Finding Myself in Lisbon

Have you ever gone on vacation, and it was while you were actually on vacation that you realized how badly you needed that vacation? Well that’s me, right now. I’ve just woken up from a fantastic nap on day three of my world tour - first stop, Lisbon, Portugal - and I am just now realizing how badly I need this trip, and how much healing I’ve already gone through in such a short period of time.

When I think about my life recently, it’s been a struggle in all departments. Three months ago my relationship ended. In the past year alone I’ve dealt with numerous injuries that have limited my ability to meaningfully pursue photography and my favorite hobbies: a bad knee, two bad wrists, nerve issues, an ankle issue, back pain, and other small things that popped up in my efforts to regain my physical health. As I sit here writing, I still have tape on my ankle from my most recent physical therapy visit, I had to buy new shoes yesterday here in Lisbon to accommodate the nerve issue in my foot, and I still sleep with a wrist splint on and can’t carry or handle much with my left hand. And for the first time since I decided to pursue photography 1.5 years ago, I’ve started to question that decision and my future, and I’ve been fearful that I’ve made another wrong choice and that I will never find my path in life.

So it’s been tough. And leading up to this trip, it has felt like a light at the end of the tunnel so to speak, a bit of hope that I can get back on track. The most important element of this trip to me isn’t the traveling itself - I do love to travel, and I’ve done a lot of it, and it’s something I believe I’ll always be able to pursue in small doses. But the real value of this particular experience comes in not having a timeline, a deadline, an itinerary that’s dictating my experience, instead of my experience dictating the trip. Normally when I travel, I get to a city and I think to myself, “I have [X] number of days here, and there are all of these things I want to do” and then I sit down with a map and figure out how I’m going to cram it all in.

But that planning and that stress is something I don’t have to deal with now, and it has been so liberating. I didn’t even know I was going to start in Lisbon until I made the decision two days before my flight. When I got here, I knew very little about this city and the country of Portugal. I’m learning through experience and through the locals and tourists who are here. As I write this, I am sitting in the sun on my hostel balcony on a beautiful 78 degree day, typing this note on my computer without any FOMO or concern that I’m wasting my time, or missing valuable travel and cultural experiences that I won’t get another chance at. I’ve also taken hardly any photographs, and the photos I have taken have been with my point-and-shoot sized Sony rx100 v, photographing things that are interesting and fun, caring a lot less about the actual quality of the photo, and just letting my soul do what it needs to. I haven’t even pulled out my DSLR, which normally acts as an extension of my arm.

Even in such a short time, I’ve experienced so much that has been so good for my soul - this morning I walked with to a giant flea market across town with someone from the hostel. Last night I was out at the bars and met someone from Lisbon who I got to speak with in Spanish because that was the language we have in common. Yesterday morning I bought a banana and box of strawberries from a local shop for 1.79 euros, and didn’t realize I was also getting a family of spiders with the strawberries until I had almost eaten one of them. I’ve already become a regular at the Israeli-owned falafel restaurant around the corner. I’ve met really interesting people from at least 6 other countries, I’ve been writing a lot more, I haven’t even wanted to watch TV, and I’m relying more and more on my watch to tell the time and keeping my phone on airplane mode. And tomorrow afternoon I’m going to a jazz festival in a park, thanks to a tip from my hostel mate.

And because I’ve had the room I’ve needed to breathe, in less than three days, I’ve already gone through so much mental healing that I didn’t even know I needed.

I’m not sure what the rest of my trip has in store for me, and it will absolutely be an experience with hills and valleys, like anything else. But I have the flexibility to figure everything out as it comes, and to find the answers to who I am and who I want to be in the most liberating way. I feel like I’ve been trying to figure out who I am and what I want for so long, and I’m finally in an environment where I can find the answers to those questions - with every new hostel and every new city, I can reinvent myself and try different things on, until I find what fits. But that’s all for later - for now, I’m going to go drink some wine and possibly figure out how to get to the beach tomorrow. 

Até a próxima vez.

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