Reflecting on my recent stay in Porto, I am reminded of the core of travel; reaching outside of yourself to find something deep within. I loved my Airbnb, feeling a part of the neighborhood scene, and settling into my temporary new home. With the exception of the incessant dog barking out my window, I was convinced I had found the perfect spot. Being across the Douro River, helped in feeling a true local.
What can I say about Porto that hasn’t already been said, it is quaint, charming, vibrant, colorful and romantic. My tour guide to Aveiro said it best when he explained Faro music. The signature music of Portugal, “I think the Portuguese people are nostalgic, melancholy and a little bit sad.” He also said that he felt that the Portuguese were very tolerant people, and welcoming to integrating people that were not from their culture. I would agree with Bernardo.
Porto is a little bit magical; its cobblestone streets, relaxed way of life, incredible scenery and sunsets that seem to last for days. As with many places I travel, I am usually lucky enough to find a place that draws me back in time and again. I found such a place in old town. Just a few minutes into my walk, I saw the little café. There were a couple of worn tables out in the front, its scene light and airy, with a warm vibe. Immediately transported into another world, I entered. The tasty treats displayed in a long glass case, beckoning me to try them. I settled on a glass of wine and burrata salad, heavenly. I had found my “local”. While some may say that trying to plant yourself in a new place is counterintuitive to travel, I heartily disagree. The ability to relax and assimilate to a new place, even if for a short time is the essence of being a traveler and not a tourist. It allows a person to feel a place for its lifeblood, and glimpse into its soul.
I would happily travel to fewer places, spending more time, if it meant for a moment, I could become part of the culture. In turn, those experiences nestle in your heart, stay with you, and become part of your own soul. It is a priceless return on the investments of travel.