My Adventure to Portugal ~ Discovering the meaning of Saudades
To make the most of my jet lag, I have decided to write a summary of my amazing adventure to Portugal. I know over the next few weeks people will ask, “Hey Raf, How was your trip?”. Although their intentions may be good, it is often a difficult question to answer with a few sentences. As well, I can tell them to read this blog and if they are really interested, I can grab a coffee and chat about my adventures in greater detail.
The only thing worse than asking for a short answer, in my honest opinion, is when people say, “Oh you are so lucky to go traveling.” Actually luck has nothing to do with traveling. I guess I could be lucky if everything was paid for and I still generated income in my absence; however, that just means I work my ass off.
My adventure has been filled full of warm, caring individuals. I am happy to say, I have made a few life long friends; as well, I have been introduced to a brand new exciting world with a better frame of mind.
Before we begin, I was actually nervous that the backpacking culture has changed for the worse because of advancements in technology and the following blog I read right before my departure:
Fortunate for me, I did not find myself having a difficult time meeting new people in any hostel I went to. Sure, there were people glued to their smart phones and/ or laptops, but eventually most came around when a group dynamic was established (alcohol and food makes a huge difference). Traveling is definitely not for everyone, but I have been told on many occasions I have the Gift of the Gab, thus making it easy to bridge the gap.
The Meaning of Saudades ~ From the Spirit of a Traveler
There is no word in the English language that can capture the essence of the word ‘Saudades’. Often incorporated in the music form called Fado, Saudades is a deep desire to be with someone or something that is gone or their whereabouts is unknown, in some cases you can have Saudades for someone or something right next to you. It has been described as a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. It often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return.
At the end of every adventure I have Saudades for the places I have been and the people I have met (most people); however, this has been one of my best trips so far.
A great example of Saudades in music is Cesaria Evora’s song Sodade (same word different dialect from Cape Verde):
Even if you don’t understand Portuguese you can feel the emotion in her voice; however, I have also provided the English lyrics below to better illustrate Saudades:
Who will show you
this distant way?
Who will show you
this distant way?
to Sao Tomé?
The longing, the longing,
For this land of mine, Sao Nicolau
If you write me letters,
I will write you back
If you forget me,
I will forget you.
Until the day
You come back
At this very moment I have saudades for Portugal.
“Eu tenho saudades de Portugal”
Although growing up in a Portuguese household, visiting Portugal was a major culture shock for me. Travels are always different when you aren’t staying with family. I quickly realized there was a simpler way of life and it was upsetting to wait this long in my life to discover it. The Portuguese culture is heavily focused on community, eating well, and going at a relaxed pace. In a way I somewhat always knew this about my fellow Portuguese brothers and sisters, but I learn better by living it.
Growing up in North America, the stress of the Western world makes it easier to lose track of time. Weeks can go by within a blink of the eye and it seems as though this is the norm. Although, I had the time of my life, my short three week adventure seemed like it spanned over a life time. I am very grateful to meet so many cool and interesting people. Everyday was a different adventure. One day I am at a music festival listening to my favourite band (Radiohead is #1) and the next I am exploring medieval castles learning the history of Portugal.
The following are some of my highlights from my trip (a good mental note when you are about to ask someone how was their trip):
- Loving the cafe culture in Lisbon! Pasteis de Nata was a daily treat for me. If you don’t know what that is CLICK HERE
- Going to Optimus Alive to see Radiohead and becoming a new fan of several bands
- Making new friends at the hostel and experiencing Optimus Alive together
- Standing on top of Castelo Sao Jorge to take panoramic shots of Lisbon
- Eating Portuguese cuisine I have never tried or seen before
- Being the world’s greatest wing man for several individuals
- Learning to be patient and realize that everyday was Saturday
- Forgetting all my worries back at home and finding my voice
- Having a new appreciation for Port wine and realizing wine hangovers are the worst
- Planning adventures down the road with a few new friends
- Not being able to go over my daily spending budget (Everything is cheap in Portugal)
- Visiting my Uncle who I haven’t seen in almost two decades as well as having lunch with my family
- Appreciating the dining experience that involves meals spanning over a few hours where everyone shares stories and several laughs
- Buying a round for 6 people for under 10 Euros
- Learning the history of Portugal and realizing the diversity of my heritage and cultural roots
- Visiting Guimarães and Braga with great company, learning lots about Portuguese art and history from very knowledgable people
- Making Canada proud by beating the Americans on the board for beer funnels (of course I had help from a friend)
- Losing my voice at Three Monkies singing along with everyone in the bar all night
- Sharing personal stories one on one during long walks or on a patio
- Adding more people in the last 3 weeks to Facebook than I have in the last year
Wandering the private beaches of Lagos
- Seeing Fatima and walking the path of the Pilgrimage
I could keep going, but most people might not be as excited in reading this list as it was for me writing it. I will return to Portugal, and I may incorporate it into my travels next summer (2 weeks) while I explore another Europe country (or countries).
Although some might say I have a bias in this recommendation, but I highly recommend everyone to add Portugal to their list of travel destinations. Returning to Vancouver has been bittersweet, but I am happy to say I could easily make a home out of Portugal. Next item on my list is to apply for Euro Passport (should be easy to attain).
It is funny how life is, even though I am certain I will return, I may not make it back to Portugal. For that I have Saudades. This short trip has been a game changer in my life and I am happy to say I am richer from the experience. It wasn’t until I met up with my Uncle (closer to the end of my trip) that I truly understood the meaning of Saudades. His nostalgia to be back on the island he was born and his longing to be with his late wife was an emotional experience. Very real emotions invested in things that matter more than consumer goods and the pursuit of keeping up with the Joneses. It is rare to see such pure emotions here in North America.
To all those who were there with me during my adventure, I thank you for the great times. As well, to those who were kind enough to read about my trip, I thank you as well. For me, I will site this article over time to remind myself of the things I learned and the memories I gained.
Don’t wait until tomorrow to go traveling, as Brazilian author Paulo Coelho wrote, “One day you will wake up and there wont be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now.”