I have been rather neglectful of our travel blogs of late. Not because I don’t enjoy writing them. I do. But mostly because there is not a lot to report. Since we entered Portugal some time during January, we have drifted mainly from one fantastic beach to another. There is only so much one can write about surfing, sea-spray, crashing waves and stunning sunsets. Not that they aren’t all spectacular. They are. Portugal is a beautiful country – the west coast especially.
There’s just something about Portugal that I can’t quite put my finger on. I don’t know if it’s the scenery, the people or just a phase in our personal journey; but we seem to have lost all sense of time – almost fallen into an introspective state where every day morphs into the next. The rush to do everything and fill every second has passed us by. We’re happy to do nothing. I never thought I’d say that.
At the start of this trip, we ditched our watches and clocks. We spent so many years adhering to schedules, that a life without demands or expectations appealed greatly. These days, we are guided mostly by sunlight and darkness. The result is later mornings and earlier evenings. I guess, without the constant demands of an inbuilt schedule or timetable, the body takes over. Thinking gives way to feeling. Our bodies wake and sleep naturally. How strange that this basic principle has been lost in modern day living.
I can honestly say that I have no idea what day it is unless I seek to find out (which, is perhaps an improvement on the kids, who have no idea what month it is unless there is a birthday!). Of course, I’ve lost track of days before, but not in a good way – more like being stuck in a monotonous groundhog day of work, commitments and responsibilities. This time, it feels different. Liberating. Calm.
I think something more profound has happened in Portugal. I think we are changing. Or maybe we have already changed, but are coming to accept it. I don’t know. I feel that Chris and I are both in the process of something. We can see it in each other, but we can’t quite put our finger on it.
We started out on this trip with a lot of anger. Too much for any one couple. Despite all of the happy photographs over the last five months, the truth is, anger doesn’t dissipate easily. It’s a bit like grief. You don’t stop grieving. Each time you think of your loved one, you are overcome with a sense of loss. Anger is the same. Each time we thought of home, we were reminded of betrayal. We couldn’t separate the two. It made us fearful of returning, which in turn, made us desperate.
We were desperate for this trip to succeed. Desperate to make something happen that would enable us to continue. Desperate to maintain the distance between us and the hurt of the past. But you know, there’s a fine line between desperation and inspiration.
I think time, and this beautiful country, has helped us to relax, reflect, rationalise and perhaps reconnect with ourselves – discover the people underneath the varnished exteriors of our careers and past life. I promise, it takes an almighty life event and change in circumstance to dig that deep. What you find is not always satisfying. Being lost for answers is terrifying. That’s why so many people bumble along and keep going. This road is a road far less travelled.
Despite the fear and desperation, I feel like we are moving gradually closer to where we want to be and the people we want to be. A quiet acceptance is washing over us with every ocean spray. We cannot change the past (though I still wish I could put it right). We cannot forecast the future. As every inspirational quote will tell you; we must embrace the present, for it is the only thing we have.
I say it like it is easy. But do you know how hard that is? When there is a time limit on your present? When your immediate future is so uncertain? It’s a fanciful idea – living in the moment – but in reality – it is incredibly difficult to achieve. We don’t walk around with an imminent sense of mortality. If we did, money and future ideals would not feature in the present at all. As much as I hate to admit it, money does feed an existence. You don’t need a lot to be happy, but you do need enough to keep unhappiness at bay. Our inherent desire to survive and thrive has made living in the moment extremely difficult – even during this wild and capricious adventure.
The best I can say is that we are trying. With all our might. And Portugal has helped. The first four months were such a novelty, such a tonic, that we didn’t want to lose it. Now we can see that we were caught in a constant battle between enjoying every second of the best adventure we are ever likely to have, and worrying about the uncertainty of our immediate future, come Autumn. Mainly for our children rather than us.
Every hour spent exploring caves, towns and villages, was an hour taken time away from planning our future. We hop-footed between inspirational and foolhardy; torn by our desire to live in the here-and-now, and fear of losing this amazing dream. Because our dream came at the expense of great risk, not luck. When you take a risk as great as ours, you sincerely hope that they will pay off. You hope, with every passing month, that it is not a risk too far.
As I sit here writing, I have no idea where I am. I forget the town. I have no idea of the time. I think it’s Wednesday. I have nothing planned for the day. And it’s okay. I’m not going to beat myself up because I can’t decide whether to be in the moment or plan for our future. I think I will just focus on breakfast.
‘Che Sara Sara’ – Whatever will be will be. Strange, but I had that phrase tattooed on my hand years ago to serve as a constant reminder that I can’t force everything. I wanted it to be visible so I would never forget – and yet I still forget.
We can’t force this. If it’s meant to be, it will be. We won’t give up trying to change our circumstances, but we need to believe that the universe is bending to our will. If we are travelling the right road, it will work out for the best. We’re good people and we do deserve a little good fortune. Somewhere, something incredible is waiting for us. I can feel it.
Hope, after all, is the power of being relaxed in circumstances that we know to be desperate.