Olá from a guesthouse in Portugal, where I am currently sitting with my free coffee and tea, content with my discovery that the Portuguese do in fact make excellent (and strong) coffee, watching the other guests do various backpacker-y things like eat the complimentary cornflakes or charge their phones. One girl seems to be revising for a language exam: interesting. Also interesting: I had forgotten how glad I used to be for free laundry options in hostels – and accordingly, have revisited that feeling with great affection.
I am in Portugal for a wedding, which happened three days ago, a beautiful affair that was the cumulation of a student romance I was brief witness to in Stuttgart, Germany, 5 years ago. How time flies. After the wedding Shane and I have continued to traipse across Portugal since we are already in this part of the world, a strangely nostalgic remake of our time traversing the cobblestones of Europe as broke students all those years ago, dragging suitcases, drinking cheap wine, getting fat on fresh seafood. The difference is we are older now and our bags heavier, and we are more afraid of the unknown, I suppose. Or perhaps it is just me who is afraid. Not a crippling sort of fear, but a more adult awareness of the ways things can and may go wrong, a tenseness in my lower back that now never really goes away (correlation? to a newfound love for massages back home), and a kind of ache for the more gung-ho innocence of youth. Is this something that happens automatically as you grow older, I wonder? Or is this new wariness a by-product of the specific way the world has changed in recent years, and the lightning rod speed at which international conflict is wrapped up and delivered to us in our own remote corners of the world?
Who knows. The fact is that people have been so good to us on this trip – reuniting with old friends has been excellent, as always, making new friends who surprise us at every turn with how generous and kind they can be, also, the open helpfulness of people we meet in hostels, guesthouses, shops, and etcetera. So there is no concrete rationale for worry and also I am understating how incredible and beautiful the country has been thus far. Each interaction I have unknots a little of the fear in my belly and reminds me that I cannot allow a vague worry originating from increasingly hysterical international news to box myself into a smaller world. We cannot change the overarching sentiment of the world but perhaps in our own local ways we can weave a friendlier one, unseen and unmappable, but blended into the experience of each destination through our touch and speech and breath. Maybe part of travel is allowing that unseen world to move us too.