The time has come again to leave behind yet another beautiful place. Today, when I get on the bus, I will leave Vila Nova de Milfontes heavy-hearted. I will look back over my shoulder and watch this town slowly fade from view. I do not want to leave. I am comfortable here, as is Mira. We have made many memories: dancing on the beach in the middle of the night, drinking absinth under a full moon while watching the waves crash violently into the shore, making silly videos, and just talking to each other all night long. This has been another stop on our collective journey, and one we surely will not forget. Mira (Wanderjahr Jill) and I have taken refuge here in Milfontes for the past month, and have enjoyed the mid-day walks to the sweet Atlantic, as well as the quietude of having nothing other than writing to do all day long. Rui, the owner of the Casa Amarela, has also been an extremely accommodating host.
The plan when Mira and I entered Vila Nova de Milfontes was to find a nice beach and do nothing but sit on it and watch the waves come rolling in. We had no idea that we would be sitting on that same beach for an entire month. But this just happens in travel. Any plan that you make on the road is just made to be broken. One month ago, Mira and I were riding to France on our bikes; today, we sold our bikes and are taking a bus back to Lisbon. We found a comfortable place to stay in Milfontes, so we settled in. The great joy of traveling is that you do not have to have any destinations. Directions and routes, yes, but not destinations.
To go is the great affair. This is all you just have to do- GO! I cannot help but feel that destinations have very little to do with traveling. The path is the destination.
So I wander around the world, forever planning smooth, nice-looking paths across maps to travel. But I find that I actually travel in jagged, criss-crossing, ugly looking, unplanned routes that make no sense. Sometimes I leave places with the plan of never returning, just to find myself back there within a week; sometimes I plan to return and never do. Travel is an odd process. I have yet to figure it out.
After nearly a month and a half in Portugal, I have really begun to fall for this country, and this is due, in no small part, to the people.
They leave me alone.
I like countries where the local people either embrace me as a friend (who wouldn’t) or leave me completely alone. I do not like countries where people just want my money; countries where it is difficult to walk down the streets without some hawker or hustler hanging off of you like a barnacle.
I suppose every country in the world can be put into these three categories:
Leave me alone countries
Make me a friend countries
Hang off me like a barnacle countries
China is a Make Me a Friend country- you can go out at night in China and, within a few minutes, you are sitting at a crowded table with twenty new friends. It really happens.
Japan is both a Leave Me Alone and a Make Me a Friend country- it just depends upon circumstance. Japanese society is very unique . . . I would feel better to leave it at this.
India is a Hang Off Me country- There are many beautiful, wonderful things in India, but it is really difficult to experience them because there are always a dozen people in your face trying to get something from you.
Morocco is a Hang Off Me country- I just feel like a big target walking down the streets there. Why? Because in many places, I am. Moroccans can be very crafty though, and it is sometimes very interesting to run with a tout just to find out how far he will go. It is a good experiment to plumb the depths of human deception.
Ecuador, Peru, and Chile are Make Me a Friend countries- There are also a whole lot of hustlers here, but, on the whole, you really can make friends with people that you meet without them trying to railroad you. It is a hit and miss venture though, as I remember one time in the jungles of Peru, a person that I thought was a friend tried to use our friendship as a crow-bar to hustle money out of me. So I quickly de-friended her, walked out of her house, and did not shed a dime. But I have also made many, many good and solid friendships with people all through these countries. In some cases, I am still in touch with these friends. These are some of the people that have made traveling for so long worth while. I am going to visit a couple of long time friends from Chile in France in a week.
Argentina is a Leave Me Alone country- Or so I found it (maybe I am wrong?).
Central America seems to be an all of the above region- It just really depends on where you are. Lots of foreigners in a relatively small land mass sometimes makes the local people aloof. While great economic disparities and an encroaching tourism industry can sometimes turn people into barnacles. But, oftentimes, I have found that you can still befriend a stranger here. As ever, it all depends on cirvumstance.
Thailand seems to be another all of the above country.
Vietnam I found to be full of Barnacles
Nepal I think is a Friend country.
Western Europe is both a Leave Me Alone and a Friend region. I think this depends on the traveler.
It is silly to write such generalizations, I know. I just write them for fun. I am not trying to prove anything. I simply took my experience, skimmed the cream off of the top, simplified it, and then exaggerated the simplification. Experience is as variable as the wind. It is always changing, always different according to place and time, but, for the most part, follows certain patterns. Maybe I am wrong. Oh well, my one goal, my only objective, is to share my experience of traveling the world with other people: my family, my friends, and anyone else who reads this. These are only my impressions, take them or leave them. My experience is my only point, and is the only thing that I set out to share.
(But I, of course, am also trying to solicit some hate mail that I did not write to myself. Haha.)
I am going back to Lisbon in a couple of hours. I have a magazine article that I have to have in to CafÉ Abroad in two days time and I have not yet done the central interview. I suppose I am keeping this task off by writing such silly words.
I suppose this is the end of the great bicycle journey. Traveling is full of unexpected turns.
Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
Vila Nova de Milfontes, Portugal
November 29, 2007