If you'd like to discover what or who is truly meaningful in your life, leave home for a year and embark on the journey of a lifetime. Putting the food, experiences, people and culture of Portugal aside, that's what one year in Portugal has taught me.
I found in travel, my preference is to stay in one place for 3 weeks to one month at a time. Two weeks felt too short for discovery. There were some places that made me feel I would rather move on, but there we were for a full month or more and only God knows why.
Staying in Airbnb's and hotels is still such a joy! I am really enjoying living in other people's homes and when I feel I need a break and I want to be served instead, a hotel gives me the comfort I need. I am learning more and more when I choose to settle down what style of home I might desire and the furnishings that really matter to me. I know the top two pieces of furniture where I won't compromise on comfort are the bed and the sofa. I've learned that I don't need a kitchen full of gadgets to get by. I have traveled with a pair of metal forks, knives and spoons which I inherited from a restaurant from ordering take out during the lockdown and I've rarely used them. I have used instead 4 other kitchen utensils to get by, a bowl and a strainer. Not all of the kitchens I've cooked in were well equipped ones, but I managed very well without having to buy or ask for more comfort. My must have spices and condiments take up one grocery bag.
I have learned who are the people that matter the most. I have seen who cares. I enjoy it when people check in on me to see how I am doing. Most days are happy days, but not all are and sometimes I forget to share those. I laugh when people ask me "How is your vacation?" Yes, my life looks like a very long vacation, but there is a lot of work that happens in the background. Remember, those pictures you see on my posts are just a moment in time. I had the time and space this year to question what I am doing in life and work has now changed to more meaningful and enjoyable things.
I am grateful for discovering how much more I can learn. I am finding lifelong learning to be one of the secrets to the foundation of a youthful heart. It's not to be a know it all, but to embark on a lifelong journey of discovery keeps me young at heart. I am realizing that I don't have to do certain things at certain ages. What I didn't accomplish in my younger years, I can do so now if I still have the desire.
I am learning that taking better care of my body always serves me well. Hauling luggage everywhere requires strength. Traveling requires strength. I appreciate the effort that I've taken to strengthen my body because I never know what terrain I will face. Portugal is full of very steep hills and steps. Had I not made this change, I would have struggled.
I have learned how much God loves me. I may never understand fully all of the reasons why I have been here for this length of time, but I feel very protected by God and I have seen by stepping out in faith, how He shows up to answer my prayers. In our travels, every day there has been something to pray about and God comes through. I have learned not to plead in my prayers but to just speak to God and pour out my heart. As a child loves to check in with their parents, so do I with God. I've found the more I work on my relationship with God, the more protection, grace, love, miracles and mercy I experience and the more I get to know Him.
I thank God for Ernest every day. Without bringing us together, I would not have had this experience of one year and more in Portugal. During this year, we have discovered more of who we are and I now see the clarity of why God sent Ernest to me. He keeps me grounded, sane, he adds so much humor to my life and his natural way of always wanting to explore takes me out of my shell. He also knows when I need my Me Time and allows me to enjoy my solitude. He takes me out of my comfort zone and has belly laughs. He knows I will thrive and flourish wherever I am. I love the way that Ernest loves and encourages me.
Portugal has been a haven during this incredible change in the world. The politeness, peace, care and calmness of the country and its people always made us feel protected, safe, sheltered and loved. Unity and harmony still exists here.
One year in Portugal has been an incredible year of change, discovery, increasing faith, happiness, and a dream come true. It has been a place to rest and to experience life better than the live-work balance we dream of in North America. Its very beautiful coastline, beaches, sunrises and sunsets are are gifts to take in as often as I see them. I can look up and see a multitude of stars in the sky at night. I know what it is like to live in places where I never see these. I always wanted to know what living in Europe would be like. God answers prays and now I know. It has been a year of experiencing God's love in so many ways.