A trip that took me to an alternate reality

If you are not a traveller or just don’t care about it, you can skip this post as your narrow-minded brain will probably not understand most of the feelings this trip triggered in me and it will be impossible for you to relate to anything I am going to describe.

I have always thought that travelling was the only way to experience living in another reality, in a parallel universe. You leave behind your problems, your daily routine and start a completely different adventure in a brand-new environment. The intensity and profoundness of every trip depends mostly on people you share it with. What I have learned over the years is that no matter where you go, the important part is the person beside you for the ride. You can travel to picturesque places and eat food that sends rolling waves of pleasure down your body, makes you weak in the knees and smile with pleasure, but all this will be multiplied by three when you do it with your type of people. People that understand and feel you. People that make you laugh and comfortable to be around.

Also, every trip is unique. You can never get back the moments and emotions you once shared or relive the same adventures. I have made this mistake trying to recreate what I once had, but it never worked as the people around me changed or they just weren’t there for the second time around. Therefore, I have learned to live in the moment. Sometimes I even consciously take a moment in the moment to tell myself this is good, enjoy it!

When I started my trip to Spain on the 27th of July, I felt like a deer caught in the headlights. It was my very first trip alone. Completely alone, nothing planned, zero schedule. I was scared and felt uncomfortable, but I knew I had to do this. I spent five days alone in Barcelona at a hostel that brought together solo travellers from different parts of the world. From the first evening I started making friends, I had chats and shared trips with Taiwanese, Swedish, Korean, Polish and Argentinian people. I went on a spontaneous walking tour with a Taiwanese guy who made me laugh so hard so many times that I almost cried a few days later when he left. We clicked instantly and I felt as if he was my best friend. It sounds crazy, I know, but this is how I felt. In Barcelona I was just going with the flow, floating in the air and letting the wind carry me on. I did whatever felt good in that moment. I was not dependent on anything or anyone and it felt so damn liberating.

After five very active days in Barcelona, there was a moment, I felt that this trip had come to its end and like usually after a week of travelling, I would go home. But it was just then, when I had to take a bus to Jaca, to a small village in Northern Spain close to the French border. Little did I know that this place would drag me so deep into the alternate reality that getting out of there would break my heart and make me doubt about everything in life. I experienced something so powerful and outer space that no amount of money could ever replace. It was something that fed my soul, something that made me feel alive, something that reminded me that emotions, adventures and experiences were the most important things in life and this is what I was living for. All this was only made possible by the people who spent those two weeks with me in Jaca.

It is almost impossible to put this experience into words. Before arriving there, I didn’t except much. I had this unreasonable opinion in the back of my head that this small village would be bland and boring. The minute I stepped out of the bus, I was surprised by the ambience, the buildings and the cosiness that hit me. The whole village looked like an old town of Tallinn. And as it was so small, you could go anywhere on foot in 10 minutes. It was not necessary to plan ahead your gatherings. The streets were lively and full of bars and restaurants. There were cute small shops and tourist attractions. Not to mention the nature and the Pyrenees silhouetting on the horizon.

The first Monday morning in Jaca, I entered the classroom and sat down in the front row. I didn’t know anyone. I was a bit curious of what these people were like and what kind of conversations we would have. When we reached the lunch time, I was just hanging at the door of the main entrance to see, if I could tag along with someone for a drink, and it was just then, when a very cute Spanish girl Susmita asked me if I wanted to go out with her. There was also Matthew, a guy from England, so the three of us hit the streets of Jaca to find a place for some cold refreshment. From this moment on, me and Susmita were inseparable. I was dazzled by her beauty and innocent smile. She was stylish and glamorous. She had a different outfit for every day. Each outfit was well-planned and suited her impeccably. It became clear to me very soon that Susmita and me shared the same sense of humour and loved gossiping about everything. I am so happy that now I have a true Spanish girlfriend. I miss her and our giggles. I can’t wait to meet her again in Barcelona or Zaragoza!

Matthew, on the other hand, was a bit more serious and had this true British writer touch. Maybe I am completely mistaken, but this was the first impression of him. He has been teaching Spanish for 10 years and his vocabulary was just beyond everything. Matthew was also the only person who actually knew Estonia and had been to Tallinn and visited Muhu island. He could even count to ten in Estonian and named some neighbourhoods in Tallinn. I was impressed! On rare occasions, when we were around people whose Spanish was not so good yet, Matthew would speak in English and OMG, that British accent! I could have listened to him talk all night long. Pure bliss to my ears!

In the evening of the first day, I went out with Susmita and her roommate Madelief, a girl from Netherlands, who was so crazy and sane and positive and silly at the same time, that I was just astonished by her personality. With Madelief I could have the deepest conversations about relationships and life, but then the next moment she was suddenly just dancing around and doing splits in front of everyone on the stairs of the main entrance. It’s very hard to put it into words, but her laughter was so contagious that we would just literally laugh until our six-packs hurt and people would think we were drunk or high, even though we were completely sober. She was insane and I loved it!

By the 2nd or 3rd day we had formed a group of friends in Whatsapp called Terviseks (Cheers in Estonian). I had become friends with more people, including the two American guys who were there to learn Spanish – Chris and Taylor. Taylor’s name I remembered instantly as it was so Taylor Swift. Taylor was not very talkative, as we mostly spoke in Spanish and he was in the A1 group. I think this might be the reason I didn’t quite understand the kind of person he was. To me he seemed to agree with everyone on everything and not really have his own opinion. Nevertheless, he seemed to get hold of me very well. After a couple of days being in the same company, he told me he had put together my profile. I was very intrigued to find out what it was. Among other things he mentioned something very interesting which definitely caught my attention. He told me I was the kind of person who had already understood the essence of life, I was beyond that and therefore I got bored easily. That I was often looking for something more fulfilling, interesting and adventurous. His accuracy hit me like a lightning and at that point I didn’t want to admit that this stranger got me so well. Intimidating, to say the least!

I think I shared the first words with Chris in the evening of the first day when we had a walk around Jaca with all the student and teacher groups together. As we are both very open and easy-going, the two of us hit it off right away. With him I felt I didn’t have to pretend or find the right words. He made me feel comfortable and we had a nice synergy between us. Chris was tall, handsome and fit. And oh, he was very well aware of it. In the beginning, I would often call him an egocentric person, but luckily he proved me pretty soon that there was more to him than met the eye. In a way he reminded me of my best friend. We just got along so well, talked about everything, did silly things together, and then shared our thoughts on politics and investing. It was a nice surprise that Chris could sing and there was this perfect afternoon when we were in the garden by the pool of our dormitory, me and Chris and Madelief, the latter by the way, could sing too, she was in a choir. So what happened is that I played Coldplay on my phone, the band I love, I just went to their concert in Berlin a month ago. Anyway, to my surprise, these two knew their songs by heart and started singing Viva la vida a cappella. This was one of the moments I knew that needed to be captured for the rest of my life. A sunny day in Spain by the pool, relaxing, having the most interesting conversations and singing together, not just singing any random song, but singing the songs of my all time favourite band Coldplay. The joy I felt, that was a moment to take with me.

To practise even more Spanish, I decided to buy something from a local book store. I asked the shop assistant for recommendations, something easy to read, a novel, something about relationships… and then I bought the first book she handed to me. I started reading it in the garden with other people around me. Already on the second page, the storyline completely changed and I found myself at fifty shades of grey chapter. It was so funny that I mentioned it to others and they asked me to read it out loud. At some point they had all gathered around me, me sitting on a chair and they around me like children listening to their teacher reading them a bed time story. It was hilarious and even funnier is the photo we have of this moment. Thank you for that, Taylor!

On Friday, the first week, we decided not to have dinner in the dormitory, but to go out and enjoy some high quality Spanish food. It was then, when I got better acquainted with the two guys from Belgium – Max and Florian. I had noticed them before among other people, but we never really talked, maybe some chit-chat. Right across from me sat Max. He definitely stood out from others – tall, brown eyes, tanned. I had noticed him before too, but for some reason I thought he was very serious. He had this sophisticated, noble aura. First impressions are really something! When we sat at the table, I was mostly talking to everyone else, at least in the beginning, and tried to avoid eye contact with him. His stare was piercing and cut right through me. But then I decided to start a conversation and asked him some random questions. Little did I know that would turn out rather interesting. After some time, I learned that Max was a picky person, because he knew what he wanted. He didn’t like to waste his time on things and people who didn’t go with his vision and goals. He always had his opinion and clear understanding of life. I loved his mean comments, we were completing each other there. He seemed determined and decisive, but at the same time very caring.

On Saturday morning, we had to wake up at 8am to hike up the mountain that was close to Jaca. From up there you could see everything, small villages and the Pyrenees touching the clouds. It was beautiful! Our teacher told us that it would take around 1.5h to reach the top. From the very beginning, I was one of the first ones to walk up, besides, I didn’t like to hike in between people. With me there was also Max and a small group of other people right behind us. Max and me talked the whole way up, me constantly taking pictures and videos to capture everything. When we were about to reach the summit, Max sprinted and made sure he got up there first. I think we had been up there for almost 1.5h when some Chinese students arrived and another 30min when the last Chinese student arrived with the help of another Spanish teacher. It was so funny, cause his face was just priceless. I thought we had to call an ambulance or put him on an IV immediately as he was about to pass out. But it turned out, it was a regular thing with Chinese students, as they are not used to doing any sports, plus their phone is attached to their hand at all times, also during breakfast, lunch and dinner -that’s what had I noticed. Anyway, after waiting up there and taking pictures and videos we finally started going down. Me and Max were the first ones again until Chris and Florian passed us by RUNNING, yes, they were literally running. We thought that there was a bar somewhere down there and it would be nice to have a cold drink. To jump ahead a bit, there was nothing, or it was closed, not sure. Going down went even faster, but it really took a toll on my knees. Once we got down, I almost didn’t feel my feet, they were partly numb. Chris and Florian had also just arrived and we were disappointed together about the non-existent bar. Then a Lithuanian girl got down too and as Florian had come by car, we all decided to go back to Jaca by car and not to wait for others. Our teacher was a bit pissed about this, I truly apologize!

Florian is an entirely suitable name for that colourful, diverse, funny, warm, strange, floaty… person. I am not even sure how to write him into this post. There aren’t words precise enough in a dictionary to describe this human being. Every person he met was touched by him. Everyone was talking about him and everyone liked him. He always did things his own way, his own schedule, his own rules. He was in a way floating in the air and let the wind carry him to his next destination. He could randomly start talking to someone on the street, because he liked their t-shirt and then go with them to play darts. I noticed him on Friday, in the restaurant, where we had dinner. Florian was ordering beers non-stop, so that at one point the waiter would ask where the hell do you come from? When we went hiking, Florian was not allowed to go hiking with us, because it is forbidden to take this trail in flip-flops. Do you think it stopped him? Of course not! He came to the mountain by car and hiked up the mountain in flip-flops and down the mountain too, well, in the end one of the flip-flops were broken, but Florian was completely pleased. I got to know him better after hiking when me and Madelief went to wash our clothes at the local laundromat. We stepped inside and Florian was there too washing his dirty clothes. While waiting for the machines to finish, we decided to have a coffee together. It was then, when we talked about Belgium and his life and other things. On Sunday, the next day, Florian took us to a small village called Biescas. As he is such a nice person and didn’t want to leave anyone behind, we had to fit seven people in the car. So we were five in the back seat. Florian’s driving style is also worth mentioning, as he barely looked at the road. He was talking to us and constantly looking behind to have eye contact. We were screaming look at the road, be careful, don’t look at us. It was hilarious in its own way, as we were driving on small roads and it didn’t feel dangerous. I really enjoyed spending time with Florian. His sense of humour and unpredictability were like a touch of fresh air. I remember the last evening at an Iranian restaurant (which was supposed to be Indian, but Chris messed it up…) when Florian suddenly said Heleriin, look, it looks just like you, walking the same way… And when I looked there was an overweight dachshund wobbling like a sausage. I could not stop laughing. The other day we were in the garden and Florian needed to get to his car which was parked outside the dormitory’s parking lot. But to get to his car, he would have needed to go through the dormitory and walk a bit as it was separated by a tall fence. He didn’t even doubt it and started looking for ways to get over the fence. As soon as the gardener was out of sight, he jumped over the fence and got to his car. Then the other night, we wanted to chill in the garden by the pool. As it was 3am at night, the doors to the garden were closed, but Florian would just open them… let’s say, in his own way. And what he told me that night, will remain unwritten for ethical reasons.

I also have to mention my deskmate Nuria. A vivid, beautiful Spanish woman. She had voluminous long hair, deep brown eyes and a fit body. She was also a solo traveller and had backpacked through Asia and hiked in the highest mountains. Nobody knew how old she exactly was, she kept it as a secret, cause she looked ten years younger than she actually was. One day, Nuria told me that she and her friend had randomly met a super hot guy in one of the cafeterias in Jaca. She showed me photos of him which he had sent her, as they kept in touch. On our last evening in Jaca, he had returned and was out with Nuria and her friends. Nuria asked me to go over to her table, so that she could introduce me to that guy. I remember the moment, when I walked to their table and looked him in the eyes. It has never happened to me before, but I felt flabbergasted, completely out of words. The guy said ¡hola! and all I could reply was tere (hello) in Estonian. It was a moment from some cheesy romantic movie.

Jaca made me miss the people I met, the connection we had, going out every night, laughing out loud for no obvious reasons, the conversations we had and living as if every day was a new adventure. I am going to miss the fact that an expensive coffee cost 1.80€ and I never felt cold, except the one time after thunderstorm when the temperature dropped to 25 degrees. I am going to miss Chris’ weird face he would do in certain situations, laughing with Madelief, kissing and whispering cheesy things to Susmita’s ear, Florian’s sense of humour and Max’s cocky top-notch comments.

In a way, I feel as if we had been in a reality show. People around the world came together to live under the same roof and then everything started to evolve. Our communication, relationships, groups we formed and handling different people. It was a colourful and truly powerful experience. I would have never thought that after this rather short trip, the post-travel depression would hit me so hard. Before leaving Jaca, I was telling everyone that I am already so old, I have said goodbye too many times in my life and I have experience in faking a cold heart. These kind of things don’t affect me anymore. Yet, I was the one crying when saying goodbye and then crying again on a train to Barcelona when the reality kicked in. Days later, I still have not completely come back to reality, it feels weird, drifting in between two worlds.

Down below there’s a video that illustrates perfectly the wonderful time in Jaca in 2022. PS! This video is made for mobile phones.

For better quality use the link below:


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