Category Archives: portugal

colder weather

“One of the reasons why we crave love, and seek it so desperately, is that love is the only cure for loneliness, and shame, and sorrow. But some feelings sink so deep into the heart that only loneliness can help you find them again…”

I’m not lonely often. Really, I’m not, which is exactly what I told my parents when I finally called them yesterday. But tonight I have a room to myself for the first time in more than two months—a 10-bed dorm room that is eerily empty in Lisbon’s off-season.

Yesterday I said goodbye to a friend visiting me from Norway, and while at first I wasn’t completely sold on traveling with him vacation-style, I gave in to semi-luxury pretty quickly. And so we drank beers and walked beaches and explored palaces and managed to spend too much money, while reminiscing about when we met five years ago in Singapore—and how that semester abroad and my oblivious skipping out on a summer backpacking through Southeast Asia actually set the stage for my trip now.

But now I’m back to roughing it alone, five days from my next country, and I’m starting to worry that all of Portugal will be this empty. (And cold—what else do you do in Portugal besides go to the beach?)

So it’s Sunday night, the worst time to feel alone, because it’s really the only time when I know the six-hour time difference doesn’t matter, and I could and should and am itching to call certain people back home that I know I won’t.

And while I should be suppressing my loneliness (and enhancing my Portuguese experience) by going to a fado bar, I kind of just want to embrace it, curl up here and drink another free café con leche that reminds me of the Camino and keep listening to the “epic country” playlist from a friend that reminds me of home and read the book that reminds me of why I was so set on getting to India this year.

I guess for the moment I’m okay being stuck halfway between the past and the future (which is surprisingly far from the present)… even if it is unsurprisingly lonely.

Little victories

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.

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