Scarily enough, I've been having a hard time finding time to blog and journal--is this what the real world is all about? Oh boy, this is going to take some more work on my part. I'm a few days behind, but better late than never? Rather than feeling totally overwhelmed by being behind, I'm trying to take it for what it is and do what I can. Deal? When’s the last time you’ve taken a bus from one country to another? For me, it was 4 days ago. Before that, never. Europe is great like that: you can take a plane, train or bus (or walk in the case of Gibraltar to Spain) from one country to another. That’s how Tyler and I found ourselves on an overnight bus from Sevilla, Spain to Lisbon, Portugal. While waiting at the bus stop, we met a couple, Johann and Rose, who were coming in from Majorca to Lisbon to see The Rolling Stones perform at Rocking Rio. (Wait, what? The Rolling Stones were going to be in Lisbon the same day we were heading there?! The wheels started spinning in our heads, but the concert was already sold out—it sold out in two days.) As we waited for our bus, we started chatting with our new friends and I think Tyler started a new bromance ;-) By the time the bus arrived and we boarded, the only two seats left were all the way in the back, smack dab in the middle. It was a tight squeeze but we settled into what would be our bed for the night and off we went to Lisbon! (Travel tip: overnight buses may be cramped and uncomfortable, but it’s not that bad. I would do it again as a solo female traveler as well—I felt pretty safe on the bus—though depending on the pair of cities you’re traveling to and from, it might be different.)
Earlier in the day, Tyler had booked a flight home for Thursday, after we got into Lisbon. Seeing as I didn’t have to rush back and given that I’ve always wanted to visit Portugal, I summoned all of my courage and made the decision to stay in Portugal for a few days and explore, solo. My immediate priority was to figure out a place to stay; enter Airbnb. I found a place in the city that had great reviews and fit my budget. Somehow through my conversation with the host I found out that he’s a surf instructor and he asked if I was interested in taking a class. UMM, HECK YEAH! Learning how to surf is on my bucket list (#45) and Portugal sounded like a great place for me get a taste and catch my first wave! Since I wasn’t sure when I was going to leave, I wanted to see if we could be flexible with my checkout date so I didn’t book the room before I boarded the bus, but was excited about the prospect!
We arrived in Lisbon just as the sun lit up the city, making for some great views as the bus pulled into the stop. After a taxi driver misunderstood our destination, we somehow made it to the hotel that Tyler’s friend, Mark, was staying at, with just enough time for the guys to catch up, room service breakfast, and showers before Tyler had to leave for the airport to catch his flight. Somehow in the excitement, his phone went missing. I’m crossing my fingers that it’s in the bottom of his bag somewhere but it might just be in the hands of a lucky cab driver instead L In the midst of the search for his phone and the clock ticking down the minutes to his flight, Tyler’s departure was a little bit chaotic, for which I’m thankful. I think if I had more time to say bye to the friend, teacher and sounding board that I had spent my entire trip, thus far, with, I probably would have cried.
With Tyler on his way to the airport, Mark and I were left to hang out. With some people, that could be weird, but when you’re associated with the Van Roden/Tell family (and they seriously only know awesome people—it’s pretty much a fact), it’s no big deal. Mark had to get all his stuff together and get ready for his meeting and I still had to shower and figure out what I was going to do in Portugal, so we had things to keep us occupied for a little while. Per the theme of this trip, plans change. At one point, Mark got stuck in the bathroom. It took 4 hotel employees, some tools and 30 minutes before he was freed.
After the bathroom excitement, we were definitely ready to get out of the hotel, but still had our own to do lists to get through. By the time I got online, there was some bad news waiting for me: the room had been booked. However, the host had a hostel recommendation for me: Carcavelos Surf Hostel, which was connected to his surf school. I’ve never stayed in a hostel by myself before—in fact, I’ve only stayed in a hostel a few times, ever. When I went to Ecuador for a volunteer trip, our group stayed in hostels before we were connected with our host family. The only other time was when I took students in a scholarship program that I manage on a trip to Seattle. During all of my experiences I was sharing a room with friends or in a private room. I love the idea of a hostel, but I’ve heard my fair share of good and bad experiences about them. Given that my options were limited, this hostel was recommended and it was all about the adventure, I, again, summoned that courage within and took a leap of faith. Worse come to worst, if it was horrible, I could pony up for a hotel room. Do it for the story, right? Right.
With my hostel booked, a fresh shower and the hotel room packed up, Mark and I were finally ready to explore what Lisbon had to offer. On the advice of the concierge, we headed to this area by the water that had some cool architecture and nice restaurants to eat at. The day was a little cloudy, but the sights were still a beauty. Lunch was tasty but it was the conversation that I appreciated most. Mark has some pretty cool stories—he’s from the Bahamas but has lived all over the world (currently Barcelona) and was doing some soul searching of his own. We spent the better part of lunch swapping stories and sharing our own personal revelations in hopes of helping the other. Lunch ended with some wine tasting in the square before Mark’s meeting. All in all, it was a great start to the trip.
Once Mark got in the cab for his meeting, it hit me. For the first time in 6 weeks, I was on my own. Um…uhh…ahhh…what was I doing?! I had a brief moment of extreme emotion (panic, fear, doubt, sadness) before I, once again, summoned the courage and calmness from within and told myself, “You got this.” The solo part of my trip had begun.