Leaving Lagos, Loving Lisbon

Leaving Lagos I felt sick to my stomach when I thought about the amount of fear that controlled my actions during my week there. Every moment was one when I was acting like the person I was 18 months ago and not the confident woman of God that I believe that I have become. Fortunately, all the fear and sickness disappeared as my bus rolled into Lisboa.

I don’t know why my instincts have been guiding me towards this place, but I know that I have found my favorite place in the world. Many travelers like myself will tell you that there are places that you feel instantly connected to and other places that feel foreign, no Matter how long you spend time there. Lagos was foreign, but here in Lisboa, the warmth of its people and it’s inviting colors have wrapped their arms around me and welcomed me home.

I’m inspired. I’m taking more photos than I have in the last two weeks. My first night here, I wandered around Bairro Alto and made friends with a group of French men celebrating a bachelor’s last weekend of being single. The electricity of the nightlife, the fashion, the music, the company of merry men that I found myself a part of; all of these things contributed to the joy that was finding its way back into my weary travelers soul.

It is impossible to feel alone in Lisboa. There is so much life to feel a part of that you can’t get the feeling of “apart from” that I suffered with for the last week of my trip. All the doubt of my happiness and confidence rolled away as I entered the electric Bairro. After sharing a meal with my French friends, I found my way back to my hostel and got some sleep.

I’ve been suffering from a pretty nasty cold for the last five days. Also, my feet are all cut up from surfing. These two things are making this trip kind of frustrating. So much of me wants to climb into my hostel bed and sleep, but I can’t get enough of this wonderful place.

Yesterday I was determined to get to a meeting, so I boarded the train and headed to the seaside town of Estoril, which is 30 min away by train from the city. I am not positive but I think that the round trip cost was less than 4 euro. So cheap! I arrived in Estoril with plenty of time to sit by the sea and watch people strolling by and kids playing by the beach. It ended up being a beautiful day. For the first time in over a week, I was feeling grateful for where I was. I don’t want to talk badly about the camp that I was at because I feel like all of the negatives that I experienced there were because of what I was experiencing inside of myself, but I’ve never been happier to leave a place in my life. Being seaside by myself in Estoril, was a reminder that I am very capable of being happy alone and finding that happiness again is something that I desperately needed.

At the meeting, I met an awesome couple from California, who are traveling around the world. We had dinner after the meeting and shared stories about our travels, our lives. After dinner, we rode the train back to the city and we parted ways there. It was so nice to be in the company of people like me that I felt no need to go out and chase the dream last night.

Today I’m feeling the most physically ill that I’ve felt yet. I’ve still managed to find a way to accomplish a lot. At least I think it’s a lot. I’ve ridden tram 28 through the winding streets of Lisboa and found the most wonderful little riverside place that has turned out to be a good place to get some writing done. Despite a cough of death and my badly beaten up feet, my heart is soaring with delight as I wander around this lovely city. This is why people travel alone, and this feeling of contentedness is what I’ve been searching for in my last two weeks of travel. I’m thankful for so much today. Warm sun on my face as I kick back in a bean bag on cais do sodre, cappuccino, and the friends I’ve made in the last two+ weeks. More than anything, I’m grateful for the home I’m headed towards in 48 hours and the people that I’m going to love the hell out of when I get there. Until then, I’ll be loving this city with hopes of sharing it with one of you (or all of you) someday. <;3 Besos.

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I knew that this trip was going to teach me a lot about myself but I didn’t think that the lessons I’d be learning here in Lagos would be so hard. In Barccelona, I discovered that I’m really comfortable navigating a city that I’ve never been to and that I can actually read a map quite well. In Seville, I discovered that I am very comfortable dining alone and am capable of entertaining myself. Here in Lagos, I’m full of all kinds of fear and discomfort and I can barely keep myself afloat. Even when I’m not in the water. It’s weird to be here in this foreign country, surrounded by people who are speaking a foreign language, and be spending my days trying to do something that is really hard. I’m all twisted up and feel very lost. I know it’s gonna pass and things will get easier. Everyone here probably thinks I’m a total weirdo because I spent half the day today catching some good waves and then stomping back into the ocean in tears. My mind was screaming and my heart was racing and all I wanted was to be back in a place that wasn’t Portugal. The beach we went to today had a bunch of rocks and I kept slamming my already badly beaten up feet into the rocks. I was terrified my head was going to slam into one of them, so I spent most of the day focusing on not hitting them, instead of standing up properly. I wanted to scream at both of the instructors or beat my head against one of the rocks for getting myself in such an uncomfortable position. Then I would have a pep talk with myself and catch another wave. Unfortunately, every time I walked back in to the water, I would look over at the surfers from the english camp, who are all catching green waves and the other camper here who has been surfing the same amount of time as me catching green waves and I felt like such a loser and a failure. I know that I was being way too hard on myself, but this is the shit that was running through my mind. I don’t know how I got to be so insecure here. I don’t know if it’s the stomping around the beach in an unflattering wetsuit or the fact that I can barely carry my beginners board or the fever blisters I’ve gotten on my lips from the sun or the fact that everyone here is speaking german or that i haven’t been to a meeting in 11 days or what, but I feel like shit and I hate it. Anyway, I’m leaving Lagos on Saturday, so I’m gonna try to make the most of what’s left of my time here.

Keep your head up, keep your heart strong.

I’m having trouble finding the energy to write about what I’ve been experiencing the last week or so. It troubles me that I never found the time to write about Seville while I was there. I hate writing about places after I leave them because I can never seem to find the right words. I’ll just say this: Seville is magical. It’s cobblestone streets, crowded cafes, the way the cathedral looks at dusk, the well-dressed men that are everywhere, the horse-drawn carriages, the parks….ahh, just thinking of it makes me smile. I spent one full day alone there, but the rest of my time there was spent with some new friends that I made at the train station, a pair of sisters from Seattle. I really enjoyed my time with them and feel a strong bond that I hope continues once we are back. I was not impressed with any of the food that I ate there, which is kind of a bummer, I just don’t think I tried hard enough to find good stuff. I spent most of my energy trying to navigate Seville’s winding streets…always feeling lost and then somehow finding my way back to where I needed to be. Despite the lack of good food, I was sad to say goodbye to Seville and my new friends on Friday afternoon, but I was excited for the next portion of my adventure.

My first 24 hrs in Portugal were a mixture of fear, discomfort, and excitement. The camp that I booked for eight days of surf is owned by Germans and most of the guests and staff are German. I felt discomfort being the only one not speaking German at the breakfast table and fear as we drove towards Arrifana Beach on Saturday morning. Most of my fear and discomfort was taken away when the instructor’s girlfriend put her ipod on in the Jeep. Much to my surprise, we have very similar taste in music. While there was a definite language barrier, music played a very common role that it has in my life of being the great connector. I was instantly at ease and began chatting with my fellow passengers about what we were listening to. The waves were soft and kind on Saturday as I eased into re-learning how to paddle and stand up on my beginners board. Unfortunately, I was exhausted from lack of sleep and travel and spent most of the day sleeping on the beach while the others surfed. I was disappointed that I didn’t have as much energy as I had hoped, but most of my energy seemed to be spent fighting back fears. My ego was shouting at me that I was silly for putting myself in a situation like this one and I had to pray my ass off to quiet it. I asked God to help quiet my mind and let me be at ease with myself. A few minutes later, I cracked open the book I brought along with me on my trip…one that I have read before, but haven’t picked up in years. I found a bookmark in it….the name and address of a friend that passed away a couple of years ago. It brought tears of gratitude to my eyes to think of her laugh and I knew that she was looking out for me that day, telling me to stop feeling sorry for myself and start having fun. Sam always knew how to have fun. You couldn’t have a bad day when she was around. Since then, I haven’t really let myself listen to the voice of my ego shouting at me telling me all kinds of yucky stuff about myself.

Surfing is not easy. It takes a lot of work to catch one good wave, but if you catch that wave, you understand that it’s worth all the work. I have wanted to surf for most of my life and now I’m actually in a place where I can make my dreams come true, so I’m doing it. Things are getting easier at the camp too. There is only one other camper here, a girl named Maria from Switzerland, so we each have rooms to ourselves. Vila Caterina, the house where we are staying is beautiful and the people here are very nice. We have become chummy with one of the girls working here and I believe that she and I are going to hang out in Lisbon next weekend.

All in all, this is nothing like what I expected it to be, but it’s becoming so much more. I’m learning how much of a fighter I am and where my strengths and weaknesses lie. I am learning that surfing brings out weird high school insecurities in me that I haven’t felt in quite a while. Maybe it’s the fact that a lot of the guys here remind me of guys I went to high school with? At certain moments on the beach during the day, I have to remind myself that I’m not that awkward 16 year old anymore…it’s very weird, but I’m sure I am learning something from all of this.

I miss my friends and my home quite a bit, but I’ve still got a lot of time here in Portugal. Four more days of surfing and another week in Lisbon. I hope to find more energy to keep everyone updated on my progress….hopefully tomorrow will be better!

Saying goodbye to Barcelona…

Satisfaction. This is the best way to describe what I’m feeling inside as I leave Barcelona. I wouldn’t have done one thing differently in my four day visit and that’s the first time I can say such a thing upon departure from a city. Usually there is some sort of hold up somewhere that is annoying and keeps me from doing what I want to do or there is negotiating with someone I’m traveling with that keeps me from seeing something I want to see or doing something I want to do. Maybe the best thing about traveling alone is that we are responsible for making ourselves happy when we are alone, so if something isn’t working for us, we have the freedom to change that thing quickly. I discovered soon after arriving in Barcelona that while I do crave alone time while traveling, I revel in the camaraderie of strangers and find joy in making new friends. This must be why my inner guide spoke so loudly to me the last time I traveled, telling me to enjoy my friends on our trip together, but to make sure to go alone the next time I plan a trip. Leaving Barcelona, with a handful of new friends, I’m quite grateful that I took heed to her advice.

When you get yourself outside of your comfort zone, you learn a lot of new things about what kind of stuff you’re made of. At least this was the case with me. I didn’t know until I put myself in the unfamiliar, the unknown, that I’m no longer holding resentments against people who get to go to college and get good careers and travel while they’re at it. That resentment was there for a long time. A good ten years at least. But, surrounded by 22-25 year olds on holiday from various Universities around Europe, I learned that I don’t have that resentment anymore. In fact, I like them and I’m quite sure that they like me. The ten year age gap doesn’t matter, nor does the fact that they’re drinking beer and I’m drinking soda or coffee, we are all just enjoying our time together and sharing stories of our travels. I like them all very much and am grateful for their company. Somewhere along the way, I forget that I haven’t known them for more than 24 hrs and am almost shocked at how quickly we’ve bonded. What shocks me the most is how comfortable I am with these new friends of mine I am. Usually around a group of educated people, I feel less than, unworthy, etc. But I feel confidence, self-worth, and acceptance for the decisions that have gotten me to the table full of Paella that we share in Barceloneta. Just thinking of it kind of makes me want to cry. It feels like only yesterday that it required at least three drinks to get me to feel anything that like the confident, capable woman that I’m figuring out I am. I know she’s always been hiding inside. I’m just so grateful she didn’t disappear forever. And I’m grateful for those that have been guiding me to her.

Anyway, it’s obvious that Barcelona was a great success. In reality, I didn’t see very much, but I feel like I saw quite a lot. Yesterday was packed full of adventures, including a free walking tour of the Gothic Area. Lots of neat, interesting things to see on that little tour. I did the tour with two of my new friends, Julian and Dan, and the three of us had lunch at a cafe after the tour was over. I had the most divine salad of my life at that cafe. I pretty much can’t stop thinking about it, it was so good. Fresh tomatoes and olives, with a a slice of creamy goat cheese that was cooked on top, like creme brulee. It had this amazing sweet, crispy crust that was so delicious with the tomatoes and olives. Very unusual and super delicious. After lunch, I met up with another one of my new friends, an American named Cecil. He and I took the bus up to Parc Guel to see some of Gaudi’s work. It was a great way to spend the rest of the daylight hours…great views of the city, lots of neat stuff to look at, good photo ops, and great people watching. I wasn’t really all that impressed by what I saw of Gaudi’s work at the park, I was more impressed by the view of city and too busy trying to warm up. I had planned on following Cecil to La Sagrada Familia after we left the park, but I was too cold and needed to go rest my feet. So glad I chose to do that because I more than likely would not have gone inside the Cathedral today if I had gone with him, and the inside of that Cathedral was the most impressive piece of art I’ve ever seen. I ended up getting the guided tour, which is not something that I usually do, but I’m so glad I did today. I learned a lot of stuff about Gaudi’s life and where he got his inspiration. I felt more connected to him after listening to the guide and I felt a strong bond with what he envisioned with this magical work of art. I wish I could have spent more time there, but I had to rush to catch my train. The idea of seeing it completed would absolutely bring me back to Barcelona. That would be magnificent. It is not projected to be completed until 2023. So crazy.

I’m currently riding a packed train through the Spanish countryside to Seville. The lady in front of me has a baby that won’t stop crying and the lady next to me took my window seat and her phone won’t stop beeping, but nothing is really bothering me that much because there is an outlet so I can charge my Ipad, while I listen to music and get some of these feelings out. What is that thing I heard once? “When you’re full of gratitude, there is no room for resentment”?Yep, it’s true. Not much could ruffle my feathers right now. I’m so excited to get to Seville. I’m going to eat the hell out of some Tapas and see what else comes my way. I know a long bike ride is definitely on the agenda. I’ve been eating whatever comes my way and I’m scared about how I’ll be feeling once I get on the beach in Portugal later this week. Also, my feet will probably enjoy the break. I cannot believe I’m only three nights into this trip. I still have two weeks ahead of me! So rad.

La Bonita Barcelona.

Oh, where to begin? I feel like there are words swimming around inside and I don’t know how to get them out. I’m inspired and overwhelmed. Barcelona is a wonderful city and I’m falling in love with it. A little bit sad that I haven’t seen much and that I’m leaving in two days. I feel like there is still so much to see, and yet, I’m completely okay with how I’ve chosen to spend my time. Yesterday, I was able to navigate my way from the airport to the area that my hostel was in, with no complications. No beds were available for last night, so I left, disappointed but not defeated. I ended up finding a cafe, where I enjoyed some free wifi, cafe con leche, and a croissant. I found a hostel with a bed available on eurocheapo.com and then headed that way to drop off my stuff. I was struck by how easily I was navigating my way through the city on the metro, but then it occurred to me that I’ve been on public transit in a lot of cities now, and should be able to read a map and find my way. My, how we change. There was a time when I relied on those around me to help me find the way. I think it took me a good solid three years to be comfortable finding my way around Chicago. That wasn’t that long ago, either. Strange. These days I’m pretty comfortable finding my way in new cities, which is a blessing and I’m thankful for that comfort on days like today. Anyway, found my way to my new hostel, dropped off my bag, and set off on an adventure.

I don’t know what I imagined this trip to be like. Well, actually, I imagined that everywhere I would go people would find me interesting and want to spend time with me. I pictured myself rolling up at the hostel and making friends immediately. Not the case. My hostel was empty when I arrived, and so I spent an afternoon by myself. Later than evening, I did have a good conversation with the girl working the reception desk. She gave me some insight on what to expect on my first night in Barcelona and did her best to point me in the right direction. It was pouring when I left my hostel, but I found an umbrella pretty quickly, and made a friend moments later. I spent the evening following him around, not really doing much of anything, besides laughing at each other’s attempts to speak one another’s language. We parted ways, with the promise of meeting up the following night, but I’m not going to try and meet up with him and I doubt he’ll be there either.

My first thought this morning when I woke was of my friends back home and I began to miss people, so I went to where I know I’ll always have a friend. I found a Big Book meeting ten minutes from my hostel and found other travelers like myself, but from Sweden. Also, several locals and a dose of serenity. Just what I needed. We went for fellowship afterward, which I’m so grateful for, because I made a friend, and we spent several hours this afternoon exploring. She encouraged me to rent a bicycle and we headed over to Las Ramblas to explore it’s many secret passageways. It was wonderfully sunny for a bit, but the clouds came in and the rain came down, and so we tucked ourselves away in a cafe and enjoyed some tapas and conversation. It was a lovely day and it gave me the strength that I needed to make it through another night alone in this city. Also, it was SO awesome to ride a bike in Barcelona. I want to ride one in every city I go to on this trip and I would not have rented one here, had it not been for my new friend.

I moved hostels today and now I’m staying at a hostel that is the exact opposite of the one I was at last night. There are 150 beds in this hostel, an indoor pool, a gym, an outdoor pool, and a terrace with a bird’s eye view of La Sagrada Familia. There is a bar, a pool table, and lots of rowdy foreigners. I’m guessing it gets pretty crazy in here at night, so I’m sure tonight will be an interesting experience. Hopefully I’ll make a friend or two.

So far the worst part of this trip has been my packing job. I did not pack nearly enough warm clothes and I wish I had packed my damn tennis shoes. There is a gym at this hostel and for some reason a run sounds amazing right now. Oh well. I’m gonna drink coffee and eat chocolate instead. What a life.