What I've Learned Being a Tourist Trapped In Spain During the COVID-19 Pandemic


This post was contributed by Lina Adames.

So, I’m writing this on my 21st day of (not so lovely, but very insightful) quarantine. I’d love to say that my days have been full of activities and sessions of mindfulness and all the crap that people in social media say they do… but they are doing that from their comfort of their own houses, from their beloved homes, and I’m writing this from a different country, from a different city and a different house (spoiler: all of them are not my own). Let’s start at the beginning. I arrived a month ago here in Madrid: the first stop of a big European trip that all my family helped me to get as a college graduation gift.

I was ready! My bags were packed, my travel size shampoo and conditioner were full, and my spirit was ready to go ahead and butcher every language that I could across Europe. I checked off Madrid and Toledo from my list, ready to head up to Valencia and Barcelona and…we all know what happened… the thing that “got us all washing everything that got in contact with anything” happened. The thing that closed stores, cities and even entire countries. The thing that got us all on lockdown – that thing happened. So, here I am, a tourist trapped in Madrid. I’m living this day-by-day. The fact that all my plans were cancelled was very frustrating. But hey, at least I’ll have a story to tell in the future. I’ve learnt a lot about random stuff, about myself but most importantly, I’ve learned about Spain in a very strange but beautiful way. These are a few things that maybe other tourists in others countries or cities could use (I can’t be alone on this boat, right?) or maybe someone in their hometown, I don’t know. Or I could also be talking to an empty room. But anyway, whoever you are and wherever you are, I hope this is useful or at least entertaining in some type of way.
Get to know the culture through empathy
Like many other cities around the world, people in Madrid want to thank their doctors, nurses and other people who are out there risking their lives for others, by screaming and clapping every night thru their windows. I’m sure that it started with that intention, but by now is the only way of letting everything out without seeming like a psycho. This is an opportunity to see how everyone is doing and how people from other cultures cope with things. So, open your windows and see what’s out there. Get to know your neighbours and, if you need it, let out a couple of mind/soul cleansing screams to blend in with the rest.
New food as a weapon to fight boredom
C’mon… you are in a new place, across the ocean, very far from home, and you are going to eat the same Lucky Charms? Don’t miss on the opportunity of finding that new local cereal, rice, juice or snack that could be 10 times better than your usual ones at home… or it could be trash, but that’s the beauty of it. In fact, the only thing you are allowed to go out for is food, so, make the most of those 30 min in the supermarket. Enjoy every step, every aisle and every shelf. You’ll thank me later.
Be dress to impress (yourself)
After a while, the comfy clothes got to my head, I felt that I was losing my mind and my clothes reflected that. I’m in Madrid, for God’s sake! Everyone’s style here is incredible. Before the lockdown, while I was walking and get to know the city, I felt very inspired by the way people dress here: very brave, very in-your-face, very modern yet classic and, as a fashion fan myself, I wanted to do the same.
So I started to style the clothes that I brought with me as if I was a “madrileña” myself; it felt awesome. But then, I was stuck in the apartment and in my joggers all day and everything got very sad… very quickly. So, I started dressing as if I was going out, in my very Sunday’s best. My mood got a lot better. Go ahead and experiment, use all your clothes (you carried all of that the across the Atlantic, let it not go to waste), even in ways you have never done before… maybe you’ll catch a beauty passing by the mirror.
The news and local tv programs as your Spanish Teacher.
I’m from Latin America, so, of course I speak Spanish. But if you know anything about languages, you will know that the same language could be very very very different from place to place, and let me tell you, Spanish from Spain is a whole another adventure!
I’ve been watching the news, you know… to see what the hell is going on: is Madrid is burning to ashes? Can I go ahead and finish my trip or is Europe all surrounded by that yellow tape that the janitor uses after mopping the floor? By watching Spanish news and tv shows I’ve learned a book’s worth of new words that I had never used before: new context, new inflections, new pronunciations. Try to make the most of your stay. You can’t go out and talk to people, but you can hear them through the TV.  I’ve even had the time to practice their accent. It’s not great but I think I could disguise my original accent in small talk. (Side note: if you want to go way deeper, try to listen to local music as well. You could blow everyone’s mind back home with your new Spanish tunes)
I guess that my travel experience so far is very unusual, but sometimes the weirder the better, don’t you think? As I get to know every small detail of the view from my window… and believe me, I even know the number of trees, buildings and benches I can see from the apartment, I get to have the real (but very bizarre) life of the “españoles”.

Meet Lina: I’m a Venezuelan/Colombian industrial designer who, even as a baby, could not stay in the same place for longer than 5 minutes. I knew that there was a whole lot of world out there that I needed to see, so, little by little I’ve been doing my homework. I love everything art and culture related, so if you want to chat about it, I’m right here on IG

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