This morning I woke up at 12:49 am. I was abruptly awoken from a not so deep slumber by the guests upstairs returning from what I gathered was a night on the town. Those days for me seem less fleeting that I suppose they should considering how long ago it was.
The floor above must have been carpeted or otherwise insulated because once the door's latch insured they were home for the night I didn't hear another peep out of them. It was almost as if they stepped into a portal to an alternate universe.
Unfortunately for me the damage had been done. For the next 3 hours I tossed and turned trying desperately to find the right position, temperature, and clarity that would allow my consciousness to surrender to my impossibly heavy eye lids. Only it wasn't my body those kids awoke but a seemingly ceaseless marathon of ruminating thoughts.
I remember years ago when I worked briefly as a caterer in Syracuse, New York while going to school. I'd taken the job to earn back the $700 a friend loaned me to get my first professional headshots taken. I was 20 and didn't particularly want my folks, who were shelling out thousands upon thousands of dollars for a private school education, to know I longed to one day grace the stages of the Barrymore and Shubert theaters on Broadway. All this to say my little photo shoot stayed between my friend and I.
As I sat eating during our break I struck up a conversation with a gentlemen who was likely in his 50s. He'd been away from his Central New York roots for many years and had recently returned. The catering job was a way for him to gradually get his footing before figuring out what to do next; a sentiment I'd grow all too well to appreciate in the years to come.
"I been all over the world," I remember him saying. "What have you learned?" I asked. He paused before picking his words carefully. "Your problems follow you wherever you go,"he told me. I can't recall a word we said afterwards, if any, and would be hard pressed to describe him to a sketch artist, but for whatever reason I never forgot those words. I suppose it's because in the 44 countries I've visited his theory remains infallible.
Just as travel is not the answer to enlightenment it is also not the antidote to one's woes, however small or complicated. Travel can offer a megaphone to the voices within that we so skillfully silence in our day-to-day lives when feeling isn't convenient.
Because you have time to really think when you're abroad, you can begin to take inventory of where you've fallen short in upholding your core values, family responsibilities, and anything or everything in between. It is difficult work but important work. It's also so so worth it. For on the other side comes perspective, and if we make room for it, growth.
Thankfully, I still managed to catch my train to Porto. After I found out the hard way Rossio Station wasn't in the habit of having trains run to the city up north as a website indicated, I promptly hopped into a second cab, the first one's receipt still in my hand. I set out for Santa Apolonia Station later realizing either terminal could have been reached by foot from the flat I was staying at.
But now I'm here and that's worth celebrating. Someday I won't be here, or anywhere for that matter. I intend to enjoy my time here no matter what burdens fill my mind. Travel, like life, is all so fleeting.
We have to enjoy it while we can.