I think about study abroad a whole bunch. It was perfect, life-changing and I miss it every single day. And I talk about it, well… most days. Yeah. I talk about it a lot.
Today, I want to talk about hiking.
I’m currently reading an amazing book, “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. It is based on the author’s true experience, which makes it even more enjoyable. She set out to hike about 1,000 miles… alone and without any training. It is inspiring, amazing and really, really crazy. And needless to say, it’s brought back wave after wave of nostalgia for my days in the Spanish mountains.
In the book (and IRL), she hikes across the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. WHOA GUYS, guess where I hiked while abroad. The Sierra Nevada Mountains in Spain.
And, entirely by coincidence, a close friend posted a video on my Facebook wall this afternoon. It’s from our last hiking trip in Spain, and features the two of us soaking in the views and sun, and mourning the end of the semester. I’m tan, skinny and really (naturally) blonde – all thanks to those beautiful mountains. I remember that exact moment so perfectly. We stood there for a while, looking out to the mountains and trying to absorb as much as we could. Considering just living out there indefinitely. I specifically remember deciding that Spain couldn’t kick us out if they didn’t know where we were – so we should just live in the mountains. I’ve watched the video a million times and just want to transport myself back to that moment.
I probably don’t have to tell you how much I am missing Granada tonight. To me, the Sierra Nevada Mountains were the essence of Spain. Seriously – the heart and soul of the country.
Granada is situated at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Its physical seclusion from the rest of the country allowed Jews to freely practice their religion much later than the rest of Spain during La Reconquista. Today, they don’t hold much political or religious significance, but they create absolutely beautiful scenery and provide visitors and natives with endless hiking opportunities.
While I lived in Granada, my friends and I spent as much time as possible at high altitudes. The views are better and the air is fresher. We got amazing adrenaline rushes and fab workouts. Most importantly, it was an adventure.
Sometimes, we had maps or detailed instructions. Other times, we worked from super vague verbal directions from host moms. In the end, it all worked out and we ended up with really great stories. Like the time that we encountered a “man of the mountain” while attempting to find a path – and we ended up screaming and running back the other direction. Or the time when we saw a few stray puppies that looked adorable but were most certainly not our friends. OR when we walked right past a “do not pass this sign” sign, like the badass Spaniards that we became.
So, we’d hike, laugh, chat, sing and enjoy the views. We ate lunches (sandwiches, fruit and juice boxes) that our (host) moms packed for us. We peed on the sides of mountains. We sat on very steep cliffs for great photo opps.
We had a tradition – When we reached the top of the mountain, we’d play “On Top of the World” by Imagine Dragons and jam, enjoying the gorgeous views. When I hear the song now, the lyrics seem to morph into a whole new language. It’s like a voice calling me: “Haley! Come back to Granada… but this time, don’t leave.”