At the beginning of 2018, I wrote down a number of challenges that I wanted to accomplish by the end of the year. One of those challenges was to take a solo trip in 2018, and I did it just that. I went to Portugal at the end of August this year.
I spent 10 incredible days exploring Portugal and got to take in all its wonderful sights and sounds. I also got to hang out with one of my dearest friends in the world, which was one of the main reasons why I chose Portugal as my destination for my first solo adventure. It was an experience that I will forever treasure and cannot wait to share with you all.
I had spent a little over a month planning my trip to Portugal. I did a lot of advance planning and ticket buying/booking in order to save myself time while on the trip and to give myself a little bit of structure while on vacation. One may think 10 days is a lot, but it’s really not when exploring a whole new country, especially one with a history and culture as rich as Portugal’s.
I also happen to be a planner, so having a plan of attack, gave me that extra level of comfort I needed as I started out on my first solo trip.
The reason that I challenged myself to take a solo trip in 2018 was that I wanted to feel more comfortable with myself and in my own body. I haven’t had a lot of time in my 26 years to just spend by myself and relax and observe everything around me. I’m naturally an introvert and taking myself on this solo trip was the best thing I could’ve done for myself for my health and my mind.
I’ve found that travelling is one of the most exhilarating and confidence-boosting experiences one can undergo. There’s a freedom and independence that I felt while on the trip that I had never felt before. I got to wake up at whatever time I wanted, I got to see what attractions I wanted to see, I got to eat whatever I wanted to eat, and got to wander in whatever direction I felt like. I got to get lost and find my way back again, and I loved every moment of it.
Travelling has also helped me understand exactly what capable I am as a human being and what I can accomplish if I really want it and push myself towards it.
As an aside, this trip also taught me the importance of choosing the right seat on the plane – always pick the aisle seat, always, and if you can somehow get your aisle seat right behind the emergency exit aisle, that’s even better. I understand the desire to sit in the seat right beside the window and take those dreamy photos of the sky and the clouds, but when you’re on a long-haul flight, always choose the aisle seat and get that extra legroom.
… take off and arrival …
My flight to Portugal started off a little bit rocky. Weather delays out of Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, which was where my connecting flight was, caused a slew of delays including mine. I literally got an email, after already having gone through security that my flight would be delayed by 90 minutes, which would’ve caused me to miss my connecting flight. Panic immediately set in as I rushed to the Air Canada service desk to try and figure out what to do next. Thankfully and luckily, the agents at the desk were really helpful and put me on the flight that was just about to depart for Toronto. I literally got the last seat at the back of the plane and was one of the last individuals to board before it took off.
Funnily enough, my connecting flight from Toronto to Lisbon was also delayed by the weather so I spent my free time getting a late dinner and started my holiday drinking early. I landed midday in Lisbon and navigated my way to the train station via the subway where a train would take me from Lisbon to Porto, which would be my first stop in Portugal.
While I may have easily gotten myself to the train station from the airport, I also happened to miss my train to Porto due to my own error in reading the departure board. (Note to others and my future self – look at the train number and not for the destination when taking the train. Yeah, it was a stupid mistake.) After a ticket change for about €4, I was off on the next train to Porto. There are a number of ways to get to Porto from Lisbon, one is driving, one is by bus, and one is by train. I chose the train route because it was the fastest route of the three routes and in the middle price wise. A train ticket will run you about €20 to €45, depending on what train you take and where on the train you decide to sit (eg. regular or comfort class).
By the time I had arrived in Porto, it was evening, I was tired and sweaty and all I wanted was a long shower. I chose my Airbnb primarily because of its proximity to the famous Livraria Lello bookstore, which was about 5 minutes away. My Airbnb host was absolutely fantastic and gave me a free map of Porto, pointing out all the spots to check out and drawing routes on how to get there from the Airbnb.
After I unpacked and showered, I started off on my Porto adventure and took myself to my first Portuguese dinner. I had Bacalhau com Natas, which is one of a thousand ways in which cod can be prepared in Portugal, which was something I soon learned and was utterly delighted by.
I ended off the night with not one, but two pastel de natas and almost not getting through the door of my Airbnb because European locks on doors are something else and trying to get through them buzzed is a whole other adventure.
Thanks for reading!