A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
My first flight was from scenic northern Ontario to Toronto. I had chosen a 12 hour layover so that I could hang out with my good friend Jon in Toronto. He’s undoubtedly one of the most genuine, most unique people I know. He has good vibes, and when I called him up only a few hours before, he said he’d be free to hang out with me whenever I was free. First things first though, I had done laundry before the flight and needed to dry the clothes first so I took a little break in Kensington Park so the Sun could do that. We hit up some food, and then grabbed some beers and headed to a park to lay around and catch up. Time flew and soon I had to head to the airport.
The main reason I was headed to Portugal, actually the thing that prompted my summer travels, was for my friend Carlos’ wedding. It was my good fortune that I happened to be on the exact same flight to Portugal from Toronto as them, so when I arrived at the airport, I was greeted by a bunch of very excited people. I really only knew Carlos and Joey (his then-fiance), so it was a lot of new faces for me. It was pretty amazing feelings all around.
It was a night flight, and ideally, if one slept for the plane ride there would be no jet lag. I was already up for 14 hours, but found it hard to sleep due to the family with kids sitting right beside me. No matter, it was just going to be an extra long day. We arrived early in Lisbon to blaring hot heat.
Eventually, after collecting the bags, and waiting around for the inevitablly required amount of standing time when with groups of people, we took a bus to Cascais. I said goodbye to the wedding party, and left with my straw hat, and bags finding my way to Nice Way hostel.
I’m so happy I couldn’t afford to stay at the hotel with the rest of the wedding party! Not that I didn’t want to be with them, but Nice Way hostel was where my vibes were at. I noticed it the moment I stepped through the door. Well, when I did step through the door I saw Mark off in the room to the right and he broke in an ear-to-ear grin. That doesn’t happen often. We were shown our rooms which we were sharing with 6 Dutch guys (they do love to travel in packs). There were four bunk beds, allowing 8 people to sleep in there. The snoring some nights was fantastic.
I purposely had no plans, and it was only just noon. I ventured into the living area of the hostel to see what I could see, I didn’t care that I was really tired. The living area consists of a large living room, a large open kitchen, and an backyard. On my way through the living room I noticed two guitar leaning against the wall … awesome. In the backyard there were some people lounging on pillows and chairs and in the corner surf boards and wet suits were stacked. I noticed a bar in the corner of the yard and saw the prices were super cheap. Mark met me there, and we decided to explore the town, so off we went just as the peak of the day’s sun was hitting.
We walked along the beach looking for food. Walking onwards, we found a grocery store (named Jumbo – which is where I shop in Leiden). We went in and bought chips, salsa, a pineapple, peaches, a sausage, and a bottle of port. Port is like strong wine and a specialty of Portugal. We found a beach and polished off the port and some of the chips. It was at this moment the surreallity of the moment hit me. Here was Mark and I – friends through university – sitting on the steps of some beautiful beach town, our PhD’s in astronomy only a month away, having nothing to worry about. There were of course little worries, like money, that always sit in one’s mind, but they are just that: little worries.
We head back to the hostel in time for a big dinner with hostel people, and there began the making of new friends. The hostel people were a mix of girls and guys who were mostly there for surfing, though a few were there for other reasons, like just wanting to get away from life. I could relate to that. It was a year full of unexpected events and this was just what the doctor ordered. We really wanted to surf, but it turned out that the only classes available were the days of the wedding events.
Everyday and night was spent well, and I don’t think I wasted any moments. Even sleeping in a few times was worth it. At some point our dutch roommates left, and new people moved in straight away, a few girls from Germany, and a couple from Scotland; always a constant flow of people, and one just has to be open to all possibilities when travelling.
Those eight days were bound to be magical in some unknown way. Keep posted to find out how.