Should i go to Barcelona?Definitely. I had planned to stay for a week and ended up there for almost 3. Barcelona is the first city i’ve visited on this trip so far that i could really imagine myself living in. It’s got all the standard amenities you’d expect in a modern metropolis but comes with the added bonus of a fantastic climate (i was camping on a beach in December) and a super laid back culture – all set against a backdrop of beautiful vistas and some bloody tasty munch. (Tapas / paellas etc)
Also, you can’t turn a corner without stumbling on some Gaudi masterpiece or gothic wonder. As usual though for me Barcelona was all about the folks as i met some really beautiful souls.
What were the best bits for you?People, weather, laid back culture, remote working setup
Can i see more pictures?
Of course: http://www.instagram.com/how_not_to_travel
Where should i stay?I stayed in quite a few different hostels during my time. Itaca hostel (9/10 Hostelworld) was good for the community vibes, St Christopher’s (8.9/10 HW) was essentially rooms built over a bar so good for socialising but it felt a tad touristy and if I’m honest, rather smelly.
My favourite place to stay without a shadow of a doubt was Born Barcelona. (9.6/10 HW) Walking into this gem you felt like you were the newest member in an incredibly eccentric family all bouncing around one giant apartment. The staff were fantastic, the location was central and the facilities were one step up vs the usual fair. We’d eat/drink together on the balcony each night and usually end up exploring some part of the City together.
In retrospect the team at Born really did go above and beyond for pretty much every aspect of hostel life from joining us on excursions around the city which i’m sure they’d seen a million times before, to helping us out when we were lost or stuck (daily) and introducing us to the groups favourite (low key/budget) bar in central Barcelona. Go to Mariachis for good vibes: lots of people making music, laughing and smoking weed in the street, plenty of tourist-friendly Spanish peeps and competitively priced alcohol. They even sell mead!! (Fermented honey)
Where can i work?If you’re not feeling particularly social then working within the hostel itself is always an option as there are usually quiet places you can settle down and get on with things. One of the advantages of Barcelona, however, is the plethora of Co-working spaces available to nomads. There a good breakdown of spots here: https://www.shbarcelona.com/blog/en/live-barcelona-digital-nomad/ and i agree that the Sant Martí district is the place to go. There are loads of beaches, parks and various co-working spots including the trendy Valkiria Hub.
Is Barcelona good for remote workers?Very – I completed a few different pieces of client work, managed to get a good volume of teaching done and spent a happy few days kicking off my latest ecom project. I’ll start sharing more info on how i’m marketing / scaling these projects as they grow.
What should i do when i visit Barcelona?Go check out the view of the city from bunker hill (It’s here: Carrer de Marià Labèrnia, s/n, 08032 Barcelona, Spain) you look down on the city from some bunkers built in in the 1930s and it’s the best view you’ll get of Barcelona. You’re welcome. 😀
Also while you’re here obviously you need to check off all the basics: Watch some flamenco dancing (they start dancing at a very young age and the performance is incredible) and check out all the Gaudi stuff especially Park Guel and Sagrada Família (a cathedral),
Oh, if you’re into working out check out the calisthenic park on the coast. It’s awesome getting a pump in the great outdoors surrounded by waves and like-minded people pumping hench portable speakers. (Here: Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta, 17, 08003 Barcelona, Spain)
Right, booze – Go drinking in the gothic quarter as there are quite a few trendy bars scattered through the meandering streets, definitely hit up Mariachis… Oh and you’re in Barcelona so obviously do go clubbing, there are quite a few good ones right next to each other on the coast by the marina. (DO NOT TURN UP LATE, THE QUEUES ARE HORRENDOUS)
Barcelona Cock up count: 2
Deleted my Instagram in a drunken moment of madness so there go 1k followers, gah. Also, my wallet was stolen which meant going almost a week with NO money and NO cards in a foreign country. Eep. (I was saved by the kindness of a gentleman called Juan who also happened to be a complete legend)
Learn from me
- There really are LOADS of pickpockets in Barcelona, watch yourself, i had my wallet and some cash go missing on separate occasions.
- Book Born Barcelona hostel
- Escape the city
- Don’t delete your Instagram account? … *Facepalm*
- Scooters are to be avoided at all costs (Context below)
The best bit of my stay in Spain was actually the moment i ventured just outside Barcelona. The plan was to escape the rush and camp out on a beach we’d discovered a few days before at this place called Garraf.
But… This wouldn’t be how not to travel if things went smoothly…
Juan and i heard a rumour on the grapevine that there was a man with a tent we could use. After a suitable period of procrastination and several drinks, I set off to pick up this up without closely checking the route on my phone. (Obviously)
What had seemed ‘close’ in a moment of madness was actually a brisk 2-hour walk. I didn’t realise this until 25 mins in and because i had no cards or cash and only 15% battery i had no option but to run.
I arrived just in time, overheated and disgruntled with a dead battery. After some kerfuffle asking random people in broken Spanish to borrow a phone and message the gentlemen in question i finally got hold of him on facebook.
Unfortunately he’d lost the bloody tent.
We rustled around his basement for an hour and I had to do most of the searching because the poor lad was hobbling around on crutches having clearly had some sort of recent accident. After an hour it was decided that the fabled tent of destiny was clearly contemplating a warmer climate at his parent’s place ‘around the corner’.
Thus began a completely unnecessary but undeniable exhilarating break-neck race through the mean streets of Barcelona on the back of ‘tent man’s’ scooter. Suddenly it became all too clear why my man was on crutches.
We tore it the whole way there nipping through every minuscule gap in traffic. Bear in mind that throughout this entire ordeal my arse was hanging off the back of the bloody thing – i’m too lanky to own a scooter let alone ride shotgun. Terrifying.
After 3 near misses, several excited ‘wooooooops!’ and more than a few drops of wee, we made our way unscathed into the mountains at the back of the city and safely arrived at our destination. I peeled my shaking hands off the scooters flimsy handles (the only thing preventing Britain’s finest export from flying off a ‘road legal machine’ the size of his left bollock) and crossed my fingers.
SUCCESS! Unfortunately, tent guy needed to go, so i was left with a 3 hour walk across Barcelona to get back to my hostel and rendezvous with Juan. You wouldn’t believe how dark the internal monologue got at this point – BUT WE HAD A TENT!
The week we spent on the beach was fantastic, it was a real break from hectic city life and a dose of what freedom could really taste like. Every day we’d rise with the sun and every night we’d stumble home in the dark to build a fire, then play guitar, sing and talk until the alcohol hit us and we passed out to the sound of the waves.
We climbed a couple sketchy mountains without serious incident, slept on a boat thanks to a lovely local woman we met in a bar, slept in the back of a van one particularly freezing night (thanks to another new acquaintance) and spent 5 serene/hilarious days messing around on the beach. Beauty from the chaos!
A particularly memorable moment was hiking through the hills to a Buddhist temple to meditate. Before this little break from the madness I’d never had much time for the concept but I’ve kept the habit since and find myself indulging more and more. I know it sounds a little hippy and ethereal but i can’t recommend enough taking a little time every day to stretch, meditate and just .. Be.
One final note on the fine people of Garaff: they were without exception incredibly friendly and helpful. When it became clear over the days that we were on a shoestring budget we were given gifts of food, tobacco, accommodation and beer at various points. Even without this kindness though it was clear the locals were a good sort. Approachable, intelligent and very eccentric. Case and point the nutters annually welcome the near year by holding hands and running into the freezing waves together. I’ll add the vid below in the next few days..
Suffice to say i was sad to leave and i will definitely be back.
So there we are – more cock-ups, more memories and more ‘learnings’ . Fellow and aspiring nomads, you could do a lot worse than Spain for a home from home!
That week in Garraff was particularly poignant for me because it was during this time i knew i’d made the right decision, that i was going to be travelling for a while and that things just might be okay after all.
The blog is on temporary pause as I’m kicking my heels in the UK for a few weeks before heading off to NZ, Australia then working my way through Asia.
Thanks for reading! See you soon. :D>