Even though depression has taken the ability to write creatively from me right now, I still dream about writing. Some days that involves sitting at my desk, pen over an empty notebook page and seeing if that’s the day the dam finally breaks. Other days, it’s looking up places to escape into isolation to see what I’d come back out with.
It’s not a secret that I adore the city of Barcelona, and—as it often does with me—it comes back to literature.
Sometime in 2001 or 2002, at the Sam’s Club on Dale Mabry in South Tampa, Dad purchased Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind for me. That was our thing: we always bought books when we went grocery shopping. To this day, when people ask for a book recommendation, it is the first book off my lips. I’ve written a review here—and cannot recommend it, its prequel, sequel, and forthcoming final book in the series more heartily. After Tolkien’s masterpieces, this book lands in my pantheon of literature.
The book is set in post-Spanish Civil War Barcelona, and it’s every bit as beautiful as it is gothic. Ten years after reading it, standing on the streets of Barcelona I realized it was the literary embodiment of this vibrant, thriving, pulsing city. I remember looking up and seeing the cable cars traversing the city’s skylines and thinking to the prequel’s climax and going, “They’re still here.” Good literature connects and grounds us, even six-hundred feet above the city.
Donald Miller escaped to a cabin in North Carolina to write Scary Close. There’s an artist commune in Sweden where you can stay for a week on an isolated island in the arctic with the only stipulation that you must create for a week straight. A friend went to Lake Tahoe to write for a week. Hemingway flirted and flittered his way around Friuli—my secret heart—and Paris. Thoreau had his Walden Pond.
So I think it makes a lot of sense that when I dream about a writer’s get away, I mostly dream of escaping to Barcelona. AirBnB has an apartment listed that would give me a view of the port, the sea, and the famous Barrio Gotic. A month on my own there, with my laptop, a notebook, my pens, and daily walks down to La Barceloneta for some sangria and sunshine doesn’t sound so bad.
But because of who I am as a person, I always know that I have 90 days inside the Schengen Zone in the back of my mind. Why not backpack the Iberian Peninsula for a month before spending a month writing? Why not finally get to Greece and Croatia for two weeks each after a month of writing? I think you can clearly see my problem.
In so many ways, I’m not satisfied with just the dream. I always land on the original desire, but then—either as a bi-product of too much time or as a reaction to what I truly want out of my life—it often grows wild and untamed, like a cucumber vine spreading across a garden.
Over the weekend I realized that given the opportunity, I would sell my car—doubt my parents would let me, though—and take off. It wouldn’t get me very far…at all. $20,000 is all you need to travel the world, and travel it well, for a year if the research I’ve done is correct. My car is not even worth 10% of that, so I still have some resources to acquire.
Traveling and writing are my dream. They’re what’s kept from me for very different reasons right now. But I want them to be intermixed. I want global inspiration and you can only get so much of that writing at a desk in a basement in Tennessee. I try. Marriage and family are in my dream, too, but they seem pretty far down the road right now. But they’re also part of a dream that writing and traveling can’t support. So who really knows what’s going to happen. I’m most okay with being alone when I’m traveling, so that helps.
But even then, Barcelona would be a blast with the love of my life. I could day dream about that, but maybe I’ll just stick to the day dream about writing a (portion of a) book there. Keep your goals attainable. This post didn’t unroll like I expected it to, but what ever does?