Travel is Big

Our Spain and Portugal trip was a good trip, and it was a good trip in certain respects because it wasn’t a great trip. I liked both Spain and Portugal, but while I know that on a first trip I’m barely scraping the surface of a place, I didn’t really love either place.

And perhaps because of this, I came away from this particular trip thinking less about the specific places we saw or things we did, and more about travel in general, about what I think makes for a great trip, what I’ve loved about other places, and what I think makes for a great city.

This trip reminded me that travel is so individual, that despite all the preparation I do before a trip – reading travel guides and blogs, getting recommendations from friends and family – I can’t really know if I’ll like a place until I’m there. And even once I’m there, it may take time for me to learn to appreciate a place. On this trip, we went to places that were instantly appealing (Barcelona) and to places where I had to work to find things that really interested me (Lisbon).

And this was the other lesson I brought back with me from Spain and Portugal: travel is big. It’s up there with other big life experiences like going away to college, moving to a new city or walking down the aisle in that it challenges our expectations and it broadens our perspective. Travelling sheds new light on myself, my country, my culture, and my home city (I came back with such a new appreciation for SF – more on that in another post).

Like weddings, college or relocating, travel isn’t always easy, but I’ve found that it is always worthwhile. It’s important, as the owner of a (dumpy)  hotel we stayed at in the Douro Valley liked to say. (Drinking local wine? “It’s important.” A review on TripAdvisor? “It’s important.” Paying with cash? “It’s important.”)

I’ll still write a little bit about every place we went to in Spain and Portugal, as I’ve done with prior trips, because those posts help me remember what I thought and felt about a place.  But what I got out of this trip isn’t found in the particular places things we saw. What has lingered, for me, is the sense that travel, even when (maybe especially when) it doesn’t live up to my expectations, is important.


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