12 Things I Learned While Living for 4 Weeks in the Algarve
It's hard to believe that we've been out of our home country for a month now, time has a strange way of slowing down but also speeding by when we're out of our normal schedule and ordinary days at home. We've been working and doing school during our time here. Our days have been slow and filled with a lot of sunshine and seaside walks. The pace is about to pick up at the end of this week, we'll be on true vacation and exploring four more European cities. This trip truly has been a dream come true, a dream about thirteen years in the making. But it's not been all sunshine and roses as real life tends to go. I jotted down these thoughts in my journal and wanted to post (the edited) version here.
1. Real life happens even if you see palm trees out the window. We had a stomach bug go through our family which was just awful. Being sick is not pleasant at home, being sick while traveling is hard. There was a lot of movies being watched, herbal tea being sipped and a lot of self-less care being given by Jared and our eldest daughter. I do not handle vomit well and they cared for everyone so well. We had to postpone a boat trip and readjust other plans.
2. Little Free Library spotting, time at a cafe to read and journal is just as life-giving here as it in Canada. Due to the sickness, we had a free sunny Saturday and I alone was feeling great. I went to our favourite cafe for a couple hours and read a book I found at the LFR, journaled and people watched. It was delightful and refreshing, a special highlight of my time here.
3. Different experiences are times of growth and fun. We live deep in the country in Canada and running into town is never a short, spontaneous trip. Here we've been able to walk into town for gelato, go for daily walks on the beach and end up at our favourite cafe, pop into the store to get more bread and oranges. The kids are able to go home from the beach by themselves and have stayed home while Jared and I walk into town for a date night. They've also had microwave popcorn and navigated a smart TV, not specific to Portugal but different then at home.
4. Family is a big deal in Portugal. Our six year old has had his hair ruffled by strangers in the grocery store, our kids have been teased by waiters as if they were family friends and we have felt so welcomed here. There seems to be a lot more hand holding and affectionate gestures here, it's a lovely thing to see especially intergenerationally.
5. All three of our kids have learned new things here. From math to art to digging deep into their imagination, to texting us when we're out (with personal memojis so we know exactly who is asking the questions) to learning how to boil an egg (our youngest) - I've been so impressed with how they've navigated this adventure. We have a motto about how the first time is normally a bomb, typically referring to the first night of travel or camping but it's also true when travelling internationally. It's hard to leave home and comfort zones. They've worked through homesickness, feeling stupid because they can't speak the language and missing the general familiarity of Canada. They're old hands at riding the underground, navigating the elevator and saying 'obrigado' when given their morning milky coffee. Their appetites are growing and I'm sure they'll all come home at least an inch taller.
6. Our life has become slow and simple, stripped away from all the day to day responsiblities and social engagements. The kids have been 'bored' which often leads to deep play and imagination. They've created fairy houses on the beach and made blanket forts in the apartment. They've read (and listened) to lots of books and we've even read aloud an entire book together. Time in general is slower here.
Food takes longer to come at the restaurants, kids entertain themselves by playing on the sand outside or a game table side. We've passed many a group on the sidewalk because their pace is so much slower than what we are used too. It's a beautiful thing and something I want to think about how we can incorporate it into our life at home.
7. Time is a gift. I've had a lot of time to read, think and journal. I've had time to think through this past school year and research some options for next year's school, something that I often take time to do in July. The past months have been heavy and there's a lot still that I carry and am working through but the sunshine and the seaside have proven to be good therapy. I feel like a character in a classic novel who needs time at the sea to re-build their health. It's calming being here. The waves are constant though sometimes they are quieter, smaller as they carry the tide out and reveal a treasure trove of shells and rocks. Other times they're crashing, splashing a foot about the surface of the water as the tide comes in.
8. The Algarve is beautiful. It's just so beautiful here. There's so much more to Portugal then I knew before we arrived here, it's a small country but the landscape is varied and beautiful.
9. Macdonalds in Portugal has gluten free options. And you can get salad or three kinds of soup as a side instead of fries.
10. Our nature walks are different. We notice the varieties of palm trees. We have certain types of shells and sea glass that we're collecting. We've found meadows of wildflowers and marvelled at the shells embedded in the sea cliffs. We've monitored the tides and how they change the way we play at the beach. We've seen a lot of the tropical house plants in the wild and giant. Who knew that our little rubber tree plant could actually be a real, gorgeous huge tree?!
11. I will never tire of seeing tile. Or terracotta tiled roofs with white stucco. Or the colour scheme of lemon yellow, mint green and coral with splash of vibrant blue.
12. Travel is a gift. To travel with our family and to experience other cultures has been a huge dream of ours for years. I know that this trip will become a treasured memory and we will look back on this time with fondness. Both the big things and the little things like tacos on the balcony or our daily walks by the seaside.