As I stood near the peak of Mount Teide, Tenerife’s remarkable volcano, I suddenly found myself in awe. As I glanced over my left shoulder, the sunset of blue sky was transforming into a streak of pink, purple, and then green. On my right, the sun was melting into the sky. The clouds above me began to rapidly disappear, and the sun that once hurt my eyes, surprisingly no longer hurt. Suddenly I was looking at one of the most incredible sights I’ve ever seen: El Mar de Nubes, the sea of clouds. Streaks of clouds blended together over the south Atlantic, crossing over valleys and the mountainous landscape of Tenerife. The clouds traveled like waves, colliding into each other briskly yet so softly. Without warning, the yellow sky changed to orange and before I could blink I was standing on a mountain surrounded by darkness. Nearly 12,000 ft up into the sky, I had never felt so close or connected to Earth.
Out of all the places that I have ever visited, Tenerife is by far the most fascinating. Not only was I able to experience drastic weather and culture changes in the north and south, but I was also able to immerse myself in the Spanish culture, language and local people. I was also able to take part in an incredible excursion, a guided day visit of the Teide Observatory.
As a young traveler, this trip gave me the opportunity to experience in-depth learning by practicing speaking Spanish with the locals and exposing myself to a completely different culture from the United States. In fact, one evening I even found the courage to speak Spanish with a local resident. (I have been studying Spanish in school for five years but never had the chance to speak outside the classroom.) Little did I know that my five minute interaction would turn into a one hour conversation about why immersion is so important. It was exciting to learn about Tenerife culture as well as to get a taste of what a true Spanish conversation is like. Our conversation was fluid and respectful, which made it that much better. I never expected that I could make such a meaningful connection with a local that quickly turned into an interesting conversation! This interaction gave me the sense that the locals are kind and welcoming people and I was immediately left with a memorable impression. All in all, I am thrilled that my classroom Spanish could translate to a “real world experience” and I can’t wait to practice my Spanish in another country!