I can’t believe that I leave tomorrow. That’s insane to me. I’ve spent years waiting for other people to give me the time of day so that I could travel, and finally saying screw it and just going by myself feels like madness. I mean, I’m going abroad, for the first time in my life, by myself.
When I was a child, I flew a lot. My grandparents moved to Florida when my little sister was still really young, so I was probably about nine or ten when they left, which meant that we visited Florida as often as we could. Granted, we were poor, so that still wasn’t a lot, but my parents took me when I was a wee thing to Disney a few times, we went down for my aunt’s wedding, and we definitely stayed in my grandparents’ house at least twice. For the first twelve years of my life, I flew semi-regularly, and if I wasn’t flying, my parents were driving us all around New England, whether it was to children’s amusement parks or the zoo or to lake houses up north. But twelve was the last time I ever got on a plane, the last time I did much traveling at all, really. Sure, I drive up to Maine four times a year, and I hike in New Hampshire, and I drove eleven hours in one day to go to a yoga class in New Jersey one time, and I visit New York probably once a year for Broadway, but that’s really it.
And then, my best friend moved to California, and after she spent one birthday alone, I knew that I couldn’t leave her alone for another one, so I bought a plane ticket for the first time in fifteen years, and I went to the west coast for the first time in my life, and you know what? I should have expected this, but I love flying. I mean, of course I do. I love astronauts, I have an entire arm dedicated to space tattoos, and it’s the closest I’m ever going to get to space, so of course I love it.
That first flight out to California definitely started to put the bug in my head. If I could fly by myself to Cali, could I do it to other places? Back before the pandemic, when Jen & I were planning our UK trip, I would have to meet her in London, and the idea of it scared me, but I’d already flown across the country alone, so how much harder could it be to fly across the pond alone? It wasn’t long after that that I flew to California again, except this time I was meeting a friend I’d never met in real life before, and I just knew–if I could fly to Cali alone to meet an internet friend, then I could 100% fly abroad by myself, and maybe even travel by myself.
I can so remember the first time I texted Sara & Erin to say that I was thinking about doing a solo trip. Jen & my trip to the UK got postponed once, and then again, and then it was the year of her wedding, and I just–I’m so done. Sara got pregnant, and Erin didn’t have an interest in traveling, and I couldn’t fathom having to continue to wait for one of my only three friends to be available or for a significant other to come into my life who wanted to travel, so I just said screw it I’ll do it myself.
It started as a weeklong trip. I was going to visit the mainland, start in Lisbon and end in Porto. I wanted to visit the library in Coimbra to see where I’d written most of Freddie’s book, and Lisbon felt like a good, kind of easy, relatively familiar place to visit. I mean, I live near Boston, and I go to NYC regularly. Cities are cities are cities.
I think that weeklong lasted about a day? I hadn’t really thought about the Açores, but as I started searching of places to go in Lisbon & Porto, I kept seeing pictures of the islands, and it felt dumb to go all the way out there and not visit them. And so, I turned it into nine days. Three for each–Lisbon, Porto, Ponta Delgada. It didn’t feel like a lot of time, especially with how much I was trying to do, and I kept thinking about Madeira, where my great-grandfather is from, but the idea of nine days was already daunting, could I really do two weeks?
We all know what the answer is.
In exact days, I’m actually going for sixteen days. I leave tomorrow, and I return the first weekend of April, and I’m spending four days in each place. I’ll start in Lisbon, head up to Porto, fly out to Ponta Delgada, and see where my family began in Calheta. And yes, all of it, by myself. Not only will I get to see the castles in Lisbon and the library in Coimbra, but I’ll also kayak out to the Ilhéu de Vila Franca do Campo and hike across Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo. Sixteen days, four cities, two islands, and a hell of a lot of memories. And it’s only the beginning. Next year is Scotland, and then we’re off to Iceland and New Zealand, and the whole damn world.
Before I go, I wanted to quickly note what’s going to be happening on the blog while I’m gone! I’ve worked hard for the month of February to catch up on blog hopping and write as many posts as I could, so there will be no drop in activity here. My normal posting schedule of Mon to Thurs will still be happening, but with a fun Portugal flair. I’m going to be “live” blogging my journey, which really just means that you’ll hear about the Lisbon portion of the journey as I’m leaving Lisbon. My schedule right now for posts is:
3/31 São Miguel
I’ll probably be writing these either while I’m en route on a train or in an airport waiting for my flight, so I’m hopeful that they’ll go up when they’re supposed to. I’ll obviously also have some reflections posts after the fact, and there’s already been some Portugal posts on the blog up until now. There’ll still be plenty of book-related posts sprinkled throughout, so most of my content isn’t changing, but in case you wanted to come on the adventure with me, stay tuned! And wish me luck–I’m about to get on a flight that has three layovers for twelve hours, and it’s all going to be worth it in the end.