A week into my trip abroad, I was having the time of my life. I had made amazing new friends, explored Barcelona with my class, and had documented just about everything I saw through videos and pictures on my iPhone. My goal was to capture every moment spent there so that I could relive it with my friends and family for years to come. That all changed on the first weekend when I got pickpocketed while out with friends.
Of course, we had been warned in orientation about the prevalence of pickpocketing in Barcelona, but I was cautious when in large crowds. I kept track of my things. Was I not careful enough? Why me? Here I was, two weeks left in the program, and no phone to document anything. The Gen Z in me was screaming, ‘This is it. It’s over. Say goodbye to cute Instagram posts, and keeping my followers in the loop of my daily lattes and croquettes.’ How was I going to have a good time abroad if I wasn’t able to share it with everyone back home?
Then it hit me. Slowly, as I navigated the city without staring down at my phone every two seconds, I realized something. Why was I so keen on sharing my experiences with social media when I could be living them instead? I started exploring the city on my own, finding small Catalonian restaurants and meeting locals who were eager to share their stories. I wrote down my daily adventures in a travel journal and took pictures on my disposable camera when I could. In hindsight, I realized that I was on my phone so desperate to record what I was seeing that I forgot to live in the moment. Each street we passed was bustling with life: cafes serving delicious authentic cuisine, music playing at Ciutadella park, people laughing and walking to their respective lives. I am so happy to have had this experience, to be disconnected from social media and all the ways it can distract from living in the present.Barcelona is a city that deserves to be seen, and felt, and I cannot wait to go back.
Cady Dering is a student at the University of Tampa. She studied abroad with IFSA on the January in Barcelona program in 2022.