In 2008, when I was 21, I came up with the idea of booking an Interrail ticket and touring Europe for a month. I decided travel to Paris, Madrid, Granada, Barcelona, Venice, Rome, Athens, Istanbul and Vienna. And I felt the strong urge to do this tour alone.
Day 7 – Granada (Spain)
Like in the hostels before, I booked into the women’s dorm. But differently from Paris and Madrid, the hostel had hardly any guests during that time. So I ended up with a room all to myself. Additionally, I knew that I had a couple of days in Granada, since my reservation to visit the Alhambra was only scheduled for the 3rd day of my stay, and I had realized during my Odyssey of the inner city, that it was smaller than I anticipated.
Time and solitude are pure luxury for me nowadays, but back then this created a different kind of trouble. After a couple of hours in my hostel room, the full scope of traveling alone finally hit me.
I had been actively distracting myself by rushing to as many sights as possible and the hostels before had also been busy beehives. My year had been similar up to that point: University, family, friends… I was actively trying to keep myself occupied, trying not to face the inner turmoil. And suddenly, in the quiet and solitude, there was no more running away from my inner thoughts and feelings. A giant wave of suppressed emotions started washing over me and there was no escaping it.
My catalyst to undertake this trip had been the breakup of my first relationship in the beginning of the year. I had spent the initial months succumbing to the despair of the initial heartbreak. But at some point I had settled into dealing with my broken heart and self-confidence by keeping as busy as possible. Distraction seemed the only way of not giving into the pain. I had thrown myself into college and kept busy with family and friends. I did not allow myself to rest and deal with what I felt. I was too afraid that if I allowed it, that I would never recover from it.
But I had underestimated what exhaustion could do to your inner walls. I had no more defenses to keep my inner world at bay. There was no more hiding from the truth. I was still hurting. I was not over being left by my first boyfriend of 2 years. That breakup had shattered my beliefs in love and myself. I felt ashamed and betrayed. A part of me was convinced that I was unlovable and worthless.
I had been running from this inner turmoil for months. I hated feeling so desperate, hurt and scared. But all I could do in that moment was to cry it out. I did not actively allow myself to experience what had been lurking under the surface for so long. It simply got bigger than my defenses and left me sobbing. I just wanted it to end, but had no strength left to push it back down. So I kept crying and was forced to move through all the thoughts and questions that I had forbidden myself in the past.
It felt like hell. It felt like it would never end. But suddenly… it did. I had no more tear to cry. I had no more question to ask. And as if the swamp just needed to be properly drained, I finally felt very light and quiet. And everything was alright. I was peaceful. The world had not ended. I was okay. Everything was going to be okay. I could finally let go of the past and start looking to the future. There was hope. I might not be as despicable as my inner demons were suggesting. Maybe there was something out there for me. I did not know for sure. But I had made it through this night. What I had been fearing of facing turned out to be painful but healing. I felt peaceful. I had finally reconnected with myself. And I was ready to face the future.
Cover picture was taken in Granada (Spain) in Sep 2008
Missing the beginning of this story?
Around Europe in 30 days #1: Forming a plan