48 Hours to Land (in Portugal) – Part 1

by Savannah Wishart

From the archives // July 2022

When travel nudges you fully into the potency of the present moment.

When I travel, I give myself a 48 hour grace period. Within this period, I set my expectations to zero and prepare to for a wave of homesickness to wash over me, prodding me to jump on a plane home.

The problem with this feeling of homesickness, is that at this moment, and with the launch of this current trip, I have no home to return to. For the first time in years, I have no anchors to return to.

Less than three weeks ago, I purged a large amount of my material items in Stockholm (of which I did not have many to begin with) and packed what remained in my landlord’s storage. Somewhat spontaneously, I bought a one way plane ticket to Portugal, with less than 10 days to end the Swedish chapter of my life.

10 days.

It’s a period of time that can feel like it will never end as time stretches beyond the horizon; or a window that flashes by in the blink of an eye.

The closing of this chapter was not spontaneous. The entirety of 2022 has been a fluctuating limbo of transition, originally planning to move to Colorado in January. In February, that plan shifted, and I began to plan for a move to Italy. Finally, I would find my dilapidated farmhouse to build the training center of my dreams: a hub weaving together a functional fitness space, art studio, professional kitchen space for developing cookbooks, ample room for Shibari workshops, and leadership development for executives leaning into a holistic life. Mmmmmm, finally, I was taking this dream seriously.

As February unfolded into March and March unfolded into April, I planned and researched my jump to Italy. Amongst the whirlwind of preparation, I found myself avoiding buying the plane ticket. Everything else was coming together, but I was meeting resistance with this final commitment to action. You know, the slightly important action that moves you from Point A to Point B.

After almost half a year of shifting plans targeting where I was going next, the jump was inevitable. But where I would land took me by surprise. Thanks to deep somatic embodiment work with my coach, intuition directed me to learn to surf in Portugal.

Now here I sit, writing from a cozy cafe at the most southeastern point of Europe, 10 days after landing in Carrapateira and 7 days at a surf camp in Sagres. Both experiences have been an intense fluctuation between disappointment and heartwarming surprises that weave together something that feels like magic.

Now, let’s rewind to my first 48 hour grace period.

It was as I expected. With my first night in Faro, I wanted to jump back on the plane. Landing late and with my first booking in the middle of nowhere on the west coast of the Algarve, I just needed a bed to sleep in before beginning the real adventure in the morning. With that in mind, and for the first time in years, I booked a hostel. Just a bed, that’s all I needed. It was on the beach, and as I walked from the bus stop toward the sun setting over the ocean, I felt a full body sigh.

Ahhhhh, what have I been doing in Sweden all this time?

The ocean breeze washes softly over my skin – a texture so soft it matches the palette of pastel watercolors smeared across the horizon. The ocean, I’ve missed you. Not the same as the northern Baltic Sea.

But my enthusiasm faded as I stepped away from the boardwalk lining the Atlantic, and into the crammed walls of the hostel. Despite rules outlining “quiet time,” the night was punctuated by drunken laughter, talking, and inconsideration. It’s true that you get what you pay for, and in this case, I paid for a bed to sleep in. The bed, I got. The sleep, I did not.
I quickly saw my mistake – choosing accommodation from an old version of Savannah: an outdated programming in how I used to travel many years ago, which no longer matched who I am today nor the people I intended to cross paths with.

46 hours to go.

As I began my travels, I had an agreement with myself that I was not going to allow myself to work my brain into a stressed frenzy. This is one of the beautiful things about traveling with the world on your back and a loose agenda.

Travel nudges you – firmly and gently – into the fullness of the present moment.

When you have no safety net to fall back on, and you’re completely alone, stressing yourself into anxiety won’t get you anywhere. I promised myself to breathe deeply into myself and focus on the exact moment I was experiencing in current time.

This spontaneous, loose-end travel style creates spaciousness. When things feel they are falling apart, there is time to sit and breathe and gather your thoughts. If it’s needed, you can take a moment to press pause, research, and think of what needs to happen next.

Usually, things have a tendency to work out.

With that in mind, I told myself that I would take everything one day at a time. Today was the day to jump on a plane in Sweden, land in Portugal, and find my way to bed. Surely, covering 3,801 kilometers is enough. Tomorrow would be my day to figure out how to travel the final 110 kilometers. How hard can it be?

Apparently hard. Some kind of intuition nudged me to put the coordinates into my phone before falling asleep, and to my dismay, google maps informed me that it would take 15 hours with public transport. Time to shift my mindset. Tomorrow might be a longer day than planned.

As I attempted to fall asleep amongst chaos, my mind whirled and I decided that if all else failed, I would splurge and pay $110 for a taxi. Despite arriving with a loose intention to potentially hike the entire coast of Portugal from south to north, I had an extra bag in addition to my backpack, and had yet to consolidate the two bags into something that felt comfortable to carry.

Arriving from a period of my life that was infused with stress and exhaustion, the idea of taking a bus to a train to a bus to an I-don’t-know-what, sounded incredibly tiring.

38 hours to go.

Despite falling asleep with these feelings of trepidation, I decided that I would take the journey one leg at a time, and see where it took me.

First, I received a recommendation to take a ferry from the beach to the center of Faro (instead of the hot buses). With a short walk and a smoothie bowl at a small cafe called Papaya, I made it with plenty of time to the train station, where I met an American couple from Wisconsin.

Onward to Lagos.

34 hours to go.

When I travel, I tend to avoid Americans. But I’ve been an expat for long enough, and missing home for so long that I was more than happy to have company on the train. My temporary travel companions felt like a connection to home, and for almost two hours, I basked in a subtle feeling of familiarity.

32 hours to go.

With a quick stop in Lagos in search for a “survival amount” of groceries – and failing in my search – I wandered to the bus station and hopped on a bus headed toward Sagres.

My stop: Vila do Bispo, where I would find a Lidl and, hopefully, a taxi to take me the final 14 kilometers to the night’s bed.

31 hours to go.

Lidl is not my idea of quality grocery shopping. If there is something I am slightly ashamed of missing from the US, it’s grocery stores. Whole Foods, Sprouts, Trader Joe’s. I miss you dearly. This feeling is not exclusive to Portugal; I’ve been missing familiar grocery stores ever since beginning my life in Sweden.

But, alas, in this mode of traveling with my life on the back, I cannot be picky about where my food comes from. What a privilege that is! In moments like these, we zoom out of our life as we know it, to see what we have, what we miss, and what we truly value to have in the foundation of our lives.

We are gifted with clarity to see the things that we want and the things that we need; and the wisdom to identify the difference between the two.

So, alas: Lidl. Not knowing what I would find when I got to Carrapateira, I grabbed the most important essentials:

Apples, bananas, fruit & nut energy bars (wonderfully gluten-free), peanut butter, prosciutto, chorizo, 3 cans of tuna, and a tube of sport sunscreen.

29 hours to go.

Enough food to survive for a few days: successfully collected.

In addition to these basics, the entire top section of my backpack was filled with supplements. Most importantly: clean protein powder from Great Earth and collagen from Ancient Nutrition. You never know if, when, or where you’ll be able to find high quality supplements when you’re away from home. Accompanying my protein is rhodiola, mucuna pruriens, electrolytes, superfood powder, l-theanine, and chicory root powder.

Coming out of the shop, I opened the Uber app on my phone to request my final ride. And to my dismay, there was nothing to be found, despite my next host assuring me taxis would be aplenty. “Looking for drivers nearby” was endlessly spinning, and giving no results. I tried another app and still, nothing.

As my time unfolded in the Algarve, it became obvious that of course there are no taxis here; it is the middle of nowhere, after all. But the host of my accommodation in Carrapateira had told me it was possible. And I believed it.

She also told me that hitch-hiking is common and very safe. As I set my bag down outside of the store and endlessly refreshed my phone, I contemplated the idea of hitch-hiking.

I’ve never hitch-hiked before. I’m already so far out of my comfort zone right now that I want to avoid it at all costs.

Staring at my phone looking sad and lost is the price I paid; and in the end, it got me my ride.

28 hours to go.

But before I got my ride, a van pulled up that had the name of a surf school on the side. With my surf camp research, I recognized that this camp was not too far from where I was staying. Tired and emanating defeat, I asked if they had a spare seat. Yes, but the woman driving was responsible for her customers, so she couldn’t.

I offered to pay her and emphasized that I had been trying to get a taxi for 30 minutes, and had absolutely no luck. She agreed, went in to get her groceries, and just at that moment… finally, an Uber confirmation!

I hurried inside to tell her that I was fine, I would take the Uber. It felt like me and my bags required space for two, anyway.

And again, just as I walked out, a woman approached me: “Do you need help?

Her and her partner were driving, said that I looked stuck, and offered to drive me wherever I needed to go. I quickly canceled my Uber, with a €3 cancellation fee: absolutely worth it to connect with kind-hearted humans.

Taking every leg of the journey literally one step at a time was proving to be panning out in my favor – a reminder that there is power in trusting the universe to have your back. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 with the final 26 hours.

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