If three years ago someone had told me that in April 2020, we will be living on a situation of enclosure, I would have never believed. Living confined with no human contacts sounds even now unreal. On the bright side, this current situation has given me enough time to travel back in time to record a moment when I had a chance to travel around Europe during an entire month all alone, enjoying a time of freedom that now more than ever I reckon it priceless. So, today be my guest in this trip in old and crazy memories.
Having lived in Dublin for more than a year working as an Au Pair and a Caregiver, I had finally saved enough money to finance my modest Euro-trip (5 countries and 8 cities), sliding from a hostel to another, traveling overnight, saving money here to spend there, but enjoying every single moment. As a Brazilian search of its origin, my trip started in Porto. It was as if I had just traveled all the way to back Brazil as similarities between both countries were just undeniable. More particularly between Porto and Rio de Janeiro. Of course, the latter has historically being designed on the influence of Portugal architecture when royal family settled in Brazil in 1808.
Back in 2017, the sky was pale blue and the sun shining and burning giving back to me my original skin color (lost in the freezing cold Irish weather). I remember that the first thing I did on my very first morning there was to walk down to a bakery to have a breakfast much alike to Brazilian one: bread and coffee with milk, exactly the way we can get in my hometown, the “Pingado”. What a coincidence! I certainly felt back home when noticed men “hitting on me” on the street. In most countries in Europe, this does not happen, but Portugal is different.
Portugal is like Brazil (or vice-versa). Funny enough, it was tough to communicate in Portuguese. First, because I was no longer used to speaking my mother tongue. Secondly and probably the main reason, I could not get around with their accent (again, maybe it was me with an accent). Anyway, the Portuguese speak English well enough as it is a highly tourist country, so we got along availing of another common language (other than ours.)
In Portugal, I visited Porto and Lisbon where I got to taste the famous Wine of Porto, Red and White Sangría, savoring their wonderful Cod Fish (we eat it a lot in Brazil as well) as well as the “Pastel de Belem”. I also got to make some friendships, one with the owners of the accommodation I was staying in and two other Brazilians whom I bumped into during one of these free city tours. I remember spending a whole afternoon walking with them around the city and afterward sitting down to listen to one of them playing the guitar and singing along extremely well. It is interesting how we get to know people as rapidly as we have to leave them behind. Now, all those people that I met during that trip are no more than a shadow in my memory, like the ones that come and go in the hot summer weather only to make sure they have marked their presence on the day.
From Portugal to Spain
After Portugal, I drove my way to Spain. The adventure started even in evening of depart when I missed the bus and got a lift from a Portuguese family. It was so embarrassing and frustrating when the bus left me behind even after seeing me arriving. The problem related to miss that bus was that I would not have a place to sleep in the night. However, a family seeing what happened came to help me. They drove me all the way to the next bus station to make sure I will arrive there before the next depart. I still remember that night with great joy. A joy to know that we are never lonely, there are kind and generous people (or angels) to come in our help, whenever we need.
I arrived at the hostel in Madrid so earlier that I could not even check-in. Dead like a zombie, I took a shower, put some make-up on and… First thing first: I made a friend. I met this German Brazilian boy who had just check-out and invited me to have breakfast, as he had a few hours to kill before his departure. We went to a place very close to the hostel where I tried for the first-time real tacos.
In Madrid, I shared a room with two German boys. These are the great things about traveling alone. We never know what to expect and we have to adapt in every single situation. Although it was not comfortable to see myself lonely with two boys, soon I got used to it. They were younger than me and were surprised to know I was coming from Brazil. We became friends very fast. Soon we were going all over Madrid, taking crazy funny pictures, making picnic, drinking beers on the park (life is risky) and parting all night. I felt very young. What a great feeling!
Off the table… as they enjoyed some “herbs”, I got myself a pack of cigarettes. Of course I did not know what to do with it, as I do not smoke, but I did not want to be left out. Shame on me! Funny anyway! I used to cough more than anything, imagine this nowadays?
“It was too good to be true”. Terror then arrives!
All that peace and happiness were suddenly interrupted! On the 17th of August, we learned that in Barcelona had been a target of a terrorist attack, which killed 13 people, living 100 more injured. It was shocking. My family and friends texted me to know if I was well, but honestly I did not have an answer, since one on the following day I should be taking a bus towards Barcelona. Some people told me that after that event the city would be more secure than never. Even being petrified, I kept with my plans and went.
However Fear was the only thing I felt on my very first day there. I do not remember seeing any beauty, any building, anything that could make me differentiate Barcelona from anywhere in the world. The only thing I can recall was the feeling of constant anguish and apprehension shaking on my stomach every time I saw a car, a truck or any other means of transport accelerating (Imagine how many times I felt this).
Despite being afraid, I was a tourist, so I tried my best to behave as one. I ate great food, tasting the paella and Spanish wine, I went to the main tourist spots, including the “Place Las Lamblas”, where the terrorist attack took place. I took pictures, even though having my hands all shake-up. Nevertheless, there is always a point when we have to make choices and those choices define who we are or who we wanna be. So, there it came the night and I thought to myself, should I stay or should I go (safely home or go parting all night?).
In 2017, I was only 26 years old. Being there in Barcelona it was not an easy achievement for me. It came as a result of hard work, perseverance and many dreamy nights and days. Then, I reminded myself of the old sailors in Time of Navigation. The ones who left their home to conquer new lands, facing the unknown and its mean companions such as hanger, diseases, lack of water and battles. Was not me one of them? but now a modern one equipped with a way more resources, such as a mobile phone with google maps, money (card and cash), and an appetite to dive into the night after a hard day in the jungle? Well, having made my calculations and I decided to go party and at midnight there was I at a club called Opium Barcela ordering a overpriced drink alone, but not for so long (Let’s keep this for the next article).
If you are looking at knowing how I faced my fear of terrorist attacks to appreciate such a beautiful place, keep an eye one here @broadenabroad
For now? What about you…How do you face your fears? Do you remember where you were 3 years ago?