In my last post I talked about choice and decision related to travel. A major surprise for me, still, is how I keep wanting to stay in the same country for ages, instead of jump around from one country to the next.
This was a topic of conversation recently, with a friend, and as I flew to Amsterdam from Lisbon, I had a new insight. I think my desire to get to know a country more deeply mirrors my own desire to know myself more deeply. The more detailed exploration of a country allows me not just to see tourist sights (bringing up the regretful way I’ve done some vacation travel pinging around from one major site to the next without really learning anything) but to get to know the people, the language, and the culture.
Portugal is fascinating. The population, at least outside the major cities of Lisbon and Porto, is mostly aging. The language sounds like the convergence of Spanish, Russian, and Italian. The people are very friendly, especially when you say “Bon dia” or “Butarde” (good morning/good afternoon) though before that most have a deep scowl on their face! I found everyone extremely helpful, and was surprised that when I explored what language we could meet at, it was French more than any other.
The country of Portugal is noticeably more poor than the rest of Europe. On the one hand, you could see this in the dilapidation of buildings. On the other, the prices are unbeatable! It was strange that most merchants only accepted debit cards, instead of credit cards, at least in the smaller towns. I felt completely safe at all times, and was to the point of careless with my wallet and computer when meandering, even leaving it unattended at times because I just knew that nobody would take it.
One of the most lovely things I experienced was waiting to pay a merchant at a fruit and vegetable market. Another woman walked up, put some vegetables in a bag and handed them to the merchant to pay. The merchant, when she finished helping another customer, told the woman that I was there first, and helped me! Apparently this is very common.
Portuguese food is delicious – especially the fish and the pork. The only problem is, after a while, fish and pork get a bit repetitive.
The landscape is amazing – for such a tiny country, Portugal seems huge. To the north are unbelievable mountains and landscapes and cows. The north is rich in Port :). The middle has tiny towns you could easily miss if you don’t stop, as well as amazing beaches. I didn’t make it to the Algarve, but this is a beach resort area – so much diversity in one place. I also will get to The Azores and Madeira at some point, more to explore!
And so, I feel as I leave Portugal, that my choice to stay as long as I can in one country is allowing me a very special opportunity to get to know it on a deeper level. That, in turn, allows me to see where I’m comfortable (and not), meet wonderful people, make new friends, and explore new sides of myself.