It went like this:
We decided to go to Barcelona, Spain for the weekend. We left the Sagrada Familia cathedral and pulled up our trusty Google Maps. It said that we would arrive at Park Grüell in 26 minutes, so my friends and I agreed, “Oh, that’s not that far, and we’ll get to see more of the city we walk.”
Well, the Google Maps needed some help, because 45 minutes later we were definitely not at Park Grüell yet. It was an uphill walk, and pretty warm. So when we stopped on a street corner to huddle over the cellphone directions, we were tired and a little sweaty.
From over my shoulder, I heard someone shouting down the street: “¿Queréis ir a Park Grüell?”
The three of us turned around to see an elderly man, in a black coat and slacks walking down the street with a cane, looking at us inquisitively.
We answered, “Sí” and explained that our map was telling us to take the street on the right. He shook his head and told us going to the left would be much faster. He then asked us where we were from, and we told him we students from the United States. He immediately offered up that he thinks Trump is a “mierda,” so we talked for a few minutes about the U.S. 2016 presidential election, then went on our way.
After taking the street the elderly man suggested, we heard some more shouting, this time from above us. I looked up to my left, and saw an older woman leaning out the window of her apartment. Her hair was still in curlers and she was wearing a nightgown, frantically yelling for us to go up the right side of the street. An older man walking past us chimed in to look for some stairs, and we’d finally reach Park Grüell. We shouted “Muchísimas gracias” back several times, and they were right, we made it to the park in 5 more minutes. Experiencing the great views of Barcelona and the architecture of Gaudí were a few of the highlights from the trip.
This experience reinforced to me that it is the connections I’m making with people while abroad that help me gain more cultural understanding and are forming my experience abroad. So the next time you’re lost abroad, I would recommend saving your cellphone data and stopping to ask the next elderly man or woman you see on the street for directions. They often offer some great insight and maybe a snippet of history that you certainly won’t get from Google Maps.