There were no more yellow arrows to follow. My direction was no longer dictated for me. Santiago had come and gone, and I had no idea what I was supposed to do next. The post-Camino blues is real, and I had it bad.
I panicked, walked the camino again, panicked some more, google image searched every city in Europe, I blinked and found myself on a train headed to Barcelona.
With the purchase of a single pair of jeans I was magically transformed from pilgrim to city dweller. I popped my sketchbook under my arm and hit the streets to see what there was to see.
Turns out there was plenty. Modernism, Gaudí, Barcelona is an urban sketchers dream. You could spend a lifetime documenting the endless beautiful structures. Or you could hang out at the beach all day. Or go to a funfair on top of a Mountain.
But I wasn’t going to let myself be distracted. I poured numerous cups of tea, put my head down and started refining my drawings, simplifying until I eventually created the follow up to my Camino postcards.
With my head still bloated from my sales success on the walk, I sat down on the pavement in the gothic quarter, laid out my wares, looked eagerly up at the crowds of passing tourists… and was promptly moved on by a police officer.
You see, as it turns out selling on the street is illegal.
Yes, that’s fine, but in my head I’m some kind of renegade penniless artist and ‘the man’ isn’t going to squash my dreams. I apologised profusely and moved a few blocks up the road to the next tourist attraction.
I assumed from the crowds of selfie stick sellers that the police might be a little less fussy at this spot. Slowly slowly I started drawing attention, shifting a few paintings. The selfie stick sellers go from giving me sideways glances to actively encouraging me to raise my prices. The day started to draw to an end and a new buddy who bought some of my paintings takes me out for tapas in the evening.
The trend continued as I worked through all the sites I wanted to see, and for the most part I made enough to cover my hostel and some basic dinners. And then I went to the Arc…
The Arc de Triomf is like some kind of street sellers paradise. A pedestrianised road connects the Arc to a park, and endless streams of tourists stroll the route and peruse the wares. Here you’ll find the usual- selfie sticks, sarongs- but also a talented bunch of musicians, handmade jewellery, and one very attractive and charismatic Argentinian who will take your photo on an old box camera. Unsurprisingly I found myself visiting here more and more often.
One sunny afternoon another seller glides by on her roller skates (she’s always wanted to learn so why not do it while she sells?), and starts talking with me about ways to step up my selling game. Wait? What? I just wanted to pay for my bed and stare at the back of the beautiful argentianian man? But she gets my mind ticking, the more I talk with the other sellers, the more I see that they do this for a full time living. And one day, as I stroll through to the park, I see a woman pull out her paintings, all beautifully packaged and labelled, and lay them out on her mat and stand.
I have a long way to go.
This is the crossroads I suppose. I can no longer get away with being the naive girl selling my hand cut cards. I need to become the street savvy artist (roller skates optional) and move from making a little extra travel cash to generating an income.
But also terribly exciting. And now as it’s time to change and grow I find myself picking up my backpack again. Because there’s no better place to reflect on who you’ve become, and who you want to be, than home.