Stargazing in Andulsia
From as young as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the sky and its power to connect us. There is something really beautiful about how it is the one thing that we all have in common. Whoever you are and wherever you are in the world, you are always connected to everyone else on this earth by the sky. Of course, I am familiar with the famous saying of how ‘the sky is the limit’, but in a way, I disagree with this. To me, the sky is not the limit but rather the beginning. The beginning of all of our connections and experiences.
Last Summer, I was lucky enough to be a Gotoco participant on one of their Europe programmes. I spent a month teaching English at a conversational summer camp with adults in the Andalusian countryside. It was my first experience travelling on my own so I initially felt very nervous. I was preparing to fly to another country with people I had never met to teach and support adults who I had also never met. To say it was a daunting prospect would be a fair statement. But as soon as I was up in the sky on my flight to Spain, I instantly knew that I had made the right decision. It was an evening flight, so the sun was just beginning to set and it painted the sky the most beautiful shade of orange and yellow. It was a comforting shade of warmth and optimism, a subtle nod that everything would be okay. I remember thinking that my fellow Gotoco’ers would also be on their way to our Spanish camp, some of them probably also staring out of the window on their flights and looking at the same sky whilst feeling the same feelings that I was. Excitement. Fear. Hope. Happiness. Readiness. It was the first time during my trip that I remember feeling the sky’s power to connect people, but it was certainly not the last.
My Gotoco experience helped me realise how the sky connects us in ways that we are not always aware of. Video calls to my family, for example, highlighted the connecting powers of the sky. During my downtime, I would often video call friends and family back home. Usually the first topic of conversation would be the weather, perhaps not at all surprising seeing as I am British! But instead of talking about the dreary, miserable excuse of a summer’s day back in the rainy UK, I would instead talk about the blazing sun and scorching temperatures of a Spanish summer. Although miles apart in completely different countries, doing completely different things, we were connected by being under the same sky. It became a way of feeling closer to the people I was missing back home. Even though the sky does not always look the same to me as it does to other people, it is still the same sky. I sometimes feel like that is quite telling about our experience as humans. Even with the one thing that we share, it is still different depending on who is looking and where.
A couple of weeks into my time at camp, we had a visit from a local astrologist. It still stands out to me as one of the most impactful and magical experiences I have had whilst travelling.
The Andalusian countryside is renowned for its exceptional stargazing conditions, and our camp in the region of Cordoba was no different. As I lay on the grass under the breathtaking clear sky, with my fellow Gotoco’ers who were by now good friends, I remember thinking how happy I was to be there. A few weeks beforehand, I had never met these people. I didn’t know anything about them or whether we’d get on well, but now, all lying under the same beautiful sky, I felt so grateful and lucky to have met them. The same beautiful sky that I stared in awe at whilst looking out of the plane on the way here. The same beautiful sky that made me feel like I had made the right choice in stepping out of my comfort zone and joining a Gotoco programme. The same beautiful sky that I would always share with these people even when we had finished our programme and gone back to our own individual lives.
The astrologist pointed to lots of constellations and told us many tales of Greek mythology, but one that stuck with me was the constellation ‘Cygnus’. It was one of the constellations that we could see most clearly. I do not think it was a coincidence that the story of Cygnus is one of friendship. As the tale goes, Cygnus was a friend of Phaethon (the child of Apollo). It describes how one day Phaethon tried to drive the Sun (Apollo’s chariot) across the sky but failed to keep hold of it so Zeus shot him out of the sky before he could cause any further harm. Phaethon landed in a stream and Cygnus jumped in and swam like a swan to track down his friend. Zeus was surprised by Cygnus’s act of friendship and so he transformed him into a swan and added his picture to the night sky. It’s believed that the constellation of Cygnus represents the idea that we go out of our way to be with the people that we love until nature finds a way for us to be reunited.
Simply, what I am trying to say here is that my experience travelling with Gotoco deepened my appreciation and fondness of the sky and its powers to connect people. Wherever I go next and whoever I meet next, I will always remember that the places I’ve been before and the people I’ve met before share the same sky that I do, and all I have to do is look up and I am reminded of that.
About the Author
Hi, I’m Holly! I’m a 20 year old English Literature student at Cardiff University. Aside from my studies, I am a keen journalist and always keep an eye out for stories to tell. One of my favourite things about travelling is it’s ability to inspire and evolve a multitude of stories from different cultures and different people. This Summer, I am looking forward to working with Gotoco on their European programmes and hope to come home with many more travel stories to share!