So every traveler has their own way of traveling. Some ambitious travelers do hours upon hours of pre-arrival research on Trip Advisor. They show up to their hotel with a thick, quadruple stapled pile of papers to live by for the next xxx days. Others carry around a travel book, or travel “bible” should I say, and treat it like their newborn baby. Then there are the “mappys.” We all have seen ‘em. They are those eye-soaring every-local-makes-fun-of-you tourist, that carries around a life size map in front of their face as they walk down the street. Chances are, you’ll see these people bump into a few street signs. And finally, there are those who go the tour guide route. This eliminates the fear of getting lost in a foreign place, all the while getting the proper historical background on every nook and cranny of the city.
So where do I fit in?
This has been my question for the past couple of weeks. I’ve been on a constant travelers struggle between what I ought to be seeing according to the hostel maps and travel guides…
verse what I get true enjoyment out of seeing. Or experiencing, I should say.
The answer? Plan for GraNADA.
Allow me to clarify. Research is a wonderful thing. Trip Advisor is great. So are maps. And so are tour books. Read them. But save yourself the weight of a heavy bag, and leave them on your bed.
Let me tell you how I came to this conclusion.
So I arrived in Granada last weekend with a well-researched list of all the spots I wanted to see. The Palace of Charles, the Cathedral, the Arc of Elvira, the Monastery of Saint Jerome, and of course the highly anticipated Alhambra.
I didn’t get to see half of these. But let me tell you, I got to see the Alhambra. In more ways than just one. In more ways than my travel book could have ever advised me.
The first day I was stressed out about seeing all of the places circled on my map, going to all of the little restaurants I sought out for #AWanderingCasiedilla, and maximizing the most of my day so I had time to do it all. And then I realized how stressed I was…on VACATION (well, kind of). Might I add, that the culture of Granada is all about chill. The chilled-out music scene on the streets, the dread-headed hippies in parachute pants, and of course the “tetería” tea shops filled with hookah’s and “tea-huggers.”
So, I threw out my map. Kind of anti-climactically rebellious, I know. But I did. And then I walked. And found SO MANY hidden spots my research would have never led me to. I talked to the local nut guy,
the struggling street artist
and the nomad from Morocco.
I then went back to my hostel to speak with my new friend Kevin, a Swizz guy who moved to Granada to work in the hostel. I told him about my realization, and how I wanted to explore. Next thing I knew, my new Australian friend, Kevin, and I were off to explore the underground treasures of Granada. No maps, no wifi, NADA. We decided to go on a hike up Mount Sacromonte to watch the sunset behind Alhambra.
And next thing I knew I was in a gypsy cave.
YUP. It’s true. And it happened just like that. New Aussie friend, Kevin and I were hiking up the mountain, when we came across Nadar, Kevin’s friend from Senegal. It was no surprise that we ran into Nadar, because he lives on the mountain. In a cave.
Now, Mount Sacromente is known for its gypsy caves. In fact, there’s a whole community of cave dwellers. It’s kind of like the suburbs of Granada, right? Well, while its a known entity that these cave dwellers exist, the average city person doesn’t actually intermingle with the cave community. And tourists definitely don’t.
So my two new friends and I were invited into Nadar’s cave to “tomar un café,” or “drink a coffee.” And coffee we drank. The best coffee I have EVER had. No joke. Coffee beans hand delivered to our cave, straight from Senegal.
I met Nadar’s friends. They all had a story to tell. But the most incredible thing I learned was that they all chose to live in the caves. They didn’t live in the caves because they couldn’t afford a “real” apartment. They didn’t live in the caves because they were kicked out of their home and had nowhere else to go. They didn’t live in the caves because they were run-away criminals (LOL. At least I hope…)
As Nadar explained it, he chose to live in his cave because of “the simple life.” A life that focuses on the GraNADA way. However, without the materialistic clutter of the city. A life shared with friends, a sense of community, music…
and the best sunset in all of Granada.
Now THAT is real Granada. Good thing I threw out my travel book.
What kind of traveler are YOU? Comment below and share!