A Pilgrimage into the Past

“A pilgrimage is a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith, although sometimes it can be a metaphorical journey into someone's own beliefs.”

Yes, that's me and yes, I'm wearing a Dumbo all-in-one. All about Disney.

Returning to Spain was a pilgrimage into the past; a rediscovery of the familiar and a beautiful resurgence of memories. Multiple memories created one summer after the next, spanning almost 15 years of my life.

Do you know such a place? A place that you return to year after year? A place in which you create a patchwork quilt of memories – a continuous extension of joint experiences that defines you as a family, and as an individual?

As we descended into Valencia, I had an overwhelming sense of homecoming, and yet I had never been to this part of the country. Memories began flooding back and I was longing to experience these little details. It was a longing to experience the intensity of Spain in the midsummer months: the oppressive heat; the soothing smell of jasmine meandering through the air as the sun starts to fade; the life and laughter that carries on in the streets until the early hours of the morning.

I love exploring new places. In fact, I rarely opt to revisit a destination; that would mean missing out on a plethora of unexplored lands. But as I write this post, I am reminded of the joys of vacationing in the same place, year after year. Now I covet the excitement of the unknown, but back then I would obsess over the known, weeks prior to the holiday. The excitement of returning to my beloved restaurant to be served my all-time favourite steak with a raisin and pine nut sauce; the ritual g&t sundowner with my dad over a game of cards, waiting for my mum to appear in all of her elegance, ready for the night’s feast; and the inevitability of my grandma getting drunk and disrupting a whole establishment through hysterical laughter.

My legendary grandma - 85 and still fabulous!

These were memories that were made when my family was still ‘one’, so their value has increased infinitely. There was the time I ‘saved’ two ants from their imminent death through power hose. I named them Josh and Toby and placed them in a safe spot next to the fireplace. I sincerely thought that that would be their new home. Not to forget the ever-competitive lilo races that involved two teams of two doing laps of the pool whilst desperately clinging on to an inflatable crocodile. I even manage a smile recollecting the time my sister chased me around the pool, threatening to push me in. I slipped. I fell. I grazed my knee, and my sister got a telling off. As the baby of the family, I walked away the innocent child, as always. Of course I had not provoked her…

One of the most powerful memories is that of the summer anthem – songs that will hold eternal significance within the confines of my immediate family. A song would play on the radio over the first few days of the holiday and inevitably earmark itself as the anthem - songs that still transport me back to a few short weeks of summer, even 15 years into the future. When I hear David Gray’s ‘Babylon’, I am immediately shipped back to the summer of 1998, snaking around the mountain roads of Southern Spain with the radio at full blast.

I could wake up to that every morning...

My return to Spain triggered a truckload of emotions – good emotions, soothing. I found comfort in the familiar sensations. It felt easy, and maybe easy was what I needed. I had been careering through life and work, in stressful environments, disrupting routines. This familiarity allowed my brain to switch off. No fight or flight, just Spain. The Spain I came to love as a child. My Spain.


I'm Hannah - a communications consultant and avid traveller, based in Ethiopia. This is a travel blog about Africa, and beyond!

I hope that my travel exploits inspire you to get out there and see the world!

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