Travel as a Language


Two years ago my friend Anna and I had been travelling around Europe for a month. We were feeling dirty and tired as we had just jumped off a plan from Morocco to Seville, where the week we had spent in the stunning Marrakech had taken its toll on us as each time we left the hostel we had to fend off the approaches and the hands of strange men. Seville felt like a haven – the streets looked like those from a fairy tale and the only stares we garnered were due to my hair colour.

We were desperate to immerse ourselves and meet the locals, so after a much needed shower and a hostel cooked meal we went on the hunt for something, anything! Particularly, a pub crawl. We realised that we were pushing our luck as it was the dead of winter and a Sunday but still, we soldiered on to the hostel that promised “pub crawls seven nights a week”. After walking up what seemed never ending sets of stairs the Irishman at the hostel bar told us it was in fact, not on. We refused to be defeated so we settled ourselves down on a stool and had a drink or two. Luckily for us, this ended up being the right decision as not much later the pub crawl leader walked in, offering to take us out with him for free. Anna and I didn’t even have to look at each other for our answer as we knew what it would be.

Moments later we were blindly following our new found friend as he led us through the streets we barely recognised before stopping out the front of a nondescript building. Walking in we were unconvinced by his choice. It was quiet, pretty much empty and didn’t look like it was a popular venue amongst the locals but we decided to give it a chance so ordered a drink and got chatting to the owner who was working behind the bar.

“Oh you’re Australian! Kylie Minogue! Opera House!” he shouted in a sing-song voice in his very broken English.

“You have choice of music!” he shouted again, handing his phone that was plugged into the music system and had YouTube ready and waiting.

As I was in the middle of trying to pick the most quintessential Australian song the door flung open and suddenly an influx of people entered the room, quickly and loudly speaking Spanish I didn’t understand and gesticulating wildly. They walked over to the bar, clapping the owner on the back who started handing them all drinks.

“These are my friends!” he explained to me with a huge grin on his face before pointing to us and saying, “and these are Australians!”

There was a small cheer before the new arrivals also started shouting ‘Kylie Minogue’ and ‘Opera House’. The next thing we knew, Kylie was blasting from the speakers, the owner had given me control of his smoke machine and the disco lights were in full effect.

My new Spanish friends didn’t know much English and I barely knew any Spanish but somehow we managed to bond quickly. We held conversations that were a mixture of both languages and we relied on charades to get certain points across. Not only did we boogie the night away but they showed me the kindness of the locals and their readiness to accept you as one of their own, a feeling I’ll never forget.




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