Life is a patchwork of the decisions we make. In studying abroad it seems that these decisions carry more weight because the pressure of limited time. Suggestions from friends and online reviews, photos from facebook and stories from siblings mold expectations and build up hopes for experiences abroad. It’s hard not to reflect and compare your experience, thinking “I should have,” “I wish I did,” “I wish I hadn’t” but looking back on the weeks that have passed since my arrival on January 4th, I want to be grateful for what was.
Barcelona is crawling with beautiful boutique-like food shops and foodie designer restaurants, all instagramable and delicious. As a vegetarian I love finding new healthy restaurants and cafes, and I’ll admit that before even coming to Barcelona I started following a couple of these places on instagram (still in love and can’t get enough of Green & Berry and Flax & Kale). I’ve accumulated suggestions from friends and foodie instagrams that all seem mouthwatering good but with 2 weeks left in Barcelona I have to acknowledge that I won’t be able to try every place or even taste half the things on my favorite menus. The same philosophy goes for places to explore and experience. I can try to check every mark but when you’re visiting Paris for 4 days, you can’t realistically think you’ll get to “see I all.” Ultimately, checking the boxes don’t matter if you aren’t enjoying them. Who is that marked box really for? I can’t regret the decision to go to one restaurant over another, or to have gone to this park instead of this museum. There are too many options and not enough time to let regret cloud your experience.
I once saw a TED talk titled “The paradox of choice.” In the talk Barry Schwartz identifies the problems behing choices saying, “it’s easy to imagine you could have made a different choice that would have been better […] The more options there are, the easier it is to regret anything at all that is disappointing about the option that you chose.” Living in a new country and exploring an entirely new continent, I want to feel, see, buy, taste, try everything that catches my eye. Choices inebitably stack up: Prague or Madrid, Park Ciutadella or Park Guell, Opium or Shoko, Stedelijk Museum or Van Gogh. I hope to push past this instinct of regret that can easily taint enjoyment. The past is in the past and the memories and experiences that I did choose, make up the incredibly beautiful experience that is unique to me. Between the memories that feel like dreams are mistakes and flaws but together they forge this one unique semester that is responsible for some of my favorite memories.
Forever grateful for the Ricotta pancake at Brunch & Cake, seeing a Fontana in person, café at the Louis Vuitton Foundation, the twinkling of the Eiffel tower, a studio visit in Amsterdam, the pink Art Deco Casa de Serralves, a run through a sunset at Park Guell, pain au chocolat au amande with nutella, intricate muqarna ceilings and orange gardens of Alcazar palace, the beachy Madrid bar with sand on the floor, London high tea, early Picasso sketches, stir-fry cooking at my friend Matt’s, the design bookstore in London, gooey banana bread in the bitter cold line for the Anne Frank house, singing Adele with my parents driving through the foggy green fields of Portugal, design boutiques of Palo Alto Market, a Banksy, the most delicious pizza I’ve ever tasted in the sunshine of a Roman street, fresh vegetable markets, golden baroque detailed domes of St. Peter’s Basilica, the Mies van der Rohe pavilion, pastel houses of Nhyaven, and the lively streets of Gracia.
I savor these moments and appreciate the mistakes that filled the gaps in between.
Talia is a current student at Virginia Commonwealth University studying at Elisava Barcelona School of Design and Engineering in Spain during the Spring 2016 term.