My first trip to Spain vs. my most recent trip – a 20 year comparison

Less than 20 years ago, I took my first trip to Spain.  Today, I arrived again in Spain.  But this time, the trip was completely different.  I made a list on the plane of some of the differences.  The future of travel is exciting, thanks to technology many barriers we used to face are being removed.

My first trip to Spain – pre 2000 

– I went alone on a study abroad trip and took months to prepare

– Packing took 3 long weeks and it ended up being all wrong

– I had to get a visa for long term travel

– I was not used to speaking or getting by in a foreign language

– Mobile phones didn’t exist, or were not at least mainstream

– Email was new, and we only had an account with our school

– Internet cafes were just popping up, there was no such thing as a computer at home

– Facebook didn’t exist

– I had to buy a phone card, not a SIM card

– I had to buy my ticket approximately 3 months ahead of time

– My ticket and itinerary had to be sent to me in the mail, snail mail – and it was my only copy – I could not lose it!

– I had to go to the Spanish embassy in Chicago to get my visa

– My ticket cost approx. $300 USD round trip Milwaukee to Madrid

– I drank wine on the plane at 20 years old without being asked for ID. And it was free.

– My journal was in a notebook

– I carried books to read

– It took 6 weeks to get pictures sent to Spain to show my host family photos of back home

– They were just building a metro line to the airport in Madrid

– I had to go to Milwaukee to a national bank to change US Dollars to Pesetas

– I carried travelers checks in case my money was stolen

– I didn’t know anyone prior to arriving, and when I arrived I only met my host family

– I stayed in hostels without wi-fi and had paper maps for directions

– I was scared sh*tless

Most recent trip to Spain – 2015 

– I decided the day before I was going

– Packing took 20 minutes with everything I needed

– I bought a ticket on standby last minute

– I already had my passport ready, it’s always in my backpack

– I casually rolled up to the airport and changed my flight when I arrived to a more convenient time

– I speak Spanish (from having lived in Spain)

– (even if I didn’t) I’m just not afraid to look around, ask for directions, or find someone who speaks English if I need it

– I am over the novelty of free wine and not being carded.  And the wine is no longer free 

– My phone tells me how to get from the airport in Madrid to the bus station

– I have an app to buy a bus / train / plane ticket when I land

– I haven’t had to print anything – it’s all been electronic and on my phone

– I can text my friends via Google Voice, Whatsapp, Facebook, iMessage, and my regular cell phone plan without extra charges

– I can call my friends via Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook, and my phone – without having to get a SIM card

– My ticket cost $240 each way (standby)

– My journal is a WordPress blog

– I listened to books on the Audible app on my phone

– All of my pictures are digital and accessible within minutes

– A metro ride from the airport to the bus station is 6 stops, 30 minutes

– For local currency, I wait to land in Madrid and then I take out Euros from the ATM at the airport

– I carry a backup credit card in a separate location from my primary one in case it’s lost, stolen, or canceled

– I use online banking

– If I lose my computer, everything is backed up in the cloud

– I met people online via Facebook before I left and I’ll meet them when I land

– I’ll be working from a co-working hostel

– I can talk to my doctor on the phone or Skype and view medical results online 

– I feel bliss

What will the next 20 years bring?  What will future trips look like?  

– I will use a service like AnyPass to manage my travel for me and carry a digital passport (non government) to live and work anywhere I choose

– My phone will work wherever I am with an integrated international plan, without changing SIM card

– I’ll be able to pay for everything, internationally, with my phone

– I’ll no longer carry a credit card

–  More people will speak more languages, and a shared common language will become more ubiquitous

– ??  What does the future look like for travel?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

As much as I love adventure and I love finding my way, it’s also nice to be able to just go.  I love knowing that more and more people are doing the same.

This lifestyle still may not be for many, but for those for whom it is or will be – welcome.

Tell Your Story! Travels of Marco Polo

marco polo travels book liveworkanywhere

I was recently in the archaeological museum in Montreal at a Marco Polo exhibit.  I didn’t know much about Marco Polo until this exhibit.  But what I learned inspired me.  There were many explorers and adventurers.   What is so interesting to me, side note, is that every one has a different story about the past.  Some people didn’t believe Marco Polo’s stories, some people said he was wealthy while others said he was poor.  Maybe it’s up to our interpretation – as with, arguably, all stories.

Marco Polo’s stories, however, were written and popularized while he was held in prison trying to leave China.  Had he not been in prison I wonder if he would have taken the time to write so much.

But his words inspired the famous journey of Christopher Columbus.  His stories were translated into many different languages before ever even leaving prison.

Why were people so fascinated?

Marco Polo’s message was to see the world in a new way.   Also, his books were used for learning about trade and commerce opportunities.

There are always new things to discover, new places, new people, and new experiences.  The world maps were still being formed at that time and the idea of some of the things Polo saw in China was so far fetched that they seemed impossible.  What are those unknown waters and lands today?  Are we so caught up in the world we know that we don’t wish to explore.

I caught the tail end of the guided tour, where the guide finished by saying “If he (Marco Polo) were alive today he would tell us to travel.  To see the world in a new way!  To experience, to tell, to share and give back by sharing the stories of our adventures.  

I thought – Why would the world want to listen to me?  There is SO much noise out there and I am not doing anything new.  But, each of us has story to tell.  I do have something unique to share – I have MY stories, stories that I hope will help others see the world in a different way, and inspire them to set foot on their journey and their travels.   Everyone has a story – tell yours.  


Every bit of the experience IS the experience

Some people would say I’m not seeing enough. There are bus tours, walking tours, shops!

But the entire experience to me is all part of it. Yes I worked until 3 pm today in the hostel.  I only just came out of my hole.

But, I walked onto the cobblestone streets of the one of the oldest cities in North America.

I’m at Paillard having a chocolatine and a latte.

Last night I was out until late listening to drunk locals carry on about their great city.  I literally got a tour of Quebec at midnight from a tour guide who didn’t ask for a tip but who instead bought ME a beer.

That’s the real history. That’s the real culture. That’s the real Quebec.

Two local men arguing over a pint over the greatest local spots.

People who were willing to let me practice French and to teach me a few words – versus today they immediately switched to English when they heard me fail to pronounce “chocolatine” properly.

The streets are crowded with tourists today. But I feel very content knowing that I got to taste the heart and soul of the city.

Now back to my chocolatine!