There we go again.
After what felt like forever, I’m on the road again. This time around though, I don’t really have a plan. Or rather, I had a plan, but it changed a bit along the way.
I’m currently writing from Lisbon, Portugal. It’s an amazing city which feels so safe and easy, in a way. I wouldn’t say that I feel crazy about it, the same way that I do with Roma, but I really feel at home. Like… comfy. No need to pretend, no need to try to impress anyone. Just being yourself, imperfect, like the city itself, yet unique and beautiful.
Lisbon is truly a masterpiece. It’s one of the oldest city still inhabited, which in itself is mind-blowing. And it’s a great example of resilience. It survived wars and revolutions ; the 1755 earthquake and its tsunami (and others previous earthquakes as well) ; and more recently, the devastating fire in Chiado’s neighborhood in 1988.
All of this resulted in a great unique mix of architecture that leaves you feeling like you’re in a painting yourself, or a movie set. It’s a living piece of art. Every street, every neighborhood, every corner has something special to offer…. ending in this modern fairy tale setting.
I don’t know if my mind is playing tricks on me but Lisbon really radiates joy. Not in a blissful, super-enthusiastic way ; but rather in a nonchalant way. People chose to be happy despite their hard living conditions and despite its heavy past. After all, democracy has only been a thing here since 1974. Also, Portuguese people work harder than what most French people do – and for way less money – but they still manage to find some time to chill and have a coffee or a ginjinha on a terrace with their friends.
This in itself has been really eyes-opening. I didn’t really know how much misery was present in this country until I arrived there. Maybe misery is a strong word… I don’t really know how to express it. For example, a lot of people here gain like a 1/3rd to 1/2 of the “normal” salary in France, but for 5 more hours a week ! Most of Lisbon’s workers can’t afford to live in town, so they either live around Cascais or on the other side of the Rio Tejo. The same is true for Paris ; most people working there don’t actually live in Paris or in the nearest cities : most of them live quite remotely and often have at least 1 hour of train, plus another 20-30 minutes of bus/metro/tramway to get to work. But the salary isn’t the same at all. Here, they can barely save up any money nor really do much except pay the bills.
So I’m really surprised by the overall strength that shines out of this city. Surprised and impressed. It truly makes you think twice about the difference in what is considered normal in a country that isn’t that far away from your own.
Apart from that point, I’m overall really happy here. Tomorrow will mark my 2nd week in the city already, which sounds totally crazy to me. It doesn’t feel like it. 3rd week in Lisbon coming up and I still have so much to see !
That’s partly why I have decided to stay longer here. My initial plan was to stay there until the end of May, then visit friends in Montpellier and Nice, then continue travelling.
But I’ve been thinking about it, talking with my volunteers friends and some of the staff, and we agreed that it could be a great idea to actually settle down here for a few months. There’s no rush, after all. Plus, in exchange for a few hours of work each week, I get to have a roof over my head & to be able to truly experience life in this wonderful capital.
My Portuguese is still very limited but I’m getting better at understanding (especially reading). Hopefully my brain will catch up soon – but in the meantime, I’ve been speaking English 24/7 with the occasional Spanish or French. That’s pretty cool ! I love being able to exchange in another language. And is there a better place to practice speaking lots of different languages than an hostel ?
By the way, I will make another article about this whole hostel experience so stay tuned ! I will also write one about my first week of travelling which led me to Paris, Madrid & Valladolid. And of course, a third one about those past 2 weeks in Lisbon 😉
Now, that sounds like a lot of writing to catch up with…I better get at it very soon !
Wish you all lots of love and peace (and sunshine) !