BATU, Indonesia. Photo by Jes Aznar

Friday, April 22, 2011

On Why I Love to Travel - (Letters from Portugal: Part Three)

LISBON, Portugal - There is nothing so refreshing in life as traveling and once again here in Lisbon, I again had the privilege to discover the foreign – from cinnamon sticks used in cappuccino to pristine white seagulls pleasantly hovering above me as I listened to the sound of waves smashing the rocks on the coastline of this breathtaking European country.

To me, to travel is to find oneself again, to be aware of everything one’s senses can take in, to marvel about the newness that the experience brings, to taste local dishes and grab ice-cold Sagres or Vino de Portuguese.

It’s about seeing things for the first time, to feel the crisp air, to watch the sun disappear into the horizon or see it paint the blue sky crimson as it rises in the morning.

It’s about watching pigeons in the plaza or learning how locals cope with the debt crisis. It’s hearing Portuguese music playing loudly on the bus or seeing little girls in pink jackets cross the street.

It’s about watching women elegantly stride the cobbled stone streets of Lisbon in their high-heeled leather boots and color designer scarves. It’s freezing from the cold weather in the morning or being roasted under the sun in the afternoon. It’s about getting wet in the rain at night or hailing a cab in the middle of a quiet street.

It’s about dining in the most fancy restaurants for more than two hours, as this is how they do it here for full-course meals. It’s about eating octopus salad as a starter and enjoying a small bowl of weird-tasting strawberry soup.

It’s skipping rice and (sleeping miserably at night because of it) for almost five days because people here simply don’t consider it as their staple food.

It’s marveling about the breathtaking postcard beauty of seascapes and rolling hills in the most western part of Europe in a town called Sintra. Or passing through old towns that reflect both medieval and Moorish architecture.

It’s standing on the edge as the sea breeze kisses your cheeks.

It’s sitting quietly on a monastery or in the water museum. It’s about capturing as much of the experience as possible through lens and words and sharing this with the beloved back home.

There’s nothing like being knocked off one’s feet by the joy of traveling and discovering everything foreign.

As noted travel writer Pico Iyer said: “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate.”

But the best part of going away is the comfort of knowing that after suffering from jetlag, crossing time zones, the bluest oceans and immigration authorities, there is always HOME to go home to.

(Photo credits from top to bottom: myself, Diana Lungu and Iwona Frydryszak)