Thursday, February 27, 2014

There's No Country Like Portugal

     Most people think I am crazy...  I traveled for 10 months last year to 4 different continents and 28 countries on my own.  I came home for less than 3 months and planned a spontaneous trip again.  I get questions all the time such as: How does your work let you have this time off?  How do you have the money?  Why are you doing this?  People think you are odd or maybe you won the lottery.  They all assume you make millions of dollars or you have a "gypsy" mentality with no stability... but it's all nonsense.  "I'm not strange, weird, off, nor crazy, my reality is just different from yours". -Lewis Carroll

     Right now, I am 24 years old and I am sorting out what I want to do with my life.  I did the years of school, graduated university, and now it is my time!  I am not lost, I don't need fixing and my head is not above the clouds.  I am fully aware that I will need to find a proper job that may not allow me to just run over to any place in the world I want at any given time, but right now I can.  I have the time, I have the means and so I do what I want to keep me happy.  Instead of having tons of clothes and handbags, a nice car, etc., I travel.  Simple as that!  I am also trying my very best to go into a field of work I love and avoid that 9-5 lifestyle.  I make decent money now and I'm laying the bricks into a more "stable" life, but you must also realize... I will never be that "stable" because my adventurous, spontaneous and intense spirit won't allow it.

     Why Porto, Portugal again?  It's an amazing place, one of my favorite in the world.  Last year I was here in July and the first day I wandered around alone.  I walked along the river, through the parks, in between the old beautiful buildings with red roofs, some had white tile with blue etchings on them.  I ate Portuguese desserts and just took in every bit of this place.  I loved all of it and lucky for me, I also met someone who stayed a very close friend and I went back to see him again.

     I arrived in Porto on February 7, 2014.  Zé Pedro picked me up from the airport midday and we enjoyed a nice lunch upon arrival.  I was pretty burnt out and needed some rest after the 20 hours or so of travel time.  After meeting his younger cousin Diogo who is currently living with him, we all prepared for a nice Portuguese dinner out.  Things took an unexpected turn but it provided for a great memory.  While we were picking up Zé Pedro's camera, my shoe got stuck in the escalator and people were piling on top of us.  Diogo had to shut off the escalator and we were able to pull my shoe out.  They were not salvageable, but I managed to use a piece of chewing gum to hold the heal together for the rest of the evening.  How do you not laugh at situations like this?  When we returned to the car, Zé Pedro said that my shoe getting caught was a sign for the night ahead...  He was right.  We carried on driving towards the restaurant and then the car runs out of gas.  It was pouring rain with no gas station in site.  There was nothing we could really do, so we went inside to the closest restaurant to have sushi instead.  Afterwards, the boys had to get a taxi to take them to a gas station and we were able to make our way home.  Quite the evening!

     On the 8th, ZP and I left to drive into the countryside of the Minho region.  It was beautiful seeing more of Portugal, green mountains, rivers, trees and old houses.  A part of Portugal that is far away from tourism.  It was a really amazing drive a little over an hour away from Porto where he had picked a nice hotel spa for us to stay at for the night.  It's such a beautiful place.  Fresh air, nice scenery all around and the rain just added more to it.

     We returned to Porto on the 9th after enjoying some nice views from the indoor pool.  We had plans with his cousins to watch a football match, but unfortunately due to the bad weather, the game was canceled.  Chico, ZP's cousin also brought a friend over and the 5 of us really enjoyed singing songs, sharing music and even a bit of dance.  Both Chico and Zé Pedro love to dance and they were teaching us some moves.  Let me just say that dance does not come naturally to me...  Good effort though!  ZP prepared a tuna dish for dinner with special tuna from the Azores Island which was delicious.  I am not a big canned tuna eater, but this was excellent.  It was a really fun night all together before I left the following morning.

     3 and a half days in Portugal this trip was obviously not enough, but I was happy to stop in.  I plan to spend longer amounts of time there in the future.  If I could live anywhere in the world in this moment after having been to 30 countries, it would be in Portugal or Italy.  The beauty of these Latin based countries rich in culture, old architecture and history is something I'll always cherish.  In a world that is modernizing, a place like Portugal stays true to the roots and there are many times I wished with all my heart that I was born in a different time.  Until we meet again Portugal...  I look forward to cheering for you in the World Cup against Germany!

"Wherever you go, go with all your heart". -Confucius