By: Adriana Trejos

I was 23 and I had a restless spirit. Well, restless, spoiled and a bit naive. I wanted to travel the world. I thought traveling would give me purpose, or at least help me find a purpose.

I landed in Barcelona, Spain with no plans. All I had was a map and my backpack. I made my way to a hostel and stayed there for several days. Sometime around day four or five, I got lonely. Very, very lonely. Up until this point, I was consumed with just trying to figure out my next step. I hadn’t spoken to anyone except a bunkmate in my hostel room and a strange Brazilian man who read my palm on the beachfront. I was beginning to hate the solidarity I had initially so craved. I was surrounded by people, but no one I knew. No one I cared about and no one who cared about me. I had never felt lonelier. Gone was my adventurous spirit and the excitement I felt when my travels began.

I left the hostel to escape the seven large German men sleeping around me—some snoring, and some getting busy with other female travelers. I needed out. I needed air. I needed to scream. I didn’t know what I needed. So I walked and walked, and all I can really remember is standing by some famous statue and sobbing. Like a little girl, I sobbed. I felt like an idiot.

Why had I come this far? What was I thinking I’d find? Why did I feel like I’d failed? And, why did it have to be some ungodly hour back at home when all I really needed was someone to talk to? I needed a person. More than that, I needed a friend. I can’t remember if I sat or kept walking aimlessly in tears, but what stands out to me in those moments is that I prayed.

I had stopped praying before this. I had sort of given up faith and hope at this point in my life. But, in those moments wandering around Barcelona aimlessly, feeling totally lost and alone, I found myself praying. Hard. I can’t remember what I prayed for. I think I mostly just let the tears do the talking. I let all the self-pity, loneliness, and heartbreak of my 23 years of life flow out like mad. I let loose all the sad groans of my heart, and I held nothing back. I felt totally and utterly lost, both in my heart and in the city I barely knew. I couldn’t understand why my life had led to this moment. All my years of  a carefully constructed “I’ll do this on my own” attitude were collapsing around me. Finally, I stopped. I wrapped up my prayer, and wiped my tears. I kept walking. I let my Tevas lead the way.

About two hours after my prayerful sobfest, I decided on the aquarium. “What better touristy thing to do?” I thought. The blue lights, fish and underground tunnels soothed me. They distracted me from my broken heart, and I felt a little better being around other travelers with cameras around their necks. And then, it happened. Luiza happened.

Luiza took a picture of me with a shark and she just kept talking. She was young and pretty and my age, and she was talking to me! And she was so open. So kind. I can’t remember where Luiza said she was from or why she was in Barcelona…. studying, I think it was. And then, Luiza asked to be with me that afternoon. She wanted to spend time with me. I was in total awe. I had never felt a prayer answered more directly than I did with Luiza.

Luiza insisted that we try Spanish tapas. I, of course, agreed. So, for the next few hours we sat in some little restaurant, snacked on cheap Spanish cuisine, and talked. We talked as though we’d been friends for a long while. I can’t say I remember the food very well, or the name of the restaurant, or even the details of who Luiza was. But, she was sent to me. I have no doubts about that. And as for my faith, it was growing again, over a plate of cold octopus legs.

I spent the next two or so months in Spain. I traveled. I worked on farms. I cleaned homes, fed a mule named Muffina, and had a two-week-long love affair. But, those are all different kinds of stories. The one that matters most, I think I’ve told.

I was never alone. I was always loved.