You meet the most interesting people at hostels. Lost people. Found people. Determined and stubborn people. People who frustrate you and invigorate you and surprise you. Insistently surprise you.
Lisbon tugged me into its embrace. Walking the cobblestones of an ancient seaport, of an ancient everything where life seems calmer and more urgent at the same time… It was invigorating. The fresh air and laissez-faire attitude woke me up every morning, whether I got enough sleep, or not, the night before. It is where I flew into and where I found out how to be around strangers and stay calm instead of letting my usual panic crawl up my back and sequester me.
I walked the city, alone and with others, grabbed drinks, alone and with others, and made decisions for myself and for others. I lost opportunities to do what I wanted and gained chances to do something for someone else, participate in their lives for a moment. That’s the most interesting part of this traveling so far. Because I’m staying in hostels that emphasize common areas for travelers to hang out, you are always meeting people, crossing the lines between your life and theirs.
And you can always tell the people that have been traveling for long periods of time. They are always incredibly relaxed, friendly, kind. The people new to this, ahem, myself included, are nervous and tense. But the more I do it the more I relax. I’ve been in Portugal for a week and I already feel as though I’ve been forcing myself to do things that I would usually find uncomfortable. This has made the things that are less worrisome seem even less so. I went out for a pub crawl with a horde of people from the hostel one night that I had met the previous day and that same day at the communal “Momma’s Dinner”. Going out into the night, walking Lisbon’s streets, dancing in Lisbon’s bars and talking with the people I was out with was huge for me. I was pretty saucy but it was still exhilarating in a way I could pinpoint, even while drinking. This night made the other inconveniences of sharing a living space with others practically disappear.
After leaving Lisbon behind, with its hills and custard tarts and monasteries and hills, I bought a wrong ticket to make my way to Lagos because damn, Europe, 24-hour clocks and shit. The ride was 4 1/2 hours, and I only realized there was internet about three-quarters of the way through. Oops. That being said, it was pretty painless, which is exactly how I’m hoping tomorrow’s ride to Seville, Spain will be as well. This ride will be 5 1/2 hours but will also be stopping almost at every big city on the way. Eep! But its the only option to get from the Algarve to Seville so who am I to complain?
Lagos, where I’ve spent the past couple of days, has been like going to the cottage. Sore muscles from surfing, burned shoulders from tanning and an eternal pain in my calves from walking up and down the infernally wrong hills. Always. The town is drowsy and young. The bars seem to hint at avid debauchery, though I haven’t had a chance to go out here because the entire hostel was hungover from a BBQ the night before I came, and I’ve been sleeping Lisbon off ever since I got here anyway.
The beaches here are unlike any I’ve ever seen. I would have gone once more to them today, but the weather took a turn for the worse (17°C – hahahahahhaha) and I was so sore from yesterday’s surfing trip that I don’t know if I would have made the effort anyway.
Lagos taught me to just chill. This is, unfortunately, something I needed to learn. Here’s hoping this and all the other things continue as I make my way to Spain. I’m hoping a business week in Seville will help me decide whether I want to cross over to Morocco or not. I would need to prepare for that somewhat, seeing as how after landing I realized I brought a total of 2 t-shirts, and about 17 tank tops. Oops. Last minute packing moments are not my finest, apparently. I could do with some gear rearrangement anyway, so maybe some shopping in Seville for some sexier, more “European” clothes wouldn’t hurt.