Hiking in Cercedilla was an eye opening experience for me. Previously, I was under the impression that Madrid only had an urban environment. Though I knew there were opportunities to find nature outside of Madrid, I did not realize that it was a simple train ride away. After taking the commuter train (Cercanias) to its most Northwestern point, we arrived at a beautifully quaint town that bore no resemblance to the city I called home. To be fair, we did not embark in some a treacherous hiking trail that forced us to our limits. I doubt any of us were expert hikers, which only made the experience more fun. There was no pressure in our athletic ability, and everyone was taken aback by the beauty of Cercedilla. The rolling hills offered a great view of the small town, and the trees were green despite the fact that it was early March. As we climbed up, the views became more gorgeous and we became even more starry-eyed. We walked for many hours, and when we were tired, we simply turned back, taking in all the views along the way. Highlight of the trip was definitely the return journey, where we saw cows roaming the path. It just felt so real.
Our company only made the hike better. The Spanish student network accompanied us, and I often found myself speaking a mix of Spanish and English for the duration of the hike. I learned some of the intricacies of being a teenager in Spain, which had previously been a mystery to me. Edu, Isa, and Omar were always eager to talk to us. Our exchange felt so authentic, and never forced. It was genuinely nice meeting genuinely nice people our age. I was also taken aback by the ease with which we had fun. For example, on the walk back, we played a simple game: someone would have a pinecone in their hand, and if they asked another person a question, the person could not answer with “yes” or “no.” If the person did, then the pinecone would be transferred. The person who held the pinecone when we arrived at the station would have to buy the crew a round of beers. As corny as the game sounds, when beers are on the line, people’s true colors reveal themselves. It’s these types of games that elevate a simple hiking trip into a memory that I will remember forever.