On Monday I was paired up with a group of my classmates to explore a set route through Central Eixample, near the areas we live and learn in.  Two days later I worked with Kasia to explore Eixample again, but with the challenge of following a circular path in a city that follows a grid-like pattern.  Although I explored the same neighborhood during both activities, my experiences were very different and insightful.

The plaza of The University of Barcelona served as one of the landmarks for our group activity and the first landmark of my activity with Kasia.  This area evoked a sense of comfort in me despite the busy streets because my apartment is nearby and I am familiar with the location from repeated exposure.

The bustling tourist scene down La Rambla made Kasia and I very on-edge and eager to leave because of the absence of genuine Catalan culture.

 

As my walk with Kasia moved into El Raval, we got wandered through many side alleyways and managed to drift towards where we wanted to end up without using navigation.

I miss out on my surroundings when I travel in groups because I tend to talk and focus on what everyone else is doing instead of being engaged with my environment.  Considering this, Kasia and I also felt most comfortable in the partner activity because we had a general sense of where we were going even if we had not been down a particular side street before.  I was surprised to be relatively comfortable wandering down the alleys of El Raval because the neighborhood had Middle-Eastern shops and restaurants advertised in languages I do not understand.  Having Kasia there was a huge comfort to me because we were able to wander around and explore our surroundings without overly worrying about safety.  When I walk around my suburban neighborhood or around campus in Chicago, I always worry about the time of day, how long I will be out, who is around me, how far I walk, and letting multiple people know my route in case something happens.  I am still trying to get used to the idea that families in Barcelona are out at and time of day and can walk through practically any neighborhood without fear.  I am more aware of my tendency to travel in groups or pairs because of my safety-driven mentality from home, but I am working towards being a lone traveler in Barcelona.