Ducks in a Row

Connor R. is currently a junior at SYA Spain and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. He comes to SYA from St. Paul's School in New Hampshire.

Anyone from Boston or even New England is surely familiar with the “Make Way for Ducklings” statues in the Boston Public Garden. The sculpture depicts eight ducklings following their mother in a single file line, an image that warms the hearts of families all over New England with its innocent themes of family and co-dependence. While travelling across Spain with my family the past few weeks, I couldn’t help but notice my adult family of five mimicking the behavior of that beloved family of nine. Walking through crowded sites, I would look behind me to see my family making way in a single file line, each captivated by their foreign
surroundings. While initially only appreciating the ease with which I could execute a quick head count, I began to see the same sense of child-like wonder that I had when I arrived in September in my family. It wasn’t long after seeing this that I, too, began to fall back a little, taking in the grandeur of everything around me.

It’s relatively easy to become distracted by the day’s schedule from the location itself while travelling. From calling a loud restaurant to make a reservation in your second language, to making sure you buy tickets well ahead of time for local attractions, there is surely no lack of things to be worried about. Admittedly, I became bogged down in the belief that everything had to go as planned. However, while my family and I explored Toledo (often walking in a single file line like ducks, of course) I was reminded of the beauty of being a spontaneous traveler. For example, several guide books suggested that we visit sites that, upon arrival, were mobbed with tour groups. Ignoring the guidebooks suggestions, we set off wandering through the alleys of Toledo, whose widths rarely extend that of my arm span. It was during that afternoon that I saw some of the most impressive views of not only Toledo’s Cathedral, but also it’s lesser visited Mosques. In Spain, it seems that rounding any corner, or passing through any door could reveal the most beautiful and complex views you’ve ever seen. Therefore, the best travel suggestions are the ones you can give after you’ve gone and found what you find beautiful, not what a schedule finds beautiful.

Having my family here for several weeks also reminded me of how much I wished to share the customs and history of Spain with them. My sister, who has been going back and forth between the United States and Spain for nearly five years, and I made sure that my parents and my brother experienced firsthand the Spanish lifestyle, and I applaud their curiosity and adventurousness. From spending hours sipping lightly on café con leche on sunny terraces to observing the works of Velázquez and Goya in the Prado, I believe that my sister and I succeeded in providing my parents and my brother with a truly culturally immersive experience. Now, I’d like to take you back to that day in Toledo. Pushing my way through the crowded entrance to the cathedral, I watched my family file in next to me, each with their heads tilted back, eyes fixed on the imposing Gothic interior before them. I was reminded that my siblings and I are only getting older, and it may become more difficult to get everyone in the same place at the same time. However, it is moments like that which we have shared in the two places I call home that make me truly grateful to have “all my ducks in a row”.

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