In 1998 my best friend and I traveled to Europe for the World Cup which was held in France. Despite our main goal being to watch soccer games, we also made side trips to other cities inside and outside of France. One of our stops was the Spanish city of Barcelona. It’s a beautiful city on the coast with the architecture of Gaudi, the shopping of Las Ramblas and hosted the Olympics only a few years prior. Despite all of those magnificent characteristics, whenever I talk about that trip, I usually talk about the Police Department. Let me explain!
My friend and I were staying in a hostel* about a mile from the beach. So we usually took the metro from our hostel to other parts of city. On our second to last day in Barcelona, we were at a metro station waiting for the train to come. My friend was rearranging items in his money belt when the train arrived. We hopped up and got onto the train. After the train pulled away, he realized that he’d left his passport on the bench at the station. By the time that we got to the next station and took a train back, the passport was gone. This was early internet days, so we relied on maps and locals to make our way to the US Consulate in Barcelona. Upon arriving there, we realized it was closed because it was a Saturday. The only person there was a guard who only spoke Spanish. Luckily I was able to use my Spanish to explain the situation and he put me on the phone with someone to help. Since we were traveling to France the next day, he explained that we needed to go to the Barcelona PD and file a police report. With that and a copy of his passport, we would be able to cross the border and get a new passport in Paris on Monday. Luckily our visit to the Barcelona PD went off without a problem and we made it to Paris as scheduled. The Barcelona PD is not actually a tourist attraction! However it is one of the places that I mention whenever I talk about this trip. The reason is simple, the destination matters but the road is more important.
Almost none of the stories that I tell from my travels are about the view from the Eiffel Tower or standing in front of the Mona Lisa. They are the stories of what went wrong, things that were odd and personal. If the point was to see the Mona Lisa, then Google is all that you need in order to have a fruitful life. To the contrary, the journey to get to the Mona Lisa is more relevant and full of impact. We spend so much of our lives chasing goals and that is clearly the point. Goals are merely the excuse that we have for going on a magnificent journey. The mistake that most people make is that they forget to enjoy the journey.
Every day is your chance at adventure. If you choose not to see it, then you will be swallowed up by all of the petty and seemingly insignificant crap that you encounter. Or maybe, just maybe going to the Barcelona PD could be one of the best times you’ve ever had!
Hit the road!
*If you’ve never traveled abroad, a hostel is like a VERY bare bones hotel. You sleep in a room with many other people and have shared bathrooms etc.