While I was in Spain, my group and I were lucky enough to have almost every weekend free to travel wherever we’d like. Some of us even ventured so far as Italy and France. But for me, the best trip that I took during my three months was just skip over the border – to Portugal. Sometimes the best things happen when they aren’t planned, and this trip was the ultimate definition of spontaneity. Looking back, I realize that this is exactly what I wanted from my study abroad experience. I wanted to travel safely with friends without getting so lost that we couldn’t find our way back… But I wanted to “go with the flow,” get just lost enough that we had to wander to find ourselves. This one weekend was the epitome of what I had wanted. I traveled with just two of my friends. One of these friends from the trip had close friends that live in the beautiful capital of Portugal: Lisbon.
We were fortunate enough to spend the whole weekend being guided around the city by locals. They showed us all the little unknown bars, cooked us homemade food, and shared their lives with us for a few days. I was let into a part of the culture that I would have never seen had I just been in tourist mode. Our new friends took us to the local Starbucks (oh what heaven!), shopping, and to a few bars that we never would have found by ourselves. The experience was one unlike any I’d ever had. I was seeing the capital of Portugal from the inside. I wasn’t struggling with a map or wondering what famous site to see next. Instead I was shopping with my Starbucks in hand and talking with the barista at the coffee shop using my friend as our translator. It was a world that I was not used to seeing in my 3 months abroad. The time there and the people I spent it with are things that I will never ever forget. It also taught me something really valuable about traveling. Sometimes the best times and experiences come from that part of the trip that you just didn’t plan. You went on a limb, did something you never thought you would, or followed a local through the streets blindly to places you’ve never been. I will always think of that weekend in Portugal as the best weekend of my life.