I never thought my first-time hiking would be while I am studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain. I imagined my first time hiking would be at Starved Rock, a state park in Illinois. I have always wanted to go there with a group of friends; however, I never got the chance to experience that due to scheduling conflicts. Hiking through Costa Brava, was an amazing experience. I was delighted by the beauty of the clear water, rocky beaches, homes along the coastline, and the preserved coastal footpaths. We were given a tour of Calella de Palafrugell, one of the three coastal towns in the province of Girona, Spain, which still preserves the charm of the villages of the area before the arrival of mass tourism. Layla, our tour guide explained to us about the Fisherman that used to live on the beach and how many of them painted their boats and used the left over paint to paint their house. She also shared the significance of Platja de Canadell, which is a large beach of Calella de Palafrugell.
This was a bit surprising to me because the beach was roughly the size of a private beach in Willmette, a neighborhood north of Chicago, where people who own the property only have access to the beach. On the other hand, Platje de Canadell is available to anyone who chooses to visit Costa Brava. This implies that the local people here like to share their space and come together to enjoy the culture, instead of privatizing the land and promoting isolation like in Wilmette. Here in Spain what belongs to nature belongs to the public and privitization of land such as beaches and parks is not allowed. I feel that privatization of natural space is wrong and it prevents people from enjoying the natural beauty. Wilmette is a Wealthy neighborhood, which means the socioeconomic status of the people living there is extremely high. According to Niche, Wilmette is ranked as one of the top ten suburbs in northern Chicago with an median household income of $132,110. The people that don’t have access to the many private beaches might feel a sense of isolation, depression, and anxiety. Becahes are normally visited for relaxing, destressing, improving mood, and when that is taken away from individuals, it leads to more mental health problems for the people that have a low socioeconomic status. American Psychological Association writes, the poor an individuals socioeconomic conditions, the higher the risk for developing mental diability (APA 2017).
My most challenging part of this day was when we stopped at the rocky beach to go for a swim. Since, I do not really know how to swim, I felt extremely anxious going into the water. As soon as I stepped foot in the water, I began to swing my arms back and forth so that I don’t slip on the slippery rocks in the sea. I was also terrified of accidently stepping on a sea urchin and having spikes in my foot, luckily, I did not end up encountering any sea urchins. I was constantly worried about slipping on the rocks and busting my head open. However, after overcoming this unforgettable experience, I felt as if I was capable of doing anything. This experience made me realize how being outside of my comfort zone can make me feel amazing about myself.
This experience allowed to me to see how the people of Costa Brava want to preserve their culture and prevent it from becoming a source of income. Having access to a place such as Costa Brava is exceptional as it promotes physical activity through nature and the wonderful scenery. Exercising in a place like Costa Brava can affect the mood and outcome of one’s ability to physically perform especially if lack of motivation is an issue. I can use this experience in my future profession of physical therapy to better assist my patients with reaching their goals. If I know about my patients and the environments they live in, then I can better assist them with accomplishing their goals as I will know what is accessible to them and how likely they are to reach their goals.