San Sebastián: The Getaway I Didn’t Even Know I Needed

One post ago:

“I’ve decided to not travel this summer, because I’d rather save for meaningful trips I’m really excited about.”

Yeah, that didn’t age well.

Allow me to explain.

It was a Monday afternoon. I had one week before my student teaching orientation. I was laying in bed, staring at . . . the walls? The ceiling? Does it even matter?

I’d been fortunate to teach all summer, at one point having three teaching jobs. I can count on one hand how many days I’d had off since late May. I felt more materially secure. But emotionally, I felt like a deflated balloon. I needed a break.

I’d planned to work until the day of orientation. But that Monday afternoon, when I was laying in bed, something awoke in me. The part of me that loves spontaneous adventures. The part of me that needed to go to the beach. The next thing you know, I had a one-way bus ticket and a hostel reservation to Basque Country.

And that’s how I ended up in San Sebastian!

Besides material security, there’s another reason I was reluctant to travel.

The last trip I’d been on, I lost a friendship.

The trip before that was with a partner who is no longer in my life anymore.

So I think I’d associated the two trips with loss. April was rough for most of us, let’s be honest. I lost a relationship, friends, and work. And the minute work came back to me, I clung onto it as if I were hanging onto solid ground in the middle of a hurricane.

I like what I do. I was getting good at it, too. But I started to slowly see that I was replacing the human connection corona was blocking from me, with a paycheck.

It’s all about balance. Balacing work, play, and relationships.

I came to Spain to live. And I was going to spend my last days of summer vacation in my room?

Or, was I going to trust that I will be okay, and enjoy my life here?

I didn’t even know how badly I needed this trip, until I was there.

Fun fact: I was originally going to visit Cádiz, a city in the south of Spain. I almost studied there several years ago, and have been wanting to visit ever since. But something was calling me to northern Spain. Which is probably a good thing, since I just found out today that Andalusia’s got a mosquito problem going on.

I took a midnight bus to San Sebastián, because I wanted a dramatic exit. I also wanted to wake up and see something beautiful. But I didn’t really think the whole midnight bus during a pandemic option through. Was I supposed to sleep with my mask on? (Yes, I was.) Actually, would I be able to sleep at all? (Barely.) I figured I’m still at an age where I can tolerate uncomfortable travel.

I arrived at 6:30 in the morning. At that moment, I didn’t care that I didn’t have an ounce of makeup on my face, nor that I was in desperate need of deodorant and toothpaste, nor the fact that I’d spent the night barely sleeping in a bus, with passengers who may or may not have been following mask-wearing regulations. (I don’t know why else the bus driver would have started yelling at the passengers at 4 o’clock in the morning.)

None of that mattered. All that mattered was the waves and the sunrise in front of me.

I was so happy I could have cried.

I spent the morning catching up on sleep at the beach. Once I checked in my hostel, I put on a bathing suit for the first time in a year, fell asleep due to lack of sleep, and got an embarrassing sunburn that is peeling as I write this. For the rest of my vacation, I woke up every day in pain.

Later that afternoon, I took a hike at Mount Urgull, a city lookout point at a fortress. And yes, I was inappropriately dressed for the occasion. But wait, there’s more! My flip flops were broken too.

But it was worth it for these views.

During my trip, I visited Hondarribia, a small town about an hour away next to the French border. I was supposed to visit Paris for my birthday, but inconveniently, Spain issued a nation-wide lockdown a week before. So this was as close as I could get to France for the time being.

I’ll be writing a separate post about Hondarribia, because it deserves its own post. Until then, here are some pictures of this adorable town.

The next day, I visited another lockout, which was recommended by a new Romanian friend. Thankfully, there was no hiking required. Instead, I got to take the funicular, which was very fun.

What was surreal was staring out into the ocean, standing on top of a windy lookout point, and realizing that I wa on the edge of Europe. It was so windy that I felt like I was going to be blown away into the nothingness.

I spent the last night sitting alone on the beach and watching the sunset with all the other couples. Funny thing is that I kept running into couples everywhere, and then there’s me, showing up out of nowhere to crash the party. I was half amused and half nostalgic.

The last time I went to the beach was with someone who came in and out of my life faster than I could finish saying hello. I should have known not to start seeing someone at the start of the pandemic. Bad timing, or destiny? Anyway, I’d thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone here with me?”

But at that moment, I suddenly felt so complete, so happy, so full…being alone. Yes, it was nice to walk hand in hand along the Mediterranean. But this? Being alone, and at peace after years of being at war with myself?

Nothing, nothing could have beat this moment.

This moment was everything I didn’t know I needed.

I spent the last morning walking along the beach, reading The Alchemist, and taking a boat ride around the bay. I then spent the last moments at the beach for the time being before getting on my bus back to Madrid (this time, an afternoon bus).

I came back to Madrid smelling of saltwater and sweat. My hair was a mess, my whole body hurt, and I couldn’t have been more grateful.

Sometimes the best thing you can do for your productivity is to go on vacation.

Need I say more?

This trip confirmed how much I love to travel and go on spontaneous adventures. This is my thing. And it’s incredible how one decision I made eight years ago in Argentina to travel alone for two months to prove myself that I could do it, now feels like a second skin.

Now that I’m back in Madrid, you may ask, do I still feel sad about not having certain people in my life anymore? I do sometimes. I’m human. And, just as I learned in my last solo trip to Logroño, going somewhere new may not heal your broken heart, but it will show you that life is still beautiful. And that love is still worth believing in.

And that the next adventure may be just around the corner.

4 thoughts on “San Sebastián: The Getaway I Didn’t Even Know I Needed

  1. Cheryl Benisatto

    Isn’t there a Church at the edge of the ocean that is famous for a pilgrimage? I thought it was in San Sebastion? And, I’ve read The Alchemist and loved it! Try to read “The Cathedral” by ??? Another Spanish writer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. McKenna

      Is it at the edge of the ocean or in the city? There was one beautiful cathedral in the city. Who’s the author of “The Cathedral”?


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