The Intangible Benefits of Travel


Mural in Guernica based on the Picasso painting. Basque nationalists advocate that the painting be brought to the town, as can be seen in the slogan underneath Ibarretxe reclama ‘para siempre’ el ‘Guernica’, El Mundo, 29 June 2007.

Yet another of the scholarship essays I’ve written (that ahepaid not one dram in scholarship money, BTW).  thsi one was again, done for a scholarship posted on GoingMerry



It was the spring of 2018 and I had been cycling in Spain with a group, mostly women, all acquaintances except for Sirapon, the woman who had invited me on the trip.

It was a trip that expanded my cultural knowledge and taught me a lot about myself in the process.

We were traveling the Ruta de La Plata.  This is an historical route followed by Christian pilgrims who were on their way to Santiago de Compostela in the north west of Spain.  It was a pilgrimage that, though travelled by multitudes, I was completely unaware of.

The list of things I learned was expansive.  Beyond the history seeped Ruta de la Playa that was testament to the pilgrimage of over 2,000 years of the faithful, I learned some about Spanish history.

I learned that they were inhabited by the Moors for almost 700 years and much of the culture, as well as Espanol is colored by this fact.

I learned where wine corks came from.

I realized I cold never travel with the slow, needy, selfish Sirapon ever again. I learned that some of this was due to my own impatience and shortcomings.

As a once-competitive cyclist I was also much stronger than the rest of our group.  It was nota concern for me, but the three weeks we had allotted to cycle from Málaga to Santiago were not enough for the group’s slow pace to make the journey.  Halfway to Santiago I had to return to Málaga to catch a flight home (however, I came back the next year and finished the pilgrimage).

The highlight of my trip was a stop at the Reina Sofia museum on the way back to Málaga.  This museum was hosting a Picasso show and the highlight was Picasso’s Guernica which captures the horrors of the Spanish civil war.

This was an emotional painting about war and suffering.  I had seen pictures of it.  I had learned more of the history before attending the viewing.  When I got there, it was after an hour-plus in a long line, in hot sun, at the end of an epic three weeks of cycling across Spain.

I was raw and tired and spent.

And then I saw Guernica.  My eyes welled up and I tried to hide my sobs of emotion as I, a viewer to greatness, was moved by a painting as never before.

It was unexpected, life changing, and a moment that I shall never forget.  And even as an artist of sorts myslef, I was affected.

For it was in this moment that I realized the power art.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s