(Photo taken in Nazare, Portugal.) Today (the day I’m writing this post) I feel more lonely than I have in a long time. I’ve just left a magical small town in Portugal where I met fabulous people, and was able to relax and even feel at home.
One of the wonderful parts about traveling is all the great people you meet. One of the lousy parts is how much you miss them after you leave. It’s great to realize you enjoyed your time, but sometimes it gets a bit tiresome to find places you want to stay longer, stupidly do not, and then feel all alone in a new city having to start over on your own.
(Most Portuguese cities appear to have been built before cars – it’s amazing to see large buses fit on them…) I arrived in Coimbra and felt like I had made a mistake leaving the place I was. Worse yet, I couldn’t find my hotel and then was twice lost. I began uncontrollably crying in the street, something I have not done in ages. I was both embarrassed and afraid of my own stupid crying. The real hard part was that I had to pull myself together to be able to ask a merchant for help finding my hotel.
Just when I thought I would stop crying, I asked for help, and got instructions from a store owner in Portuguese. I still don’t speak much Portuguese, so I only sort of understood his guidance. When I arrived to the place he told me I should see my hotel, I did not. Tears again, oh my gawd! I took a breath, and just looked around me, in front of me, and above me. I saw a lot of hotels with the word “Pensao” (Pension) and since my hotel started with the same word, I figured it must be somewhere close. Happily looking up, instead of down was a good choice! I finally found the place. The manager of the hotel was lovely and gave me a very nice introduction and then explained that it was student week in Coimbra and there will be loud parties all night and it will be very noisy. I wanted to run away immediately. But I did not. I put my bags in my room and went out for a walk.
I walked around wishing I had some companions and it’s funny how you can get what you wish for. During my walk I saw a man taking a photo of his male friends at a cafe. He said, “Ladies, look at the camera!” and when I saw they were all men, I had enough of a chuckle that I asked the gent if he wanted me to take a photo with all of them in it. He said yes, but wanted to be sure I wouldn’t take his camera. I looked at it (an iPhone 6), and reassured him I had a newer iPhone so his phone was of no interest to me. After I took their photos, they invited me to join them for a drink and I had the shock and delight to learn that I was right in the midst of part of the Camino Real walk, something I’ve wanted to do in my life.
After the men and I finished our chat and some drinks, I began to consider the possibility of returning to the place I had been. The biggest hurdle, I realized, was shame and embarrassment at asking people to go out of their way for me. I decided that, perhaps, I should at least try to confront myself on this issue, and just ask and see what happens. The result? Absolute acceptance, and a chance to deepen some wonderful connections. However, it makes me so curious – I’ve been meeting wonderful people everywhere I go. I would never have met any of them if not for my own courage, but I still wonder – is my journey of self discovery meant to be all on my own, with transient connections, or is it possible to both discover myself, and create deep, profound relationships at the same time? More to come….