A journey through a land of contrasts and beauty, progress and wild nature, creative cities and savage beaches. Algarve, Lisbon, Peniche, Nazarè, Porto, the itinerary of an autumn that felt like summer.
Portugal, 03 January 2018Some days in life feel sweeter than others.
Portugal and I started off on the wrong foot. I went through a long and heavy series of unfortunate events.
At one point my friends from Rome were telling me just to leave Portugal: "Keep going straight north and get back in Spain, some places just give you negative vibes."
I was very close from fleeing away.
I decided it couldn't be. I wanted to stay. I wanted things to work out.
So I waited, and when I did, everything else got back into place. Days were again sweet, sunny and smooth, the people I met warm, pleasant and kind, the places I've been felt like home.
I spent two months driving up and down from the southern coasts of Algarve to the northern cityscapes of Porto, enjoying every bit of my time there.
I entered the Portuguese border in mid-October.
I know Portugal is crowded in the summertime, but still warm and cozy with plenty of waves to surf in autumn, so I decided to avoid the big crowds and roam there when fewer people are around, the vanlife community shrunk down to a few road-warriors, and the lineups are a bit less busy (oh well...). Apparently, we were lucky and gifted by a late summer weather, persisting over our heads all the way down to mid-December. Nights would still get cold, but daytime would burn warm and bright.
Driving around I kept running into other travelers.
Some people were there for months, some just for a few days, most came for a short weekend break during the summer and ended up giving up their jobs and moving here for years. Many girls traveling solo with their vans, young couples, digital nomads, entrepreneurs, artists, families, yoga instructors, and a few hippies. Vanlifers compose a vast, diverse and creative traveling community in which a lot happens, many people come, go, and meet again, gatherings blossom spontaneously and loosen with the same ease.
In this eclectic landscape of people, places, and smiles, I found new friends. I found peace. It felt so good I almost didn't want to leave anymore.
This made me think back to a couple of years ago when I just bought Jumbo, my Van, and to a year later when I finally sold my house.
I was free, but that freedom had a bitter aftertaste.
I felt like a kid who just bought a brand new toy, but there was no one around with whom to share.
I had to cope with contrasting feelings: freedom and loneliness, what was right, and what is commonly accepted, comfort and adventure.
It was not easy. Some days felt terrible. Some days I cried.
I am glad I resisted back then. It made it possible for me to overcome all the tough shots Portugal threw at me in the very first week.
I lost my brand new surfboard on the road to Lagos, spilled a full glass of water over my MacBook in Porto and made it unusable, broke a tooth, got fined by the police in Nazarè, got into a nasty argument with some sexually-challenged locals in Ericeira.
Sometimes all you have to do is sit back and do nothing at all.
And that is how it went. That's how I got to enjoy this wild country of contrasts, where I could space from the progress of advanced cities to the emptiness of the golden coastline, playing, surfing, jamming, working, exploring, mingling, loving, celebrating life.
Margot (my dog) almost got killed by food poisoning. That day doing nothing was not an option, I had to run to the vet. Luckily she had a slow but healthy recovery.
In the end patiently waiting rewarded me. I finally felt a part of something.
Surfing, eating local foods, exploring and mingling, Portugal provides it all
I could easily drive around from creative ghettos, to savage beaches and desert roads. Portugal is a land of contrast and beauty
More photos of Portugal
Note of shame
PS To the Ericeira "locals": chasing off girls from the beach is not the most masculine act, but trying to beat up a guy for long 10 minutes, 7 on 1 - a few of you in their 50s (and that fact alone is already sad) - and in the end, after all that punching in the face, kicking, strangling... all you caused was just a bruised knee???.... Well, that beats the podium of lame!
The Ericeira community is nice, too bad just a few bad apples who miserably failed in life are there to ruin the vibe.