26 Apr We’re Alive; Perhaps That’s Enough
The morning air was misty and fresh. The orange tiles of Lisbon’s streets brightened from the sun.
I made my descent towards Santa Apolónia Station to catch the 9:30am train. I left the hostel at 8:30 and would walk along the Tagus River until I reached the station.
As I walked, the world began to warm.
There’s something uplifting about the morning in a city. At dusk, my other favorite time of day, the sunlight fades. Lights come on in restaurants and shops. People begin to unwind.
In Lisbon, they meet at parks and viewpoints to enjoy the setting sun. The morning’s something else, the beginning of a story. Something about the morning, sauntering beneath the trees — to me, that’s life.
The feeling that’s evoked is what this life can be. It’s simple, but perhaps life can be simple. Morning in a city. The beginning of a chapter, a turning page, a fresh start in an ancient place.
What does it mean to walk the streets described in antique texts? What does it mean to live my story?
It’s any other day. I’m a guy with a suitcase on a warm spring morning. I’m headed for Porto, a city in northern Portugal.
I passed by joggers and couples headed out to breakfast; I came across a group of guys in suits sipping on bottles of Super Bock beer, the typical beer of Portugal.
A mist hovered over the river as I passed the Cais das Colunas landmark, two marble pillars which stem from the water.
These pillars and their accompanying marble steps were once the entrance to the city used by nobility.
This was one of a few times I’d been down by the river at this point while living in Lisbon. Yet Lisbon is a city that breathes the sea air. Being on the coast gives it a distinguishable charm.
I hadn’t yet spent too much time just sitting by the water, relaxing, taking in the world around me. Yet I feel this is part of Lisbon’s character that I hope to enjoy as much as I can.
You can feel the dust rising from tourists’ shoes as they pass the green copper statue of King José I, the king of Portugal at the time of the earthquake. His statue stands triumphantly in the middle of the square, symbolically crushing snakes in his path.
Yellow buildings the color of sunflowers surround the square. They house famous cafés such as Martinho da Arcada, the oldest restaurant in Lisbon, dating back to 1782.
The monuments, sites, the things we go to see — they form an essential part of a city’s identity. But I feel the uniqueness of Lisbon is its vibe, emitted from the mosaics of the streets, the style of its people, the tropical palm trees and verdant parks, the vivid buildings, and perhaps especially, the viewpoints.
Lisbon has a style that is perceived by getting lost and following your curiosity. Perhaps that means ducking into a shop and sharing a few words with the owner.
Maybe it’s dipping down an alleyway where a woman pokes her head out of the window, taking in the breeze.
What does it mean to travel? Would a day full of casual moments like sitting by the river, watching the boats go by be a waste of time? If that’s all one did while they were here, would that be a waste of money?
I have no clue.
But I do believe time is something we can’t comprehend.
We can’t hold on to it, make it stop, make it slow or make it change; all we can hope to do is spend it in a way that brings us joy. Maybe that time will take us somewhere, perhaps deeper within ourselves.
The sea, this river — I wonder how many human beings have gazed beyond its horizon and wondered what life truly means. How many souls have walked along the shore with somebody they love, and told them what they feel.
How many wondered, and didn’t take the chance to live their life.
We won’t be here forever. Why not do what we want with the time that we have, what we feel in our hearts, we must.
My suitcase rattled along the cobblestones as I continued along the river. I looked up at the Church of Santa Engrácia, now the National Pantheon, which sits on top of a hill in the Alfama neighborhood, the oldest part of Lisbon.
In my first week in Lisbon, I’d come to the Pantheon a couple of times to enjoy the park beside it which overlooks the Tagus.
Morning fog surrounded the dome of the pearly white monument. Beneath the Pantheon are the colorful buildings that give this city vibrancy — yellow and red and blue, tropical looking and gothic. They’re absolutely beautiful.
I gazed upon the Pantheon, considering how it had already been a week and I’d already made life-changing memories — I don’t want to let the time fly by. It hit me. Tears came to my eyes. I’m here.
It’s the brief, impactful moments like this when we must remind ourselves that it’s enough — just to be alive.
We may question why we’re doing what we’re doing. We’ll question why we did what we’ve done, or why we didn’t. But does it matter?
We’re thinking; feeling, questioning the universe and asking why. But we’re alive, and that means something. Perhaps, it’s enough.
I wonder why I’m doing this. Part of me is scared that I’m wasting my time, perhaps by running from something — and maybe that’s responsibility.
I sometimes get the feeling that what I’m doing isn’t sustainable; I can’t create a career based on seeking the ends of the earth, following what my heart tells me to follow. I can’t impact the world by telling my story.
I believe I just want an adventure.
Don’t we all, even just a little bit?
I’m here, on this journey now. No matter what happens — how self-doubt might get me down, how the world might tell us how to live, how it can feel like the love has faded — we’re alive. What a gift that is.
I boarded the 9:30am train for Porto and settled in to watch the world go by.