I can’t believe I’m here... I’m actually in Portugal! The whole thing feels like a dream. I keep thinking that at any moment now I’m going to wake up, realize it’s Monday morning, and trudge off to work...
But that's not going to happen!!!
My days in Faro were amazing and I loved every moment I spent in this beautiful city. Since landing, I'm constantly excited and wake up every morning curious about what surprises the day holds. While I have no idea what will happen from one day to the next, I’m always looking forward to it.
First off, anybody who ever said traveling alone is lonely was obviously doing it wrong. I too was a bit nervous about spending significant periods of time alone, but for the first four days of this trip I haven’t had a moment to myself. Since I landed in Faro, I’ve met over thirteen different people from all over the world and, truth be told, there was actually a moment where I wanted to be alone for a couple of hours. Granted this is only week one (of fifty-two), but even on days where I expected it to be slower, there have always people to meet and talk to.
All you have to do is turn to the person next to you at the hostel and say, “Hi, how are you?”
That’s literally it!
And it can be in English! Everyone speaks English.
Faro was an amazingly warm and hospitable city to begin my yearlong journey. It's a remarkably laid-back, sleepy little beach city full of relaxed locals, energetic dogs, and wonderful little shops peppered throughout the streets. The sun was out and shining every single day, and there is a refreshing breeze that flows throughout the entire city. I never once felt hot, humid, or uncomfortable... even after walking all day.
I can’t emphasize it enough; this city has perfect weather!
As I wander the city, I can’t help but appreciate the stunning mosaic walkways and dilapidated, colorful little buildings which line the streets. Each structure shows the obvious signs of wear and tear - thanks to hundreds of years of Portuguese weather - but all are painted in bright, vibrant colors. These modest domiciles remind me of a group of old women, each standing next to one another, happy as ever, and well made-up to look their best. While the signs of age are clearly apparent, they make the effort to put their best foot forward. As I explore the narrow city streets, each building seems to smile back at me - radiant as the first day they were constructed.
I feel as if I have the entire city of Faro to myself. The heavy tourist season doesn’t start for another three weeks, but all of the shops are open and eagerly awaiting summer vacationers. There are a few tourists sprinkled about, but if I ever find myself wandering through the dense, winding streets north of the city center, I can walk for blocks without seeing another person… not even a local.
Right from day one I hit the ground running. I was awoken early in the morning to a scraggly young Englishman named Tom wishing me good morning. After my eighteen-hour flight, I didn’t have a chance to meet my roommates and was surprised to see this stranger staring back at me since I never heard anybody come in the night before.
Tom is an interesting character who gave off a hippy-like vibe thanks to his brown and blond dreadlocks, multi-colored beanie, and eclectic variety of clothing. His wardrobe gave him a unique "vagabond" style, which was most suitable for travel. As we exchanged pleasantries, my second roommate, Stephan, chimed into the conversation from the other side of the room as he put his shoes on. Stephan is a German medical student taking a week off to travel though Portugal before beginning an intense studying regimen for an upcoming exam. He spoke excellent English even through his thick accent and wore basic, light green t-shirt and cargo pants. Both were getting ready for the day’s activities and, after talking for a few minutes, they invited me to join them on their adventure to the nearby island of Farol.
Initially I hesitated, because in my head I had already planned to visit the sights around town; my “beach day” wasn’t until the following day. Like the rightly deserved slap in the face I needed, it suddenly hit me - I am done planning for this trip. From here on out I do no more planning unless it's absolutely necessary.
"Yes, I’ll come along with y'all! Give me two minutes to put on pants!”
…and just like that we were gone!
Farol is located about 30 minutes Southeast of Faro by boat. From a distance, the town is only distinguishable by its large red and white lighthouse that dominates the city's "skyline." There isn't much to see in the town outside of a few shops and restaurants, but the island's coastline is a never ending strip of pristine paradise which runs for approximately 12 miles up the northern side of the island. It was a truly wondrous feeling to be halfway around the world taking in such a breathtaking vista, but more than anything, I was thrilled to discover that all Tom and Stephen wanted to do was spend the day walking the coastline.
Finally! People that understand me! They were just as excited to walk the brisk 24 mile round trip!
Yes, yes... I can envision the look of disgust on everyone’s face who is reading this now, "Walk 24 MILES?!?"
We spent the day walking the beach, stopping periodically for coffee/beers and took a swim on a nearby stretch of deserted beach. I can’t possibly think of a better way to have spent the day! When we returned to Faro, we dropped off our stuff and proceeded to a local bar renowned for its sangria and exceedingly generous shots of Jameson. We spent the night drinking and telling stories until early in the morning.
And this was just day one!
The following day Stephan left early in the morning for his next destination, Lagos, so I spent the day with Tom exploring Faro, drinking more espressos than I can count, and listening to him play guitar at every possible opportunity (which I was perfectly okay with). My feet were killing me from the previous day’s hike, but I couldn’t care less, this was exactly the way that I wanted to spend my time, wandering aimlessly with good company. We stopped that evening to grab dinner at a local restaurant and spent the night talking over our five-euro liter of wine. To top it all off, when Tom and I returned to the hostel we had three new French roommates waiting: Alex, Edward, and Charles.
I spent my last day in Faro writing and walking around oldest section Faro, Cidade Velha, but overall there wasn't much to write home about.
...yes, lame pun intended...
The most entertaining part of my day wasn't until that evening where I bonded with my newfound French friends over a drinking game called Pyramid. Halfway through the night we rounded up anyone we could find in the hostel and invited them to join our festivities. The evening was full of stories, ethnic jokes, and excessive quantities of poor English (especially as the night went on). I had a blast and never once felt alone.
This is why I love hostels!
Faro has been absolutely fantastic and it's strange to think that I arbitrarily chose this city to start my trip. I don’t know if I'll ever have the opportunity to return, but for the time being, I’m glad to have spent at least a few days in this wonderful town. It will always hold a special place in my heart. Until we meet again Faro…
Next stop Lagos!