Midnight in Porto (On New Year’s Eve’s Eve)

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I wrote this a few days ago and hadn’t re-read it. My funk of being in Porto remains, but the weather hasn’t been good and I’ve been burned out. I like the city, though, and I love its people. I was double-cheek-air-kissed by five strangers in 24 hours yesterday/today and every time it warmed my heart. They’re beautiful people here, beautiful people who live in a country that has a lot of poverty and strife.

Something about the way Porto is laid out leaves its narrow old streets in shadows. Its buildings seem dark and dramatic. But I haven’t written this much in a very long time, and there’s something magically moving about this place. I’d like to experience it in another season, a sunny season, and maybe someday I will.

I’ve sold everything to travel the world for five years. I’m three months in. Follow me on Facebook here.


It’s midnight in Porto and I’ve just finished watching Midnight In Paris, in which “screenwriter” Owen Wilson finds himself in Paris with his fiancée and somehow time-travels back to 1920s Paris nightly at midnight.

It had me wistfully sighing. I found myself thinking about what it is I seek as a traveller. I don’t just want to see the world; I want to find a place that makes me feel like I’m not supposed to be anywhere else. I want to find a place that stops me dead in my tracks and makes me swoon and sigh about the zeitgeist around me.

Maybe that’s a lot to ask but it’s a big world and I don’t think it is. How can a planet of this magnitude and diversity not have a place where I feel lock-step in time and culture? How can it not have a place that makes me feel like I’m right where I’m meant to be?

I used to feel that way about Vancouver but it changed on me. It’s not Vancouver’s multiculturalism that irks me – I think that’s awesome, that’s Canada! – but it’s the lack of ownership its people feel. It’s their lack of connection upon moving to Vancouver. Its history isn’t historical enough, not to those who come from Europe or Asia, where culture has existed for 3,000, 5,000, or even 10,000 years. They move to Vancouver, where history comprises of the First Nations Canadian experience – as scant as that seems to be –  and/or 150 years of colonial history. That’s nothing to immigrants, sadly, and what little heritage Vancouver had is largely gone. Being here, now, I understand that disposable attitude towards Vancouver’s “history.”

Yet still, I’m a writer. I thrive on the past and how we get to where we are today, and Vancouver’s loss of that historical trajectory and its new-everything phase gives me a huge emotional disconnect. I like modern architecture, but I need contrasts and texture.

Somewhere, somehow, there must be a place where I can wander at night, sigh in starlight, ponder in daylight, and write in between the emotional heavy-lifting.

Dom Luis 1 Bridge here in Porto.

Dom Luis 1 Bridge here in Porto.

I love the idea of time-travelling back to Paris in the 1920s. I haven’t been to modern-day Paris. Could I love it? Would I want to live there? I don’t know. I’m not a huge-city person. It may be too much for a girl like me.

This is what I’m questing for, though. A place where I’m simpatico with its residents. Where I feel like writing finds me and finds me often.

I haven’t felt it yet. I’m writing more here in Porto, despite feeling somewhat out of sorts. I was thrust into the maw of seasonal affective disorder because daylight is less here but it’s also immeasurably more grey than what I enjoyed in Lisbon and Croatia. It’s the darkest week of the year, and I can’t avoid it affecting me.

There’s also a palpable feeling of sadness here. There’s a Portuguese word, saudade, that my friend Duane taught me, about a longing one has for something that’s no longer around. A brand of nostalgia for a time or place one can’t reach. Something about “saudade” fits Porto. I would have liked to see this city in another time, another way, because there’s something madly wonderful yet woefully sad about it. It’s the perfect blend of inspirational moodiness for the artist, explaining why it holds great reverence for writers, artists, thespians, revolutionaries.

Could I cut it here in Porto long-term? I think not. But it’ll be great for the month that it’s the nearest thing I have to “home” anymore. Mid-January, my quest continues.

I frequently lapse into daydreams. Where will “home” be? In what place will feel I’ve stepped into a shell of who I ought to be? When will that day of belonging find me?

Porto as seen from the wine lodges on the Gaia side of the Douro river.

Porto as seen from the wine lodges on the Gaia side of the Douro river.

I have no idea. I’m a control freak, so that’s troubling me.

How shocked would I be to find I feel most at home is Southeast Asia? Will my heart go pitter-patter in Northern Africa? Maybe the furthest reaches of Chile and South America is where my soul will feel like it’s flopped down on a great big existential bed of comfort. Maybe it’s the wealthy cities of renown here in Europe that I’ve yet to find that beat in my step.

I don’t know, but that’s why I aim to travel for so long. I’ll seek countries that feel most comfortable then return to explore their cities so I know where I should settle. As if five years is enough.

Luckily 95% of my planned travel life lies ahead of me still.

Where in the world will Steff belong?

Here’s looking at 2016 and the next steps in that ladder toward self-discovery and geographical-belonging. If nothing else, it’s at least a really cool ride while the search is on.

Happy new year, folks.

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