Friends Not Included in Travel Package

Fret not, Mom and Dad: It doesn’t involve prostitution rings or those curious foam parties. It does, however, involve loneliness. Because for all the joys of immigrating to a country where the drinking age is 16 and the locals’ primary interests really are eating, napping and enjoying life while it lasts, the initial isolation is terrifying.

No one wants to admit it, but being thousands of miles removed from reliable electricity, California burritos or even restaurants with free tap water can be horribly unsettling at first. It can make you spend unthinkably dull nights on the computer, with the expectation that staying current with a news feed or “Weeds” will somehow make you closer to home. (Spoiler alert: It won’t.)

These are things I’m not supposed to say, of course. The plane’s wheels touching tarmac is supposed to mark the beginning of exploration: of winding boulevards, of unpronounceable cuisine, of bustling street markets plucked from Eat, Pray, Love.

Naturally there’s an acute shame in feeling this way. No one takes out extra student loans or depletes their college fund to bum around an ill-lit bedroom 7,000 miles from home (not to mention choking up at particularly emotional moments on “Desperate Housewives”) — but this has, in fact, been my mopey reality in this beautiful, hedonistic city on the Mediterranean.

Because I enrolled at the University of Barcelona for the semester and found housing on my own, I didn’t get any structured program or a network of wide-eyed partners in crime. This has been a bigger challenge than I’d expected. Plus, trying to make plans with new friends is sort of awkward when you’re iffy on the future tense.

So, given the chance to visit my dad last week while he was on a business trip to Switzerland, I didn’t hesitate. I also didn’t waste any time in unloading my troubles — ones that I probably hadn’t concealed very well anyway, given the unprecedented frequency and dreariness of my e-mails. (“Class in the morning — TV in bed tonight. Won’t forget to floss!!”)

Supportive as ever, my dad understood why I hadn’t been happy, and told me that I could come home whenever I pleased. He also reminded me that his father had always dreamt of coming to Europe, but never got to — and that this trip marks my fourth excursion here.

Of course, with a study abroad office that’s not bashful in bragging about how many students it sends overseas, it’s easy to forget that relocating internationally for 3 to 9 months is an impossibility for oh, I don’t know, almost everyone alive today. With that in mind, there’s no real excuse for wasting away in bed in one of the most beautiful cities in the world — not even the a thrilling cliffhanger on Wisteria Lane.

In addition, barring any unforeseen future as a lottery winner or trophy spouse, I don’t anticipate any other time in life when I’ll have as few responsibilities or as much freedom as I do today. This is why, after 6 weeks of consuming sinful quantities of streaming TV, I have resolved to get out more.

I will limit my time online, but not my churro intake. I will fumble shamelessly through conversations with strangers. Then, upon my triumphant return come Christmast time, I’ll have lived— actually lived— on the continent my grandpa never had the privilege of meeting.