During our second home swap in Barcelona, in August 2017, we were staying about two blocks from the north end of La Barcolenta Beach, Barcelona’s long beach. We’re not really beach people, per se, but given the incredible location, we took advantage of it, and we made several trips to go swimming and walking along the beach.
Our son Mark was 19 years old at the time. Having skipped the previous home swap because it was scheduled for right before he started college, a decision he came to regret, he was on-board for this one, in part because of the destination.
And Barcelona is incredible. It’s one of our very favorite places on earth, and a location we will continue visiting again and again. There are so many reasons to love the city, from its amazing sites, food, drink, and history to its laid-back vibe and sheer beauty. But we’ll write more about Barcelona in future posts. This story is really about the time our son taught us to live in the moment.
And not for the first time.
Many years earlier, in 2009, I was traveling to New York City for a work trip and because it coincided with the kids’ February vacation from school, we tacked a long weekend on for some sightseeing. I’d been to New York many, many times by then—and have returned for even more visits since then—so I was basically leading Steph and the kids around, showing them the sights, as you might expect.
When we got to Rockefeller Center, we paused so the kids could watch people ice skating, something I had seen several times before. And then Mark asked the question.
“Can we go skating, too?”
“I … don’t know,” I stammered. I had never even considered such an option. Despite the fact that the people skating there were all clearly just normal people. And most were clearly wearing the same rental skates, now that I looked more closely. So I asked. And then we all went skating.
For Mark, this was mission accomplished. For me, it was a bit of a lesson. As noted, one that would be repeated.
Flash forward many years and Mark, now 8 years older, is sitting out with Steph and I on the home swap apartment’s balcony. We’re drinking sparkling wine—I mentioned we were in Spain, right?—and watching people walk by on the street, many heading to and from the beach, two floors below.
Before we know it, it’s past midnight. And then Mark asked the question.
“Can we go to the beach and go swimming?”
This, again, was something that would never have occurred to me. It was, after all, the middle of the night. But this was Barcelona, a city that doesn’t really get moving until at least 9 pm on an average night. And there were lots of people walking too and from the beach.
I started to demur, explaining that maybe we could just go swimming in the morning, or some other time tomorrow, or…
Steph spoke up, uttering words I will never forget. Mostly because I thought to preserve them forever on Instagram.
“No one should ever pass up an opportunity to swim in the Mediterranean.,” she said.
And she was right.
So we went swimming. At midnight. Where the Mediterranean Sea meets Barcelona. Oddly, though there were many people on the beach, and at the nearby clubs and restaurants, we were the only three who went in the water that night. (There are four of us in total; Kelly had opted to stay in bed.) But I don’t know why. It was perfect, both warm and calm. It was wonderful.
The next morning, I woke up a bit worse for wear—in addition to the sparkling wine, I had apparently cut my feet on some rocks in the water at one point—and said, to Steph, “We need to rethink how we do things.” Pausing, I added, “actually, I would do that again.”
And I would.