It happened on a Friday night.
I was following a crowd of chattering Europeans through Málaga’s boutique shopping and dining district. People are everywhere in the streets: overflowing from taperias with cervezas in hand, pointing at leather booties in shop windows, hitting their friends’ arms as they laugh.
Then a man started yelling.
Throwing his head back, he shuffled forward alone in the jacket and cap of a worn out Spanish grandpa.
He was passionate. I would quote his speech and analyze his political context if I had caught a single word. It had the vibe of a public lecture, like a medieval scroll reading in town square. And he was loud.
He stopped yelling as abruptly as he started and, having never broken his walking pace, flowed back seamlessly into anonymity.
“What was that?” you may be asking yourself.
“What was that?” I asked out loud in English.
“¿What was that?” no one around me asked. In the United States, we would have at least scooted further away from him to give the crazy a wide girth to fizzle out before it infected our airspace. The crowd in Málaga never so much as looked up from their conversations.
Instead, everyone else was wearing a scarf and holding hands.
Spain is host to a hand-holding epidemic: girls and a Red Rover chain of friends, women and their mothers, men and their kissy counterparts.
“¿Te gusto?” a local asked the lady laughing in his arms as they both nearly spilled their cervezas.
“No,” she said jbefore kissing him.
A furious man yells and young Spaniards kiss in the streets.
I was the only one who had stopped in her tracks. I became a boulder in the stream as people with friends, families, and couples flowed past me. No one stopped to translate and I was left unsure if I had hallucinated the whole experience.
I was in Málaga, the sixth largest city in Spain, alone this past weekend. On a superficial level, I didn’t want to stay in scenic but tiny, old, and quiet Ronda for another weekend. On a social justice-y level, I wanted to prove it wasn’t inherently dangerous for a female to travel alone.
I had never vacationed alone before, but this weekend’s trip was conclusive. Traveling alone is not dangerous. It can be confusing. But mostly it’s just tedious.
I toured history alone. BLAM-O once-in-a-lifetime WOW sight after blam-o once-in-a-lifetime wow sight. Then BLAM-O and WOW, then blam-o and wow. And blam-o and wow and blam-o and wow. With no one to share it with or crack jokes with.
By mid-afternoon Saturday, I found myself at the beach listening to the tide roll in and out as if to make sure it kept doing that even if I wasn’t watching. I sat Ash Ketchum-style with my toes digging into the sand. Behind me was a group of 20-somethings playing sand volleyball and making fun of each other in Spanish. To my left was a downtown mix of 1000s architecture and residential skyscrapers, with a mountain range resting in the background.
This is a setting where lives change. Where marriages are proposed and acquaintances become lifelong friends. But these activities require playmates.
“It’s such a long walk back to my hostel,” I said as I checked the time on my iPhone.