A Travel Blog (Sort Of.)

May 7, 2021

Hey everyone! Sorry for the delay. I clearly don’t know what I’m doing. Ha.

Do you post every day? Every week? Are there algorithms I should be caring about? But I can’t start “shoulding” myself to death. That’s when things become a mess. And I’m already a mess. So let’s pretend like it hasn’t been a little more than a month since I last posted something here. Yes? Thanks.

Portugal has been on my mind recently. Probably because I won’t be going there this summer. I didn’t go there last summer either for obvious reasons. But she’s been calling to me for a few months now.

The first time I went to Portugal was six years ago after spending a month in Barcelona in a tiny apartment with my friend, Sparkle. I came to the country with panic attacks that I thought were some previously undiagnosed heart issue…because health anxiety. We’ll get into that in another post. But the mountains and lush greenery of Northern Portugal were so incredible that I was finally able to get out of my head long enough to catch my breath.

On the border of Spain and Portugal. E for Espana!

I fell in love with her on that first ride home from the airport as my friend, Carina, drove us past stone houses with terra cotta roofs tucked into the mountainside. Everything was green with a golden glow like we were driving down a memory. I went back for five summers in a row after that first one. And every time we’d pull into Carina’s driveway I’d think, “How am I so lucky to be here again?”

Took this picture on our ride to Peneda. Like how is this even a real place?

At night all the stars come out to shine. I’ve tried to take pictures, but I’m always disappointed by the outcome. Maybe the stars are just for me then. No sharing. No remembering from a grainy photo. Maybe they live in the moment and in my memory only. But every night after we came home from the cafe, I’d sit out on the balcony and talk to them. Watch them twinkle. Follow one rogue star as it shot across the sky. Those stars hold so many of my secret wishes.

The river in Ponte de Barca at sunset during the Celtic Festival.

I miss Ermelo. I miss buying carnations. I miss walking three times around the chapel at Sao Bento. I miss the oranges and lemons so overripe that they make the tree limbs sag. And the bats that swoop low and eat the mosquitoes. And the way the corn stalks wave in the breeze as we eat pastries and sip coffee under the kiwi tree covered green awning in Soajo. I miss afternoon naps to sleep away the heat. And driving down narrow mountain roads while listening to The Beatles on Carina’s old Ipod. We’d drive and drive and drive. Around and around and around. Looping and twisting and hugging the curves. Nothing but the occasional battered guard rail between us and the hundreds of feet below. But we were never afraid of falling. Or getting lost. We just kept following the road past vineyards and waves of hay bails and cows lounging in shade on the side of the road next to goats happily munching the grass. It was heaven. It is heaven.

Happiness is sunshine and mountains.

Some day the world will reopen, and when it does I’ll see her again. It’s amazing to think that so much has happened since last I saw her. I hope she hasn’t changed too much. I hope I haven’t changed too much. I hope we still recognize each other when we meet again. But she knows my soul, and I know hers. In the mean time, I will keep her close to my heart and keep her safe in the golden glow of my memories.

Published by Robyn Neilsen

I am a writer and educator based out of New Jersey. My creative nonfiction essays and flash fiction stories have been published by Thought Catalog, Vocal Media, and On Mogul. As a lifelong learner, I enjoy honing my craft through writing workshops with LA Writers Group, Gotham Writers, and The Moth. I am currently querying my first novel and am actively working on my second.

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