How to Avoid Spanish Jail

The Scintilla Project Day Two

Last updated on February 7th, 2022 at 02:45 pm

A bird's-eye view of Barcelona, Spain
Cops or no cops, everyone should make their way to Barcelona at LEAST once.

1. What’s the biggest lie you’ve ever told? Why? Would you tell the truth now, if you could?

2. Tell a story about something interesting (anything!) that happened to you, but tell it in the form of an instruction manual (Step 1, Step 2, etc.).

— The Scintilla Project, March 14, 2013

Originally, I was going to choose the first option, but I’ve never been big on lying. It’s way harder to remember the details of something you’ve made up than it is to simply confess to the truth, no matter how harsh it is. It’s not a lesson you learn overnight—it takes a lot of pain, fights and struggles to get to a point where you realize that it’s just not worth it and you’ll probably tell your share of little white lies in the process.

For example, lying would’ve made the situation below a whole lot worse.

How to Avoid Landing Your Butt in Spanish Jail

A shot looking up at the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain.
Great city, great church.
  1. Spend 22 years doing no travel save for trips that your parents take you on (see: the time you go to Jamaica and find out how big cockroaches can really get; or the time you go to South Carolina and get left in the car for 6 hours while your Mom and Aunt go outlet mall shopping)
  2. Get a message from your ex of 10 years prior who’ll tell you that she’s taking a backpacking trip to Europe, and you’re totally invited.
  3. Brush off the idea since you’re just a university student with a well-paying job.
  4. Get tax refund.
  5. Talk to boss about going on vacation for three weeks and agree with her that it’s the opportunity of a lifetime.
  6. Watch her jaw drop when she realizes that you’re only giving her a week’s notice.
  7. Somehow charm her into letting you go and fly out to your first major non-family trip ever.
  8. After visiting London, Amsterdam and Paris, spend some time in Barcelona.
  9. Go for a club hop night with the hostel you’re staying at.
  10. Proceed to get drunk off of copious amounts of tequila and nibbling on a lizard that had spent years soaking at the bottom of a tequila bottle.
  11. Proceed to get very friendly with a random Australian girl that you meet, so much so that your travelling companions decide to leave you be under the assumption that you will spend the night “getting some”.
  12. Part ways amicably with said Australian and start the half-hour staggerfest home (noting that it’s a walk that would take you only 5 minutes were you anywhere near sober).
  13. Get flagged by Spanish police who want see your passport. In hindsight, this could only be for one of two reasons:
    1. For public drunkenness, which is unlikely since plenty of others were also slowly making their way across the beaches to their destinations, or
    2. Being the wrong colour in the wrong place at the wrong time. You see, Barcelona has a recurring issue with illegal immigrants—namely those from West Africa. In the daytime, you see swaths of vendors on the ports—all of them Black-faced—with blankets of cheap goods for sale. That is, until a cop car nearly runs them over, they bundle that stuff up and get on the move. No matter how I dress, spoke or acted, it would seem that I still “fit the description”.
  14. When they explain with pleasant surprise that you’re from Canada, reply in kind with “Yes, and I’d really love to see it again!”
  15. Receive passport from police after telling them where you’re staying and told to stay safe on your way back to your hostel.
  16. Enter hostel.
  17. Sleep a few hours.
  18. Wake up.
  19. Eat breakfast.
  20. Go lie on the beach until you feel better from the hangover.
  21. Proceed to sleep for 6 hours under the Barcelona sun in nothing but swim trunks and a room key tied ’round your leg. But hey—at least you won’t get a sunburn!
The second logo for Casey Palmer, Canadian Dad

By Casey E. Palmer

Husband. Father. Storyteller.

Calling the Great White North his home, Casey Palmer the Canadian Dad spend his free time in pursuit of the greatest content possible.

Thousand-word blog posts? Snapshots from life? Sketches and podcasts and more—he's more than just a dad blogger; he's working to change what's expected of the parenting creators of the world.

It's about so much more than just our kids.

When Casey's not creating, he's busy parenting, adventuring, trying to be a good husband and making the most of his life!

Casey lives in Toronto, Ontario.

10 replies on “How to Avoid Spanish Jail”

Isn’t it terrible that the actions of a few can create a stereotype for many. I remember being scared crapless when we were in Mexico and we got stopped by the police. I’d heard so many horror stories and didn’t fancy seeing the inside of a mexican jail. Glad you made it back safe and got to chill out on the beach the next day.

PS I love Barcelona but the thieving there is terrible. We were warned and despite being super careful I still got robbed.

If by “chill” you mean “pass out from dehydration and exhaustion”, then yes. That is EXACTLY what I did 😉

I’m also glad that you didn’t have to see the inside of a foreign jail! I always feel somewhat safe in my own country because as a citizen I have rights, etc. But as soon as I’m abroad? I don’t even WANT to know what could happen.

As for the PS, I’ve got to be 100% honest — I’ve travelled a good number of “exotic locations” around the world, and a prevailing reason why I get left alone is because I’m Black. In Tanzania, they thought I was Tanzanian. In L.A., people thought I was a local. In Barcelona, I could give anyone suspicious a hard stare and they’d go search for another mark. I could write an entire post on my views on this alone, but I definitely came out of all these travels unscathed.

So far, anyway.

Thanks for your comment 🙂

You are so on point with the whole ‘how difficult it is to remember the details of a lie’ thing! and what is the scintilla project? Pray tell?

The Scintilla Project is a wonderful two-week blogging initiative run by three women who I’m slowly getting to know better (and will definitely know WAY better after spending time with them in Vegas in May!)

If you click on the logo, it’ll take you to the page — they give us two email prompts per day over two weeks to broaden our storytelling skills and to get us to explore different things about ourselves.

Getting me to remember things I haven’t thought about for QUITE some time!

I love this! I’m with you – I can’t remember telling an Actual Lie… I mean, little white lies to spare someone’s feelings? Sure. But not outright lying… Lies of omission, more than likely, but those don’t make stories.

You did a fantastic job with the prompt. I’ve never been to Barcelona, but if it’s laid out anything like Seville, I never would have made it home drunk. Hell, I got lost twice in that city completely sober. Their streets are all ziggy zaggy and not nice neat blocks like here in the good ol’ US of A. Technically, the second time, my friend got us lost, and I sort of got us UNLOST (after we stopped for ice cream, you know, in case we were going to starve to death while roaming around a foreign city). So kudos to you for making it home in one piece. Great job on not getting arrested, also. 😉

Ziggy zaggy is probably the best way to describe MOST Spanish cities. Full of narrow alleyways, buildings tall enough to block out the light and yeah, all us North Americans get crazy disoriented when trying to travel through it all 🙂

I guess it was good that I was on the beach — wide open and easy to find a way to my hostel; I hadn’t thought about it — I could’ve totally got lost otherwise!

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