Directionally challenged. Look it up. My picture will be next to the definition. I am hopelessly and consistently getting lost.
It was one of my biggest worries when planning my trip to Spain. Yes, there were 10 other people going, but I was going to have to get myself around at some point and that petrified me. I had images in my head of getting on a bus and ending up in France. Or telling a taxi driver the wrong address and finding myself in Portugal. I speak so-so Spanish and reading a map? Well, let’s just say the invention of a device in your car that speaks to you, telling you where to go, still gets me lost (like the time I ended up in Indiana coming home from my downtown Louisville workplace). I wasn’t holding out much hope for the laminated map my dear flamenca friend got for me.
Getting up and heading out early in the morning to my flamenco class, before some of my group had even fluttered and eye, had me knee-deep in finding my way alone almost right away. The streets in Sevilla are narrow and winding, some with very little signage, so my handwritten notes were invaluable on the first day. After a 20-25 minute walk through our corner of the historic center of Sevilla, El Centro, and then through the bordering district of El Arena, over the Isabel II bridge to Triana, and through a few more winding streets, I arrived at my class. Easy, peasy. Wait, I also had to get back home. That meant reversing the directions in my head. Ugh! This meant trouble.
So, I did something daring. After my first day of class, I walked around Triana, looked in shops, stopped and ate some lunch at a cute little outdoor cafe, and leisurely made my way back to our villa. And I didn’t use my notes. I figured if I got lost, I would simply ask for directions, reciting from my pre-made cheat sheet of things I thought I may need to say in Spanish; “estoy perdido.”
Or, I could just enjoy getting lost. Yes! I would enjoy stumbling upon a hidden gem of a shop, landmark, or restaurant. I would enjoy sitting by the river and watching all the activity around me. I decided to take it all in, no matter what. I decided if I was going to lose time in Spain, I would lose it happily. And I did.
Along my path, I met lovely people. One day, when I stopped to have a solo meal at a restaurant near the foot of the Triana bridge, the man who waited on me very politely picked up my bags and shoved them under the table, uttering something in Spanish I could only half guess was that I should keep my belongings secure from being taken.
Another day, I stopped by the churros y chocolate stand I had passed several times before. I was in the mood to linger, but was given the news they only accept cash~ and I didn’t have enough. The very friendly, elderly owner and his son told me, in Spanish, to take the churros, enjoy eating them, and bring the money back to him afterwards. Really? Wow! That would never happen in the United States! So I lingered a little while, taking in all the people that passed and all the conversations floating around, before I walked 15 minutes out of my way to an ATM for some euros and brought it directly back to this wonderful example of Sevilla.
Each day, as I went to and from class, I took time to notice all the beauty around me. Sevilla is full of color and vibrance in its landscape and its people. The architecture was amazing, so historic and old, and I was in awe. I was beginning to feel like I belonged here. I went shopping for food, wine, clothes and toiletries, I bought flowers in the mercado, and gifts in the ceramica store. I conversed in Spanish as best I could. I ate the most incredible food. Alone. I was doing it! I was exploring this wonderful city and making lifetime memories…I was, indeed, getting lost, not in direction but in adventure!
By the end of the trip, when some of my fellow travelers who had not ventured to Triana yet, asked me to accompany them to show them the way, I just smiled. No one EVER asks ME for directions.
*Originally posted November 20, 2016 by LORI KULLBERG Contributing author for Flamencos Online since February 2021.