I purposely made my way down a few slightly sketchy streets to some popular local bars after abandoning plans to visit a church that I got lost getting to. This was fine, though, because I was starving and I’d already seen a bunch of churches anyway.
…Except it was 7:30, and I forgot that no one here would be eating yet. (Sometimes I miss America.)
Plus, as I walked down the street, I remembered the potential problem with all local places: I am an American idiot who doesn’t speak the local language, and therefore may also be unable to read the local menu. Also, sometimes when I am randomly exploring I accidentally happen into really expensive local restaurants.
And so instead, I walked straight past, chastising myself in my head for being so wimpy.
Maybe I could go to McDonalds first, I thought, and then go back for a beer. Or maybe I should just go back to the hostel…
And just like that, I turned around, found my way back, and sat down outside one of the bars—where people were now finally eating, and where the waiter who approached me with two menus looked just as uncomfortable as I felt as he tried to figure out whether to give me the English or Portuguese one.
I smiled, reached for the English menu, and ordered the best fish I ever had.
Traveling is making me stronger every day.
I don’t particularly like Portugal yet. Even after being here a week, I still couldn’t tell you exactly what Portuguese culture is—I keep trying to find an important historical figure to latch on to, or a specific must-see location to find, or even a certain food to associate with the country, but instead Portugal seems kind of like the youngest child who picks up some attributes from his older siblings but is mostly just ignored. I mean, I think English is so commonly spoken here because even the Portuguese understand that there’s really no reason for most people to learn their language.
I keep taking the cities and countries that I’ve visited and categorizing them into potential future honeymoon spots, potential future family vacations, or potential future places to live… and I’m not quite sure if I’d put Lisbon in any of them.
But there’s still time and more things to see and different cities to explore, so I guess we’ll see. Travel is full of surprises.