10:30 PM. San Sebastian, Spain. Waiting for my first overnight train of the trip. Sitting across me from in the waiting area is a guy who looks like the worst possible crossbreed of Hitler, Fidel Castro, and Santa Claus. He scared the shit out of me and I prayed he wouldn’t be on my train. He wasn’t.
The train arrived late (this isn’t Switzerland or Germany) and after boarding I spent the next four hours trying not to fall asleep. The first leg of the overnight was in a regular seat thus my bags weren’t secured. I listened to an audiobook and some music. At 2:05 AM we pulled into Burgos, Spain, I fought my way through drunk old men blocking the door, and jumped out into the deserted railway station.
The only other inhabitants at this hour in Burgos were two Chicago 20-somethings who’ve been on the road for a month. Except, they looked like student backpackers. We chatted. They’ve been sleeping in random hostels, parks, hills, beaches, vans. They had big beards and dirty feet. Nice guys, for sure, but I discovered that they are real student backpackers. I’m an entrepreneur and blogger who happens to be wearing a backpack. I’ve had the luxury of avoiding hostels (until Spain), I’ve been meeting people according to a schedule, and when necessary, I’ve checked into a low priced hotel. The whole student backpacker look of one-too-many-showers-in-a-communal-bathroom and never-plan-ahead-part-of-the-fun-is-the-crazy-stories-of-sleeping-on-beach don’t jibe with me.
Anyway, the night train bound for Barcelona arrived, I boarded, and navigated to my car. The conductor opened the locked door and I found six bunk beds, with one open. I climbed the ladder into the middle bunk on the right side, threw my big backpack behind the ladder and kept my small daypack (with laptop!) at my side on my bunk bed. The bed was soft, with a pillow and blanket. The train roared away from the stop and as I lay there, scrunched up on my little bunk bed, I took pleasure in the exotic nature of the trip. I fell asleep and woke up throughout the night and was awoken for good at around 7 AM when the conductor opened our door and woke up one of the passengers whose stop it was. I groaned from my bunk, "Cuantas horas a Barcelona?" He responded, "Dos horas y media."
At the Barcelona stop a weary, sleep-deprived, unshowered Ben stumbles into the train station. New destination: Hostal Centric to meet my close friend from school Austin. I must admit I couldn’t wait to meet him. I’ve been living out of a backpack for a month knowing virtually no one; I’ve stayed with new friends and friends of friends but no one who I have known already (outside of a week in Germany w/ my Mom).
An hour later I opened the door to our clean, surprisingly professional hostel room and found Austin waiting. We were both exhausted — he from his flight from San Francisco and me from the overnight train and just generally being on the road for a hell of a long time. Throughout the course of the day our sense of place and time detoriated to dangerous levels. In any event, it was great to meet him and we set out by foot to explore the main street – La Rumbla – in Barcelona, said to be the most famous street in Spain. We walked along the waterfront, explored different side streets, and just generally take in this supposedly un-Spanish city by the ocean.
But I was distracted by something else: food. I hadn’t eaten since 7 PM the previous night. I had gone from 7 PM to 1:30 PM on nothing but a Cliff Bar. This may be the longest time I’ve ever gone without a meal in my life. Oddly enough after awhile my hunger simply dissapated, and the objects in front of me turned to mush and I focused on left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot.
We lay in the park, checked out the famous cathedral in Barcelona, watched some break dancers, searched for water (a Herculian task) and then walked back to an All-You-Can-Eat Buffet for dinner. I spotted one on our walk and told Austin we had to eat there. I was shocked such a concept existed in Europe (first one I’ve seen) and was ready to do some serious carbo loading. The food was good, filling, and I sneaked out a couple bananas and fruit for our room.