07.09.14 - Lisbon, Portugal
We somehow managed to make it all the way to Lisbon, Portugal through rideshare programs – aka basically glorified hitchhiking. Our driver showed up in a large van with giant blue waves painted on the side. He was a quirky guy with a surfer dude attitude. For the entire 6 hour drive he blasted ambient music that resembled the type of music they play in a dentist’s office. He got so passionate about the sounds of crashing oceans and rainfall it was almost creepy. The entire drive we gripped one another’s hand tightly, hoping to god that this guy wouldn’t force us off somewhere and leave with everything we own in his trunk.
Luckily he turned out to be pretty cool and we made it all the way to Lisbon without a scratch. Arriving there in the early evening we immediately felt at home. The weather wasn’t great, actually it was a bit grey which was not usually our style. But the houses had funny colors and strange patterns on the walls. The people were friendly and spoke good English. The local food… was mostly salt cod prepared in different ways and we weren’t big fans. But other than that, everything about Lisbon felt like a home. Especially our accommodation: A large old-fashioned apartment with 5 different rooms all rented out. The owner and his wife basically ran the place like a classy hostel, cleaning and leaving goodies for their guests in the kitchen every day. There was even free traditional Port wine in the living room. Most of the other guests were French middle-aged couples. The living room had soft couches and an ornamented dining set all kept in dark wood. White lacy curtains were draped in front of the big windows opening to small French balconies and the chandelier soaked the room in calm yellow light. Opening the door to our room it greatly contrasted the rest of the place; on one side of the room there was a bunk bed underneath a window leading to the kitchen. On the other side an old broken cabinet looked like it might as well have been the entrance to Narnia. It was perfect for us. It was the cheapest in Lisbon and we never minded sleeping in the same bunk. If anything that brought back memories from when we initially met sleeping on the bottom bunk of a dirty hostel in Barcelona.
We couldn’t quite figure out what it was about Lisbon but it was like nowhere else. It had the laid-back Spanish atmosphere, a nightlife full of colors and chaos like in Rio, calm and friendly people like in Copenhagen and narrow streets with half dirty-half clean architecture reminiscent to Amsterdam. The weather was semi-warm and semi-cloudy which was my kind of weather, although Alex preferred a raging sun and extreme heat. Over all we picked up a strange mix of the southern European feeling of summer and the Nordic cool and productive vibe. In Spain you could look for hours for a coffee place that wasn’t closed for the siesta but in Lisbon small ‘hipster’ coffee shops popped up everywhere.
14.09.14 – Cascais, PORTUGAL
Knowing that we would be in Lisbon for almost a month we planned day-trips to beautiful small Portuguese cities. Among these were the old royal city "Sintra" which turned out to be filled with beautiful castles that all had an entrance fee of +25$. Luckily we had fun climbing the surrounding mountains instead. Cascais on the other hand, a small beach town on the south coast of Portugal, turned out to be one of the most memorable stops on our trip.
Conveniently overlooking all signs saying "Danger" and "Climbing at your own risk" we jumped the small wall next to a neat and clean road to make our way onto the coastal cliffs. Only after we were too far out to turn back did we realize just how dangerous our quest was. Jumping from one razor sharp rock to the next, deliberately trying to ignore the endless dark holes in between, I finally reached the edge. Stunned by the 50 foot fall below me I clenched onto the nearest rock, discovering that I was standing on a giant protrusion of the cliff. Afraid to move an inch out of fear that the rocks beneath me would crumble and throw me face first into the raging ocean I sat as still as possible. Adrenalin was roaming through my body as I as calmly as I could manage called out for Alex to not come any closer. Seconds later a wave crashed in. The mere force of the water created a sound as loud as thunder as the ocean culminated with the hard rocks. A 20 foot reversed waterfall appeared above me and the white drops spread in the wind only to fall back down like heavy rain. Blinking my eyes, completely awestruck by this vision, I found myself soaking wet. In a second all of my fears went away. I slowly got to my feet and looked out at the waters moving like a giant animal with the power to consume the world. I saw the next huge wave approach me and secured my feet in between a few rocks and spread my arms as wide as I could. As the blow of the water hit my face I felt my body being shaken by this unstoppable force of nature. Clenching every muscle in my body I held my position screaming out in happiness into this direct confrontation with raw nature. I'd never felt more alive.
18.09.14 LISBON - PORTUGAL
It had been exactly one year since I’d gotten lost in the small streets of Granada with a mysterious American. An entire year since we’d talked about taking chances while dangling our feet over a river outside a flamenco venue. So much had changed. Back then I thought I was going to backpack for a few months and then go back home to study and be a proper person. I could never have imagined that one year from then I’d find myself wearing my best clothes walking down an empty street in Lisbon about to celebrate that specific Granada night one year ago. In Alex’s case ‘best clothes’ meant an extremely wrinkly shirt and a vest with holes in it. He definitely looked like he was just trying to be cool and had gone with the grimy look on purpose, but they were really the most fancy clothes he owned. I wore a simple thin summer dress, something you could have worn for the beach, and my sandal flats. The big difference was that I’d actually put on make-up. As I had reentered our room after doing so, Alex had looked at me with a feigned stunned expression and said:
“Duuuude, you’re a giiiiirl!” while punching my shoulder.
We laughed and I felt a bit self-conscious about wearing make up – I knew that Alex honestly preferred me without it and I could feel him scrutinizing my face.
“No seriously Tama, you look so beautiful. It is so hard to believe that you can be so smart or such a badass sometimes and then at the same time you’re just so pretty. I almost forget that you are a girl. Not because you’re a dude, just because I forget that you’re human.”
“Thank you…” I said in a hesitant voice. I was about to argue against my ‘prettiness’ but fought the urge. He looked at me half in surprise that I’d actually taken a compliment for once so I quickly changed the subject to his wrinkly shirt and general griminess.
After walking around for about an hour we found a half-fancy looking reasonably priced gourmet burger restaurant that we liked. Sitting at the table after eating most of my burger (another first – getting two main dishes instead of sharing one) there was a pause in our conversation. I was looking at the walls made of sand colored rocks giving the room a rustic but modern look while absentmindedly touching both of Alex’s hands. I felt the contours of his fingerprints one by one and slid my fingers in and out between his in a calm slow dance.
“What are you thinking right now?” he asked me in a very familiar tone. Whenever one of us was clearly preoccupied with silent thoughts the other could never help but to ask that question. Most of the time we’d speak our thoughts out loud, completely unfiltered. Our conversations seemed like a single thought stream and might as well have taken place in one mind, one person sitting alone by the ocean wondering about the world.
“I was thinking how it is sad that all moments have to end.” I sat silently with emotion rushing through me, slowly stroking his hands again and again even though I wanted to scream and run and throw things around out of mere happiness and fear that the happiness would ever stop. Alex looked like he was digesting my words for a moment and was opening his mouth with a half pained expression when the nice waiter abruptly ended our moment. Sneaking up from behind he asked energetically if we liked the burgers. I blushed in surprise and embarrassment of how mushy this must seem and Alex quickly smiled widely and said in his ‘American voice’;
“Yeah, they’re awesome, thanks man.”
29.09.14 BARCELONA - SPAIN
I was starting to miss home. Not as in wanting to go home, but just little pieces. We had moved on to Barcelona, a one-week stop before flying to Turkey, and it was even better than we both remembered from the previous summer. So many things to do, people everywhere and various different areas to explore. The only minus was having to hold tightly onto our bags every single time we left the house. I loved the vibe of Barcelona, the exoticness and the excitement in the air. I loved the gypsy looking locals and the noise in the streets. But in all honesty it didn’t feel like a real city. The exoticness and excitement was due to an artificial beach, a fair and several markets all placed in honor of the plentiful tourists excitedly taking pictures of everything Goudi ever touched.
The laid-back hippie locals weren’t real locals either. They were students and slackers form all over the world, living in the party capital for a year or two. The actual locals were relatively poor and not very happy looking.
Nevertheless it was awesome to be back there, seeing the familiar places again, the setting of the beginning of our love story.
After two days Alex proclaimed loudly; “Oh Tama. Let’s just live here! Let’s move to Barcelona!” He had said the same thing about 4 out of the 7 places we had visited so far so I just laughed and agreed, loving the sound of it. Saying that kind of thing out loud gave me a feeling of lightness and freedom but in my heart I couldn’t help but actually imagining it and the idea made me kind of sad.
Barcelona felt too crowded, too unsafe and too unreal to be a home. Spain just felt too unproductive in general. So did all the other southern Europe countries. I couldn’t see myself moving out of Europe though… Oh wait. What was left? Nowhere. I couldn’t imagine sincerely feeling at home anywhere but home. Scandinavia.
I began to think I wasn’t a traveler at heart the way Alex was. What if we could never find a place for the both of us? I wanted him above everything else and I’d live anywhere he wanted I couldn’t have him any other way. But I could already feel myself turning uneasy, unsettled by the constant lack of security and familiarity. Unsettled by the constantly shifting bathrooms, kitchens, supermarkets, keys. One week we had to remember to switch the fan on every night and make a habit of turning the handle of the bathroom door the other way because it was broken. The next week had to sit on the floor in a hallway every time we needed Wi-Fi. That week we had to recycle the toilet paper instead of throwing it in the toilet because our hosts were hippies. That home, that week. I missed my own systems. I missed eating microwaved oatmeal with frozen blueberries… We lived off of chorizo sandwiches and tuna salads, occasionally cooking a frozen lasagna or pizza.
In the situation it was fun to figure out how to make a lasagna with only four ingredients and no oven, but on the longer run I really truly missed having a real home. Thinking about it just made it worse. Shaking my head I reminded myself what Alex always said: It is only when you are missing a place that you forget all the bad times and make it something beautiful and perfect in your head. I wanted to make new homes with Alex, and I hoped it would feel more like home once we settled down in Thailand for a while, once all the moving around slowed down a bit. I put a lid on the serious questions forming in my mind and forced myself to focus on the interesting street markets on La Rambla.