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Melissa’s Travel Journal: Why I Travel…

Travel Day: Millenium Bridge in front of St. Paul's Cathedral -- London

Why do I travel?

It’s what my husband insists on doing. That was the first thing I wrote when I started brainstorming the answer to this at 9:20 a.m. on Monday, January 16th, while sitting at my desk on the second level of the house we’re renting in Sesmarias, Portugal. What are we doing in Portugal? Maybe I’ll write about that another time.  

If I’m honest with myself and with you, traveling is what I have always wanted to do. Studying French, reading Little Women, watching Style with Elsa Klensch on CNN; and, wanting to be an actress, a fashion editor, and a writer put the travel dream in my head before I was done with 7th grade. I told my Grandma Lynch that I wanted to have homes in Paris, London, New York City, and L.A. She smiled the smile that only a grandmother who wouldn’t dream of limiting her grandchild’s chocolate chip cookie intake would. 

I longed for London’s West End, Paris’s fashion shows and croissants, and Ireland’s Irishness. What else does Ireland need, really? Then I read On the Road by Jack Kerouac, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Hell’s Angels by Hunter S. Thompson, and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe. Road-tripping throughout the United States became the stuff that dreams were made of for me.

Maybe the answer is in Torel Palace

Travel Day: Evening in the Library. Torel Palace, Porto, Portugal.

On December 10th, my husband and I sat in the library of Torel Palace, a 5-star boutique hotel in Porto, Portugal that celebrates the country’s literary greats. Books lined the shelves surrounding us and hung from sturdy strings above us. Fishing line perhaps?    

Cocktails were brought up to us from Blind Bar on the level below. Its name is inspired by Nobel Prize-winning author, Jose Saramago’s novel, Blindness Essay aka Blindness. It was the end of a day spent working on our YouTube video “We Put 2 Travel Articles to the Test in Porto, Portugal!,” which involved:

Chris, my husband, held his phone, recording our wrap-up of the day as we drank our delicious not-yet-on-the-menu nightcaps. To his phone’s camera, I said, “My 16-year-old runaway self would have loved today. It’s been full of churches and libraries.” Later, while editing, I cut this from our video. Our grandchildren do not need to see me talking about my daring younger self so casually.

Travel Day: Cocktails at Torel Palace in Porto, Portugal-1

That’s right, at 16, I ran away from Rochester, Minnesota to New York City. I traveled on Greyhound busses and when they asked my name at the ticket counter, I told them it was Addie Lynch. Addie for the Adelaide character in Guys and Dolls, Lynch because it was the first last name that I had – one I sorely missed. In my cheap, purple and black, nylon backpack, I carried Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, notebooks, pens, worry dolls, the words of Prince’s song, Starfish and Coffee, written on a piece of paper by a friend, two pocket knives, cash, the typical toiletries, and one change of clothes. Maybe two.   

When I tell the story now, I say that I ran away because my parents wouldn’t let me audition for Rochester Civic Theatre’s production of Man of La Mancha, which is true. There were, of course, other things going on. During my week-long adventure, when I wasn’t on a bus or in a bus station, I spent much of my time within the walls of Catholic churches and libraries. That was the kind of rebel I was. I read. I went to churches. I hung out in libraries. I ate dill pickle-flavored potato chips bought for me by a man recovering from a cocaine addiction and chicken noodle soup from Greyhound bus station vending machines.

Giving up and going to our "Home of the Moment."

Home Day: Hike Near Our Current Home in Portugal's Algarve Region
On a hike near our "home" in Portugal's Algarve region.

On January 16th, 2023, I took a break from trying to answer the “Why I Travel” question. I felt disconnected from the purpose of our travels and missed the web of familiar faces and places. What were we doing living in Portugal? Portugal of all places! In all my life it never occurred to me to visit Portugal. Well, never until the day my husband brought up logical-enough-seeming reasons for us to move to the country indefinitely, perhaps permanently. 

I filled the bath of our master suite with warm water and picked up the bilingual edition of Luis De Camões: A Global Poet for Today, a book that I purchased from Livraria Lello during our stay in Porto. When I read:

“Errei todo o discurso de meus anos”… ” (I have been errant through my years” or, more literally, “I erred all the discourse of my years”), with its composite meanings for “errei” as to be mistaken and to physically wander about, and of “discurso” as discourse (or speech) and of itinerary (both of a journey and of a lifespan) encapsulates the central node of the Camonian project. Even if it eventually failed, it expresses the supreme daring of a man who sought to transform the meaninglessness of a transitory life into the language that could give it lasting significance.

– Helder Macedo

Travel Day: Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal
Standing on Livrario Lello's famous staircase. It's the bookshop where I bought the Camôes book.

I remembered my flip comment about my runaway self. While I am no Camões, a man some consider Portugal’s Shakespeare (maybe Shakespeare is England’s Camōes?), thoughts began connecting and I had to climb back out of the bath I was relaxing in to find a notebook and pen before I could be interrupted. I wrote:

I have been in search of truth and meaning all of my life, looking for the undercurrent, the connection. I guess we all are. Aren’t we? Whether we acknowledge it to ourselves, or not. 

I guess that’s why I travel. It’s not like my choice to travel is a non-choice, or unexpected. In my mid-30s I took an extra job traveling the United States on weekends to set up fun runs because it was a way to travel for free and get paid to do it. In my late-30s, when I left my first husband, I had a reading done by Birdie the Psychic, whom I’d heard several times on KS95’s Morning Show. She said I would meet and marry a man who would take me around the world. At the time, I thought it sounded nice, but didn’t give her words much weight. 

I may not know the definitive answer to why I travel and chances are that the answer will change over time, but I sure do travel a lot. Over the past year, from January 2022 to January 2023, Chris and I have lived* in: 

In addition to the places we’ve lived in we’ve visited:

The reasons behind each location are as varied as the places themselves. Family and friends pulled us in some directions, curiosity pulled us in others. When it comes to living in Portugal, where we are now, the decision involved air quality, climate, proximity to places we want to explore, and its calmness, beauty, and affordability. Will we live in Portugal forever? That isn’t a question I can answer today. I doubt I’ll be able to answer it anytime soon. In the meantime, I’ll be looking for meaning and connections and sharing them here, dear reader.

*Due to our lifestyle, I consider living in a location to be for at least a month. 

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