Portugal part two. On fear and confidence; learnings through solo travel

I’m relaxing in Ericeira with Sarah for a few days and it’s time to contemplate the bubble I’ve just emerged from and the months that have flown by, during which I’ve changed in irrevocably. 

This blog is about travelling and I’ve kept it to being a document of places been, but now I want to write about things learnt too. Whilst I write in my moleskine every day, this blog has become a great document of this adventure. 

If I were an animal, I’m the butterfly who started this trip as a plump pupae. Haha. But really, I feel like I popped out the chrysalis I’ve been nestled in for the past few years. I’ve got people and time to thank for that. I can count people on two hands who’ve changed my life on this trip. Whether it’s something they said off hand/in passing or the way they lead their life. I listened to a podcast and one of the key quotes I wrote was “the way you do anything is the way you do everything.” It’s so true. I’m learning to take experiences and people in packages. If I didn’t enjoy something and say it was down to x, what does that matter? It happened like that. Furthermore, people who have certain habits when they are feeling a certain way – it might be different to ‘them’ most of the time, but it is them. I am as much my flaws as my graces. Accepting that has been liberating. And insightful. I wish I could write this feeling more evocatively or clearly. 

In Odeceixe, I felt like I had no distractions. The place was miles from anywhere and the people were 100% zen. Despite this, there was such a surge of emotions from everyone. It was a strange microcosm of society, but a pretty chilled one. Everyone laughed. Lots of us cried. There were outbursts of anger and there were moments of pure vulnerability and humanity. It was so special. To the people I met, Freek, Remko, Heda, Ole, Bela, Gergo, Hillary, Marc, Tim and my two favourite girls, Ellen and Sarah, thank you so much. Life is different now. Better now. 

Podcasting has changed my life. This one  made me reevaluate so much. I spent my life seeking my passion, not knowing what it was and feeling disheartened because of that. Elizabeth Gilbert speaks about sewing a tapestry of experiences following your curiosity rather than following your passion if you’re confused as to what that is. 

Cleaning this yurt, I listened to Elizabeth Gilbert’s new podcast series. I see this photo and I think “don’t wait for financial security before you begin creating”

This is such a beautiful way to lead a life. I completely embrace this ethos – I’ve spent my life seeking my “passion”. If you don’t have one particular thing, you know that. You wouldn’t question it if you knew what your passion was. Finally, I have this sentence: “follow your curiosity” and I know this is exactly how I should live. How I should deal with things and what I should pursue. Yes! A tapestry of varied experience is far better than a life chasing the answer of the question: what is my passion?

Another huge thing for me on this trip has been dealing with fear. Not terror, but the kind of fear that lingers quietly and makes you turn down opportunities. 

Fear can stop us doing so many things and I’m getting used to overcoming fear. Fear makes me behave often lazily. Ennui. Apathy. Fear can be overcome. I can conquer my fears. My fears arise in different ways, and often, laziness. I can’t do that/I don’t want to do that/I don’t feel like doing that when the real issue is FEAR. I’ve never taken a connecting flight because of fear it’ll go wrong, not for the “hassle” I’ll shake it off as. Fear stops me trying new things. Fear makes me worry about things I needn’t worry about. Fear stops me taking opportunities that I could learn from. I’m working on this. Apart from when I had impetigo, I’ve taken all social opportunities and I’m really glad I have. Even if it’s added a few cm to my beer belly. I took a vow last week to drink no more beer on this trip. I’ve proudly stuck to it. 

I’ve also come to really embrace music after harbouring fears of this. Does that sound ridiculous? Perhaps. Let me explain. Music has always been someone else’s. Apart from when I was about 15 and I cultivated a collection of music that made me feel better than my teenage woes. Since then, and especially during my last relationship (our musical tastes varied hugely) I tuned out. During the break up I realised 99% of music is about love. I couldn’t cope til I heard “Time is a healer” and I soaked it up. I let myself feel the emotions I felt and it felt good. A guy told me “music is the soundtrack to our life” and I like that. Right now, I’m loving exploring, discovering artists and rediscovering ones I loved and lost. Music is so evocative and wonderfully so. 

I realised during a night of music in France that Lucky Man by The Verve is a song that reminds me of home. That’s the red sofa in my parents living room and that’s where I grew up. I listen to The Heist and I’m cycling to work in Birmingham thinking of Stuart. I listen to Ben Howard and I’m 19 and in a room by the sea desperate to escape. I listen to Honne and I’m sweaty in Seville. I listen to Justin Bieber and Mø and I’m sat around a table in Odeceixe with Sarah and Ellen talking about life. I listen to Andhim and I’m walking to the beach with those girls. 

I’m creating a new sense of home. Through music. Through understanding myself.  Through losing the person I saw as home and building a new picture. Home will soon be York for around 5 months. Home will soon be routine, less beer and more protein. Home will soon be regular, humdrum and normal. But that is great. And I’ve now got new eyes with which to see it.

So many of these learnings wouldn’t have been discovered had I been alone. Conversely, many of these experience and learnings have come through other people. But I do believe it was being alone that opened me up to these people and this opportunity to really change and grow. What an adventure it’s been.  

More on Portugal coming asap. 


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