness continuing to rise).
My uptight, analyze the situation to be sure i’m safe attitude played out for a while, but slowly I realized I could relax a little. That they were really nice guys. My voices went from “BE CAREFUL! They might try to abduct you!” to sounding more like “If you say yes to adventure, you actually have to be okay with the adventure part.”
Maybe they were just hoping to get lucky. Maybe they were actually interested in me. Or perhaps I’m naive to how affectionate Europeans are and they were simply being friendly Regardless, I don’t really care because it was an incredibly fun night. We walked down La Rambla and along Port Vell, buzzed on Spanish wine. Julien chased me through the halls of the hostel with a bottle of cologne (and successfully sprayed me about 5 times. I had to get the dress dry-cleaned to get the scent out and my suitcase still smells like it). Maxim twirled me in the streets like a ballerina. We sat in the hostel and drank with other travelers from Australia and Russia. We met some Canadians at the bar who had been traveling through Spain since January (and we discovered we’d be in Paris at the same time next month). We took selfies and group pictures and I stayed out way past my bedtime.
Yes, I realize there were potential dangers of me choosing to go out with these guys. My message here isn't to be reckless and ignore any voice of caution (so don’t go to Europe and be a complete moron and then try to sue me when things go wrong). My point is simply that at the end of it all, had I only listened to the paranoid voices, I would have missed out on such a fun night. I made new friends from across the globe. I got to experience nightlife in Barcelona like I had hoped to. And on top of it all, my family ended up being locked out of our flat and didn't get back inside until after 3am, so I would have missed the fun AND been been miserable.
So be smart. Use your head, and trust your gut. And when it tells you to be open to a new adventure, I hope that you'll say yes.