I was recently in Barcelona for the hen do of a girl I’ve been friends with since we were 4 (I’m super thankful to have day-ones like her). She just turned 29 and gets married this summer, which I’m beyond excited about, but which means we can pretty much no longer claim not to be adults… Anyway, I got back to London a week ago. When they say “time flies,” that’s because IT DOES.
The trip started with the tightest of hugs from one of my best friends, who’d already been out there sunning herself for a day. I felt everything in me unclench – having someone be that happy to see me (and vice versa!) loosened up all the yucky tension I’d unknowingly been holding on to. We spoke in hurried tones and went off on tangents, as if we hadn’t talked in months (even though we chat every day). The cheap Cava helped us along, not that we needed it to. The wine out there is ridiculously priced, by the way – and that’s not a complaint.
The rest of the hen party arrived later. Nine of us in total. My friend noted that I reverted back to ‘School Becca’ during the weekend, preferring to watch and giggle from the sidelines because joining in turns my cheeks pink. I’ve always been like that in big groups. And I guess some things are hard to change. Just like my craving for travel, which is never truly satisfied. I go on one trip, only to return and start planning the next. Or, as in this case, look up Barcelona rental costs before I’ve even touched back down in Stansted… Seriously, I need to go again.
There was something about the place that just made me ease up. Maybe it was the jugs of sangria we lapped up as we cooed over a scrappy dog with long legs dancing between the tables. Maybe it was the man balancing a tray of doughnuts on his head as he offered his wares up and down the beach (it’s all about standing out in the cut-throat world of seaside snacks, apparently). Maybe it was the unspoilt buildings that rendered me unable to put my phone down for more than three seconds on the top deck of a bus tour, such was the need to capture each one. Maybe it was dancing to ’90s pop songs at 3am among a bunch of earnest locals and British expats who warned that they’d gone there on holiday and just never returned home. Or maybe it was having a bedroom with a balcony, ordering patatas bravas at every meal, or getting sunburnt in a foreign place with some of my oldest friends.
‘Self-care’ feels like a to-do list too much of the time. Had a bubble-bath? Cross it off the list. Been to yoga and the cinema in the same week? Winning at life. This trip reminded me that life isn’t something to be compartmentalised. Yes, the irony is that it took a scheduled holiday for me to realise this, but bear with.
I don’t want to treat life like a box-ticking challenge anymore. To have it feel like a list of stuff to get through, rather than a whole bunch of stuff I get to actually enjoy.
Not that weekend-long sangria sessions (with ham plates! and cheese plates! and bread plates!) can always be a thing. Or can they…? On the bus to the airport, I read this piece by Marie Phillips, on moving to Amsterdam with not a plan or even a word of Dutch to her name, but still styling it out and making it work. I’m not saying my Barcelona rent research was wholly serious, but trust me, the temptation to upend my life is real. I tweeted Marie about being impulsive and making a move, and she replied, “Seriously, if you are in a position to do it, an adventure is always worth having!”
It made me realise, even if I never live abroad or travel half as much as I’d like, I can still have adventures. I can still stay firmly put on a sweaty dancefloor ’til 3am. I can still get on a train and go somewhere – anywhere – just because I want to. I can still eat a meal made up entirely of cheese. I can do all of those things and more, because I’m an adult (honestly), and adventures are what I’m here to have.