Obrigada, Portugal

For someone who wants to travel the world, I am not as adventurous as I’d like to be. I admire those who don’t think twice before visiting a new place, those who are open to traveling to basically anywhere. In contrast, I have priorities. I have a selected list of countries I’d like visit during this semester; Portugal was not one of them.

The night before I took an 8-hour bus to Lisbon, I was hesitant about it, to the point that I almost fell asleep and missed the ride. Visiting Portugal meant stepping outside my comfort list of places to visit, to drift away from my priorities, which is something I’ve never been comfortable with. The free spirit in me decided to embrace the fact that I was traveling with almost 100 strangers and some friends for four days, sleeping in hostels, showering in communal bathrooms and partying until 4 am every day. I’m glad it did.

After 8 painful hours, we finally reached Lisbon. A beautiful bridge led us across the Tagus River to reach the center of the city. The next few days were followed by visits to the Torre do Belem, Jerónimos Monastery, São Jorge Castle (where we got to see one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s inventions in full motion), Peter IV square and a few nightclubs. Afterwards, we departed to Oporto, a city north of Portugal, known for its wine production.

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At Jerónimos Monastery

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It was in Oporto where I finally realized what was going on in my life. I was having fun, plain fun, adventurous fun. I was trying new foods (like Francesinha and Pastel do Belém) like I never do and the idea of showering in communal bathrooms didn’t make me cringe. The thing is that being  a 20-year-old journalism exchange student isn’t as glamorous as we all picture life in our 20’s. There are no first class flights, chic apartments or life-changing job opportunities. Instead, we have the chance to make the best of it all by traveling to new places to discover the beauty of the world around us, to meet new personalities that will become part of us, to embrace adventure in its purest way.

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Pastel do Belém

As I stood on a hill atop Oporto, with the entire city to my feet, I understood that I was meant to be there at that exact time with the people I was with. Nothing happens as a casualty. We travel to places because we are looking for something, for ourselves. I found a part of me in Portugal and carried it with me back to Madrid. Obrigada, Portugal, you will always be with me.

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A gay man trapped in a woman’s body (my roommate Raiza) and I in Oporto.

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