Traveling to Europe in the 21st Century
Big Changes, Small World
This was it, the moment we had all been waiting for. We were finally arriving in Barcelona. After a nine-hour bus ride from Madrid, it was ten o’clock at night when we pulled up to the centuries old University of Barcelona. There, eagerly awaiting their American students, were our Spanish families. They all held large signs with our names on it. As my roommate and I stepped off the bus, we found our Señora Marta standing right in front of us sign-less. “Aww, Raquel y Heather,” she said without a doubt in her mind. How did she know it was us? She shrugged her shoulders and smiled. Then in a Spanish accent she said, “Facebook!”
Welcome to the world of traveling in the twenty-first century.
The European Union (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCUF5t1kRlI), which Spain joined in 1986, makes it easier to travel between the EU countries. No money exchange, no customs to go through and usually not even a passport stamp. When we drove into the South of France from Spain, crossing the border was as easy as crossing state-borders in the US. Just a blue sign that said “France,” letting us know we had now entered another country.
Also you can have the same currency, Euros, in your pocket to travel between the 27 EU countries of your choice. And you will find a lot more things that remind you of home.
As a “Norte-Americano,” as they say in Spain, we are very accustomed to seeing at least one fast-food restaurant on each block. Now Europeans can expect the same thing. There are 10 McDonalds (http://trifter.com/practical-travel/budget-travel/mcdonald%E2%80%99s-strange-menu-around-the-world/) in Barcelona alone. With clean environments, multiple floors, different menus, free wi-fi and modern décor, what we refer to as fast-food joints are nice restaurants over there. Of course, there is still authentic Spanish food (http://www.xmission.com/~dderhak/recipes.html) to be found, but now tourists find other choices that were not there twenty years ago.
Lastly, there is one word that has made the world a smaller place: Skype! (http://blogs.skype.com/en/2010/01/skypes_share_of_international.html) When you want to call back home, you can see and talk to family and friends just a Skype call away. Free and easy! Unlike when you had to wait in a long line, just to make one expensive phone call back home.
Our beautiful planet is right at our fingertips, and now I can Skype my mom while eating a BigMac and looking at the magnificent Sagrada Familia.