Wrapping up a 450km through Portugal with Kindness and Appreciation
I am in Caminha now, just across the bay from the Spanish border. I have cycled 450km since the start of my journey in 10 days with 2 days rest. The weather has been almost autumny in the last 3 days - a mixed bag of gusts of wind, sun and rain, which always feels like there is a sense of change in the air to me.
The ride from Aveiro to Porto was wonderful; starting with a short ferry ride, I pedaled along a long laguna and through majestic pine forests and wetlands. I stopped in Espinho for a long anticipated squid lunch (it was actually my first visit to a restaurant in many months). The deliciousness paired with a half liter of local house white made me flying to Porto.
I spent the next day and a half in Porto and was taken under Bruno's wing. My old colleague made me feel very welcomed. Visiting a city for the first time since lockdown was a bit of an eye opener. Staying in Robin's valley is a little like being in Garden Eden. It is a wonderfully sheltered life, where I spend about 80% of my days outdoors. While I was in touch with people and went into town during lockdown, I do not think I felt the anxiety many of you must have or still are going through whilst being in a city. I was amazed by big walking groups of people, tour buses and people getting very close to each other. Of course, restaurants and shops were strict with their restrictions, but I could see the difficulty of finding a balance between keeping a pandemic under control and making sure everyone can cover their living costs. I also started questioning my little bike adventure and whether I am not just adding to the problem. Like I said though in my last post, everyone should take responsibility for their actions, so I am adapting to it, and will avoid bigger cities from now on and be more mindful of how I interact with others.
I still enjoyed Porto and liked walking through the little cobblestone streets with musicians playing and street artists doing their thing. The views over the Douro are impressive.
Bruno organised for his colleague Nuno - bike mechanic and Kona aficionado, to take a look at my bike and make sure it's in tip top shape for the next 500 kilometres, until I will likely have to change the break pads. The weather made a turn for worse and I pedaled on to Fao, trying to dodge the rain as well as I could.
I ride along the coast, and always veer off the main road through small villages and across farmland, or along the foreshore, following the yellow shell of the Camino de Santiago.
What I especially liked about cycling through Portugal:
There are water fountains in almost every village, making it very easy to re-hydrate.
There are also fruit and veggie stalls, farmers markets or little supermarkets with local produce to be found very easily, so I have been eating healthily and did not have to go to the big supermarkets (apart from once when I got some fresh sardines and a gas bottle for the camping cooker - that did not fit). I also loved my mid-morning bakery stop for coffee, a toasted sandwich and the odd croissant simple, and roaming along empty country roads and small villages with the almost bizarre and divers Portuguese architecture.
My time in Portugal has accompanied huge change in my life. It has also shown me so much kindness in people. Robin has welcomed me into his place, family and day-to-day life without a second thought. His friends are now my friends too and they made me part of their families. Marco and Bruno seemed to be taking it for granted that they would go every step necessary to be sending me on this adventure in time. I wrote before that I have a wish to belong, which I know I can not take for granted, especially when moving homes more often than other people do. The people I have met in my new community have made feeling like I belong very easy for me, and I already look forward to coming back on the flipside of my journey.
Especially now as we are adapting to a new normal that will probably make showing kindness through our body language a little less likely, it is important to not forget to give others feedback in other ways. We all have so many different shades to our personalities and see different sides in each of us. Why do we not acknowledge more what we like about each other and why? Being a people manager, I learnt that giving feedback and recognition is very important in the workplace. How often do we tell a friend or acquaintance that we like them and why? In hoping that I will not make others feel uncomfortable, I will try to make this more of a habit in the future. In the end, most of us are looking for love and appreciation, and this can come in so many shapes, colors and forms, why not be kind to a friend (or a stranger) and tell them they are a wonderful person, making them feel they belong, showing appreciation for a certain character trait they have, or maybe just brighten up their day!
On that note, I will pack my bags and hop across the Minho River, hoping they will let me into Spain and continue my journey! Rove On!