Andalusian Dreaming / by Callum Lamont

It is a real shame that most of what I seem to blog about (I hate that b-word) is travel. After my last few posts I made a non-binding agreement that I would tone down the explorer vibe and have a think about what other interesting points of my life I could post about… so here we are talking about travel again. But in all seriousness, I feel obliged to say something here, as I have recently returned from one of the best trips in my adult life. I hesitate to use the word holiday as I feel like this was something more than just that. The beautiful people, scenery and culture has truly impressed in me a feeling of gratitude and wonder of the world  

Before I get into the nitty gritty, which is almost secondary to this post, I feel the need to preachily tout the benefits of traveling solo. There are advantages to traveling with friends: having a known companion in case shit hits the fan, creating stories you can relive and which may even fortify your relationship (though that last point can work in the opposite direction as  well). However, travelling on your own has an ineffable quality which strengthens the experience. It's like a flip is switched in one’s head and senses and emotions become hypersensitive. My memories of what I achieve are more vivid and my connection with the scenery, and those new faces I see it with, are enhanced. One of the most commonly peddled benefits of travelling is its ability to broaden your mind and perspective. I think this can most easily occur if you are forced, at least somewhat, out of your comfort zone and more meaningfully interact with the world around oneself. Having spent the first part of this trip with friends, and the second half without,  I was able to confirm this conjecture with some control data. By the end of my stay in Spain I felt properly sad to be departing. To be leaving the friends I'd formed, the city and its sights, the culture. 

So where did I travel? After an enjoyable stint in London then Lisbon with some mates from Melbourne, my main trek commenced with my arrival at Malaga airport. At this stage I only had my first destination and my flight home confirmed. Though normally uber organised, I thought it would be a good test to travel fast and loose, only planning my itinerary a day or so in advance. This allowed me to stay agile and see things on a whim. Shortly after touchdown I was confronted with a part of Europe with a less-than-fluent level of English. As a previous resident of The Netherlands, this was a reality which I naively and arrogantly forgot still existed. A two week tenure with Duolingo helped buffer against a degree of miscommunication, though some more formal training was sorely needed. Not desiring to spend long in Malaga, which felt a bit like the Gold Coast equivalent of Spain, I made tracks to Granada, most probably the highlight of the trip. For quite some time I have desired to make the pilgrimage to this city, with it often a favourite of travellers passing through Spain. The closed in, sloped and windy streets randomly segment blocks of white homes together and help maintain a cosy small town quality. Yet only a short hike yielded the contrasting and grandiose majesty of the Alhambra. The lingering moorish tint to much of the Andalusian architecture was a curious and engaging aspect of these travels. After what felt like to little time, I began the journey westward, with a first stopover in Ronda. While a much smaller locale than anywhere else encountered during my movements, the fantastic canyon bifurcating the town, and the Porto Neuvo stitching it together, were awesome features making the night well worth it. 

following this, I crossed into what feels like the second chapter of the trip. My next destinations of Cadiz and Tarifa, located on the coast, yielded a much different response to the inland towns. My concern for visiting anywhere on the beach is that these places seem to inevitably gravitate towards a somewhat generic and artificial “relaxing holiday location” atmosphere. Often they no longer sustain even the pretence of being a genuine town anymore. Cadiz certainly countered such forces, however, which isn’t surprising after learning that it is one of the oldest, continuously inhabited cities of Europe. Like many other European towns, it still maintained that labyrinthian style meanderings of narrow streets through its heart.  With Cathedrals and Castles lining the waters edge, lying on the sand felt like a waste. Tarifa also held its own, though clearly the beach was on the minds of the Spanish tourists looking to get away from the summer heat. As the most southern point of mainland Europe, one is afforded sights of Morocco 14 km across the Strait of Gibraltar. This felt like a bit of a slap in the face, as Morocco was initially on the itinerary of this trip, but sacrificed due to a lack of time (a recurring theme in life). After a night, bags were packed and I returned myself to Cadiz, where I enjoyed a final night before an early flight back to London. 

My body is now home, but my thoughts and reflections are still lingering through those Andalusian streets. It is believed the memories we form in early adulthood stay with us the longest. I feel these last few weeks have successfully contributed to this archive inside my head. My goal is to keep strengthening this collection and not become a passive bystander of my own life. Where will I go next? In all likelihood, that will be the topic of my next post..