I hadn’t even intended to go to Lisbon.
I had a rough idea of where I wanted to go, on this trip, with the bulk of it being Spain, but my friend Glenn Patscha (he’s a great professional musician who plays with Ollabelle and The Big Bright, among others (including Marc Cohn and Sheryl Crow)) recommended that I check out Portugal since I’d be nearby.
It was an amazing suggestion. I had no idea what to expect from Spain. I knew what I wanted from it, but didn’t know whether it would deliver.
With regard to the sights and the food, it certainly did. With regard to the people, they were way less warm than I’d hoped. Of course, there have been exceptions; I’ve met some amazing people in Spain. Few of those folks were native Spaniards, however.
Portugal, however, delivered all the things I’d wanted to find in Spain. Sintra is one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been. Probably the most. Petra previously held the top spot, but I’d been there 15 years ago and, while it was cool, I think it held on so long only because I had barely traveled since.
My Airbnb hosts were Italian, and I met two French girls with whom I’m now traveling to Porto, so I didn’t really have much interaction with native Portuguese, but the relationships there were for me have been some of the best of my trip, so far.
I have to admit that a lot of the Portuguese with whom I interacted were not vert cordial, but I think that was because they were either train, bus, or service industry employees. I’m interpreting the amount of contempt that I received to be a general disdain of tourists, but maybe it was me specifically. I suppose it’s possible. Maybe I made it worse because not only could I barely speak any Portuguese, many people couldn’t speak English and so I tried to use Spanish, which caused some folks to bristle and others to intentionally speak so that I couldn’t understand their replies.
Portuguese is really intelligible if some will speak clearly to me. But if someone wants to be difficult, it’s easy to make it impossible to understand. I knew North Irish guys in college who would do this: they had their international voice and their local voice, and no outsider could discern the latter.
My hosts were amazing. So friendly and accommodating. I had such a miserable experience in Madrid with that Airbnb; the hostess refused to even make condiments available but, in Lisbon, Max and Aki could not have been more generous. I felt truly welcome and not merely like an ATM. In fact, I had such a good time that I booked an extra night. I’d never done that before. Part of it was so that I could travel with the French girls to Porto, since we were all heading there anyway, but if I hadn’t felt so at home I probably would have headed to Porto alone, as originally planned.
My Airbnb experience in Lisbon has really cemented that I can feel at home anywhere, so long as I feel valued and am comfortable. Borders don’t matter. I can learn any language. I just want to be in a pleasant, livable environment and to matter to people. It seems really simple, but I’ve really only ever found either people or places that I’ve liked and rarely did they coincide.
I still haven’t found a home but, in Lisbon, I did find somewhere that felt like it could be a satisfying possibility.