A Shift in Mindset: Waking Up Lost on a Street in Madrid


This post was contributed by Rohan Rex.

So much of travel is void of the relationship your experience has with the people you leave behind. You jet off to eat, pray, love to the best of your ability and, to no fault of your own, “deprioritize” your relationship with others for the one with yourself.  To be fair, that’s the primary driver of why people travel; to find themselves. To leave all of their worries and burdens in their home country and become a new person and meet new people.

A lot of my previous travels were null of the outside perspective and how my actions abroad coexisted with my loved ones at home. Before I went to Madrid, back in 2017, I looked at traveling through a seemingly selfish lens. I traveled without understanding the implications that my life had on other people.

On my last night in Madrid, I received a message from a mate I went to High School with. He was stationed in London and was coming down to Madrid to celebrate something and invited me out for the night. We hopped around from bar to bar recanting stories from time in school together and marveled in how much we’ve grown and matured into the people we were that day. As the night punched on I kept reminding myself that I had a flight out to Helsinki, Finland in a couple of hours and that I should start making my way back to my Airbnb. Needless to say, that did not happen. The last thing I remember from that night was looking down at my phone, seeing that it was 4:04 am (my flight was at 8:00 am) and taking a shot of what looked like dark liquor. Side-note, this is why I don’t drink dark liquors anymore.

I woke up the next morning on a random street in Madrid. No wallet. No Phone. No Glasses. Just me, dazed and confused as to how this storyline that I’ve seen time and time again in movies was now my reality. I somehow warbled my way around the streets of Madrid and found my Airbnb. I knocked on the door and saw the sheer worry and relief that dawned on the faces of my friends that I traveled with. THIS was the first time it registered to me that my actions while traveling have implications on the ones that care and have a love for me. Before this moment I lived in the mindset of “if something happens, it happens and I’ll just live with the consequences.” But I’m not the only one dealing with what happens. I realized that my antiquated mindset on traveling had to shift if I truly was to enjoy the privileges it affords.

When I returned to the states, I spent the next few days telling my friends and loved ones what happened, because naturally, they were curious as to why I was back so early from my trip. They were not too thrilled with the story. This was the second time it registered that my immature actions have implications for other people. Most were shocked, scared and upset that I let the night get that out of hand. Others laughed and uttered, “classic Rohan!” After my time spent in Madrid, missing my flight to Helsinki, which resulted in me ending my trip a week early, I knew I had to change the way I approached travel. I realized that although my primary reason for travel was based on global omniscience, I needed to think about other people and my existence in their lives.

I needed to think about other people and my existence in their lives.

Meet Rohan: My name is Rohan and I am a solo traveler from New York. I started traveling when I read a stat highlighting that most Americans do not travel out of the country which baffled me. As I started looking for inspiration to travel I was constantly served ads and read articles of people that did not look like me. So I decided to take it upon myself to change that. I also wanted a place where I can document my travels and the content I create for POC, so I created a blog called Tourist, Not Tourist in order to inspire others to use their passport and go places where they are not normally seen. My stories tend to lean more on the “wait, what!?” side. Keep up with me on IG and on my website.

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