Sometimes you just need a break from your own personal reality to see how beautiful the world can be. I’ll take a page from Pessoa when I say that these are my “Confessions, and if in them I say nothing it is because I have nothing to say.” Well, nothing to say that can be truly understood unless you’ve taken in the city of Lisbon from the eyes of a visitor. I truly believe that even those who call the city their home may not see the city the way guests do. After all, they have grown accustomed to the busy streets, the cobblestones, the history around every turn. Besides, there is always a newness that comes from looking at a situation with a pair of fresh eyes, the same can be said even of cities and adventures. Perhaps because I was a guest, I was able to take in the splendor, every morsel of it, and hold it close and celebrate it as I have.
“I feel at home in Lisbon.” That’s what a friend I made while in Lisbon told me. It was his first time in the city and yet, it felt like home. And I think that says a lot about the city. Sure, when you first arrive, all you can think about is the unyielding sun and how anyone can get used to walking in heels on the cobblestones, but as the days go by, you do get used to it. Moreover, you come to enjoy it. You come to breathe in the air and walk around with confidence, even if you have absolutely no idea where you’re going!
Perhaps it is the people, who are welcoming in and who gladly take their time with you even if you only know rudimentary Portuguese. It could be the beauty of the city, from the buildings to the tiles that line the floor. Perhaps it is just the fast pace, with things always moving, there is no time to ruminate on life’s issues or the problems that you, as a visitor left in your home, not if you want to enjoy your trip. There are so many things that take you out of yourself from the beautiful beaches to the amazing musicians busking and the amazingly fresh food. Whether you’re in Cais do Sodré or Cascais or Belém, you get pulled into the beauty all around you and there’s no time or desire to wallow in your overdue work, your bills, your issues. Instead, you feel inspired and called to be a part of the city itself. I may just be speaking for myself on that end. Lisbon and its many neighborhoods welcomes everyone on equal terms and with open arms. That grand and comforting welcome is what makes Lisbon feel like home, as though even us visitors, we strangers, are a part of it.
As a frequent migraine sufferer the fact that I didn’t have to take a single pill spoke volumes. Coupled with how I got very little sleep and yet still felt energized speaks to the life, the heartbeat of the city. While I was only there a short time, it felt like I’d been close to the people I met there for years. Moreover, around every corner, there is something new to discover, not to mention delicious gelato! The joviality is catching and you can’t help but want to continue in it. And I can’t do anything other than perhaps say, “thank you” to the city and to the wonderful people that I met there. Not only for pulling me out of the day-to-day drudgery but for simply reminding me of the beauty that comes in simply existing right where you are, right in that particular moment.
There’s something truly special about Lisbon and it clings to you, even as you board the plane to get back home. Even as you fall asleep in your own bed. It is like the best kind of hangover, the one you get after reading a truly magnificent book and you’re not sure how your world will ever be the same. Lisbon felt like that, it breathes into you and you breathe into it. And when you’re there, you leave something of you. But you get to take a piece of the city back with you. And that is a beautiful thing, a morsel of splendor to hold to your chest.
Chyina Powell is a Christian author and editor. She is the founder of Powell Editorial where she offers services such as copy editing and sensitivity reading. She is also the founder of the 501c3 Women of Color Writers' Circle, an international organization that offers safe space, community and resources for women of color with stories inside them. She writes mainly speculative fiction but also works in creative nonfiction and poetry. When she isn't writing, she can be found with a good book and a cup of tea.