I arrived in Portugal following a nightmare 13 hour travel day where everything that could go wrong did go wrong, including nearly being throw off an Italian train over a seat assignment, a flight that was an hour late, and getting lost at night between the airport and the rail station in Lisbon because the woman at the information desk at the airport told me to take the wrong bus. But hey, my luggage made it though; gotta be grateful for the little things.
I took a day and a half to regroup – get money from the ATM, get my laundry done (really, I was beginning to smell), shop for groceries (I am renting a studio apartment in Cascais, Portugal, a suburb of Lisbon with a series of great little beaches), and write, write, write. I didn’t even go out to see Cascais the first day because I had to get the Cinque Terre, Italy stories out of my head before I saw a new place. So now I’m all caught up.
My trip is winding down now – only 9 more days. I am sad (I’m really beginning to love traveling long term) but I’m also looking forward to getting home to the good old USA where everything is so familiar. There were times during this trip that were very stressful – never knowing what I was going to find from day to day, or even where I was going to be the next day was a constant challenge. In the beginning, I was often “mired in the muck” and had to MAKE myself leave a place. I resisted leaving because, after a few days in a place it became somewhat familiar and as human beings we all seek the comfort of familiarity. It was difficult at first to deal with the constant change and fear of the unknown.
At some point during the trip, though, I really began to relax. I realized I had taken every precaution to ensure I would be safe, so I stopped worrying about negative possibilities like having my credit credit card stolen or my backpack slashed. I did what my Dad reminded me to do in every email – I kept my eyes open and stayed aware of what was happening around me at all times. As a result I soon had the opposite problem – sometimes I was really anxious to leave a place. There is an art to traveling long term – something about leaving just before you are ready to go rather than staying too long and becoming bored. I find there are few places in this world I would like to stay permanently (although Thailand; Cinque Terre, Italy; and the Costa del Sol in Spain DO make that list of potential long term places).
Perhaps my introspective side is emerging as the end of this journey nears. I’ve learned many lessons, not least of which is to be thankful that I live in the good ‘ole USA. Really, we don’t know how good we have it. I might grumble about an administration with which I have little agreement, but we live in a wonderful country and we have so much – TOO much – WAY TOO MUCH! We need to sit back and take a look at the things in life that we value and ask ourselves if they really make us happy. I, for one, will make some significant life changes as a result of this trip. I will find a way to do something in life that brings me joy, regardless of what I have to give up to do so. I will be less judgmental, critical, hard on myself. I will try to show my friends and family how much I love them and will find a meaningful way to help others so that I feel my life is worth something.
Whew! I hadn’t intended to write such a philosophical post, but it just sort of poured out of me. So I guess it was meant to be. I will now go back to “staying in the moment” and remember there are nine days left in this trip, rather than focusing on the end. Stay tuned – I’ll be telling you all about Portugal over the next few days.