I am writing this from Madrid, the capital of Spain, (Espana if you’re so inclined, which I am ad nauseam) and the final stop on a five-week European tour of bucket list cities. Yep, I did this solo. Lone traveller Trumbull and all her over-packing glory has managed to survive and thrive in some of the most beautiful (and dangerous) places in Europe.
An airline strike is keeping me in Madrid for two more days. I can’t complain. Actually, I needed it. Staying up late and sleeping in. Writing in cafes with a constant cup of café con leche and tasty treats until dinnertime. Maybe pop into the Prado for the free hours and finally see the Goyas on display, it’s two-minutes away past the Neptune. I did see a Goya in Toledo. My heart will not break if I don’t step foot into another museum. This goes without saying I am sure, but I have been to a shitload of museums. I have seen the Mona Lisa and Mona Lisa Shaved. I have seen more Dutch masters than one can shake a stick at. I’ve been astonished by Picasso and Pollock and Dali. I’ve gone from zero Mondrian’s to thirteen in over a month. My eyeballs have seen all matter of movements, mediums, and genres. My mouth has gone agape in some of the most spiritual places on earth. I have sat in pews and wept surrounded by centuries old stained glass and marble. I started lighting candles in every church I walk into. I quickly dip my finger into pools of holy water and tap my heart. There is certainly something out there: cosmic and ancient. I’m not religious but I felt something in those houses of God. As if, I was in the right place at the right time, a foreign feeling for me. The closest word that comes to mind is faith. A little bit of faith goes a long way. I’m a quick learner.
I should probably come clean about why I am travelling all over Europe instead of studying in London. It was not failure that prevented me from further education: it was a lack of capital. Even after saving and working for a year I could not secure enough money. I simply could not make it work in one of the most expensive cities in the world. It’s a silly thing. Money. There is never enough. When you need it, it disappears. When you are flush, life is smooth as silk. I sacrificed and saved and made myself into a ball of nerves over a degree that I wasn’t 100 percent sure I wanted or needed to make my dreams come true. Those dreams were not my dreams. They were a fantasy born from the lives of people I admire. I wanted to be special. I wanted to live an extraordinary life. I just found another route to get there. Of course, I didn’t know that until now. Hence why I am writing this at the end of my trip. I didn’t have the words before. I hope you all understand. The money I saved for school has paid for a once-in-a lifetime adventure without a tight budget. I came and went on my own schedule. I travelled for cheap. I slept in bunk beds in bad neighborhoods. One thing is certain: the food is incredible – be it a hot dog outside of the Van Gogh museum or steak dinner with old friends in Barcelona. After every meal I say a prayer to myself, “life is good.” For the first time in my life I actually believe it.
The universe or some sort of mysterious force has put just enough obstacles in my path to serve as lessons in humility and the right amount of victories to make me stronger. I have had the pleasure to meet and spend time with some of the most interesting, complicated, and intelligent women I’ve ever met. Comparing notes on the life of solo female travellers is an exercise in folly. Turns out that I am very lucky. I have been smart this whole time. I am capable and strong. I am the person I’ve always wanted to be.
Life is good.