All Up in my Head Space: Soloing in Portugal

After my international travel partners/best friends reached down to me, still blanketed in the comfort of the hotel bed, and hugged me good-bye, I was really alone. We celebrated my new age of 32 the day before and now they left our three country, 10-day adventure for demanding jobs, a boyfriend, and one continuous case of lost-and-found luggage. My grand idea was to start out my new year being the very definition of an independent woman: Solo in Portugal for a week.

While still in Istanbul, I tried to shake off my hangover with Turkish coffee and a hotel buffet. With a few hours to lose before my indirect flight to Lisbon, I wandered the streets, bought more Turkish coffee (this time for home), and enjoyed my last moments of wifi before the unreliable airport service I had become familiar to.

For the next two days, I barely spoke to anyone. And the conversations I did have were with cab drivers, a hotel receptionist, baristas, and flight attendants. I had no conversations outside of where to go and what to eat. It was the basic of human interaction and exactly what I challenged myself to do: be with me, be with me in a foreign land, with a language I don’t speak or read.

In the days that followed, I realized I really, really liked solo travel. I didn’t have to do any “must dos” in Portugal, I could travel the way I pleased: walking with camera and open-mind. I navigated the city as if its hilly roads had been my home before. After the first day I ditched my map, always seeming to find my way back to the BnB by gut and confidence.

With each new street I wandered, I started to build the storyline in my head of how Liz who lives in Lisbon would spend her days (again, limited human conversations here). After forgetting completely for a few days about the tourist suggestions I had researched and noted prior to departure, I decided to at least find this castle at the top of the city. Again, it was a misadventure, missing the tram stop by eight get offs. But I was zero percent bothered and just started walking the tracks in the direction I had just departed (tram 28 does not have a circular route). I happened upon a huge church, which I mistook for the castle, some cool Simpsons graffiti art, an artist flea market, had lunch with sangria overlooking the water, and after the majority of the day in search of it, I found the castle.

Lisbon was truly treating me well and I was falling for its European charm, or maybe that was just the port wine. I did wine often. I think this is part of travel life.

Before I saw it, I felt that Lisbon would have a grand effect on me. I had recently been taken by surprised when visiting Zion National Park in Utah moved me so much that I coined it my soulmate place. When I returned home to Portland, Oregon, I left completely changed after exploring its magnitude of beauty. Lisbon, thankfully, didn’t change me the same way.  I don’t think my soul would handle the competition, but I also don’t think that was its purpose. My soul has already found its match. And my head belongs in Portland. I, however, fell for Lisbon in the uncontrolled way only your heart can do. I wanted to stay, but my head called me home and most of me left.


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