Europe, Spain

Navidad 2020: Andalucía

A couple months back, I connected with an individual named Gabrielle in one of the auxiliar Facebook groups, and we both wanted to do some traveling over break. We hit it off and decided to go for it.

Deciding to travel during COVID took a lot of time and reflection. We didn’t decide on a location for quite a while because laws, restrictions, and rates of transmission were rapidly spreading. When I posted about going, I got quite a bit of negativity on a few social media platforms. Here’s an excerpt from something I posted in response:

Social responsibility is divided among the masses. No one can do 100%. I’ve given my all for so much of this pandemic while so many don’t care. The emotional toll it has taken on me is too much and too dark to describe here. To everyone fighting hard while seeing so many making irresponsible choices, I see you. I also tell you that you are allowed to make safe choices to meet other needs that you have. You cannot carry the whole burden. We have many needs to balance in the midst of all of this. That’s why we need all of us. So we can all keep up the energy and stamina to keep going. So that a minority don’t have to bear the brunt of holding COVID back. So that a select few don’t bear all of the emotional toll that comes from this.

While I really grappled with the decision, I had to balance social responsibility with my needs as an individual. Traveling is something that truly grounds me and is a higher purpose and power for me. After nearly a year of COVID, the strict precautons of staying home and avoiding any contact with the outside world (other than going work) was not sustainable and has been taking quite a toll on my mental health. I have spent every single holiday alone since COVID began, I did not see friends or family for many months and lived alone during the first wave of the pandemic, and I’ve been living in Spain for three months and seen nothing outside of Pontevedra. Even within Pontevedra, restrictions were so strict that things like small events, restaurants, coffee shops, and gathering with non-cohabitants has been banned for a majority of my time here.

So, I made the decision I was leaving Galicia for winter break. I would do it safely, avoiding crowds, gatherings, and unsafe practices. We would focus mostly on outdoor and socially distanced activities. Masks were a must. Hand-washing, sanitizing, the whole hygiene component of course goes without saying.

While I went back and forth, I made the right choice for me and really needed to travel. I acknowledge that there’s privilege in that. Many healthcare workers, elderly or immunocomprised individuals cannot make that choice. I am grateful that I can, and I took the choice seriously by making a commitment to safety.

So, without further ado on that, the region we selected is Andalucía. This was after reading line-by-line countless articles on restrictions and what was being changed. Some regions got stricter and some lessened the restrictions. This was also changing by the day. The day before I left new articles were coming out. Early on, it seemed clear that Andalucía was both a safer place to go and would be open for people from outside region. The would be adding allegado travel on December 23 and Gabrielle had quite a few cities and towns in mind to explore.

There are 17 autonomous communities in Spain, as well as two autonomous cities. Andalucía is the southernmost, most populous, second largest in land mass, and made up of eight provinces Almería, Cádiz, Córdoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaén, Málaga, and Seville. Andalucía has a significant amount of history and remnants of the different eras that it has had, such as being under Roman, Muslim, and Catholic King rulers. Its artificats, historical sites, and culture has been affected by all of those as well as many more. Gabrielle studied Spanish culture in school and knows significantly more than I do. This was encouraging to know as my knowledge is quite limited, especially in history and understanding chronological order of things and the happenings in different regions and countries at the same time.

I booked tickets from Santiago de Compostela to Málaga for December 23 and a flight back from Sevilla on January 8.

On December 22, I had my last day of school, a celebratory coffee, and almost three weeks of Christmas vacation ahead of me. I’m excited for the adventure to come!

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