Get Lost in the City. You’ll Learn it in No Time.

So, here’s the thing. I am generally one to get lost. As in I can’t go anywhere new without a phone GPS app. As in I have gotten lost in my friend’s neighborhood two months ago. As in I have gotten lost on a monuments run in DC. So, yeah – I can get very lost. And, guess what happens the first week I get to Barcelona. That’s right; I get lost!

On one of the first few days after I arrived to ESADE Business School’s campus – where I will be studying abroad with Georgetown this summer – most of the group decides to take advantage of the nice weather and unleash all of our excitement from finally being in Barcelona by taking a day trip to the beach at Barceloneta. Being my indecisive self, I keep going back and forth whether I want to actually go. I’m jet-lagged, already sunburnt and peeling from a prior vacation trip, and I, at the time, still had no euros! But, at the same time, why wouldn’t I join the rest of the group and participate in one of our first bonding times? So, I get dressed in a bathing suit, ready to go, only to change my mind and back out. Then, when the group already leaves, what do I do? I text a friend who already offered to lend me euros if they can cover me and that I’ll catch up with the group.

Little did I know, my phone service would suddenly fail me on the way. Me feeling bold and empowered by the new European environment, I decide to freestyle it and try reading signs to hopefully find the train station, where the others had headed. But, within maybe five minutes, I got lost! Who knew that would happen? I didn’t. Therefore, I needed to go old-fashioned – as in talking to the locals and asking for directions, block by block. I know, not so old-fashioned, actually pretty normal.

Though in a situation that was supposed to be high-pressure and no bueno in a foreign country, I actually really enjoyed getting lost. I got to really look around and take in the architecture, political signs, and restaurants serving some good-looking paella and croissants instead of just burying my head in a GPS app. Even more cooler than the scenery and the evidence of an immersive culture were the people! Not only did I get to test out my faltering middle-to-high school level Spanish, but I got to actually interact with people who lead lives far different mine. From picture-perfect families to flower shop owners to cigarette-perfumed hipsters, I was able to observe many different sort of Spaniards’ mannerisms, bilingualism, and personalities in the short amount of time each person was able to offer to help. In one case, I was able to talk to a recent high school grad who had actually studied abroad through a high school foreign exchange program in Nebraska. Cool, huh?

In the process of people-hopping, I learned about this landmark that people kept mentioning to pass and take a right on in order to get to my destination. That landmark was the cinema:

Super ordinary, right? But, it seemed as though this rundown cinema meant a lot to the city folk here because a good three to four people I stopped for directions mentioned to get to a point where I would eventually reach and pass the cinema. And, they were right. I eventually made my way by the cinema where I would find the fastest route to reach the train station.

Long story short, I found the train station and my friends! All thanks to this cinema. A very ordinary cinema but which is now engrained in my head whenever I pass the thing. Interestingly, after this whole incident of getting lost, I actually never had to look at a GPS to get around the area within train station-distance. Cool, right?

Overall, in times of expected confusion, I learned to interact and understand Barcelona a lot faster. And, guess what? Landmarks help so much to get around, even if they seem as ordinary as a cinema. So use ’em!

Now, go get lost! Literally and figuratively. But, really. If you want to understand the culture and people of a city faster, just lose yourself in it. You’ll eventually make it back, but with a lot of cool interactions with people of the city!

Also, here’s what all of the hassle was for. Beautiful Barceloneta, everyone:

To cutting your phone service in a big city!

Justin “no longer lost” Pak

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