As someone new to the travel industry, I knew little about Portugal and what I would discover there. I was looking forward to the trip—very much so—but was also a little nervous about traveling to another country alone for the first time. I was meeting up with other travel professionals at the hotel, albeit no one I already knew, so I certainly wouldn’t call this a ‘solo’ excursion. Still, I was excited about journeying there myself, meeting new colleagues and travel pros and experiencing a place I had little preconceptions about.
When I landed in the Lisbon airport at about 5:30 in the morning, I walked off the plane and into a hub of cultures and languages. Sure, an airport is a melting pot of passersby, but I hadn’t been overseas in years, so it was both new, exciting and overwhelming at once. I could overhear conversations happening from every group walking by, people speaking in French, Portuguese, Spanish, Japanese. I felt autonomous and out of my comfort zone at the same time, which is partly what travel is about, right?
After another flight to Porto, Portugal’s northwest city seated on the coast, I arrived at the hotel and did the thing you’re not supposed to do in order to battle jetlag—nap! Only for an hour or two, though, because we had a double-decker bus tour of the city scheduled.
I was surprised at how amazing the views were from the top of the bus. Porto is over 900 years old, steeped in historic architecture and laden with sharp hills. The lovely, vertical houses and buildings are built close together and appear as if they’re cascading down the hills. We drove along the Duoro River and saw the oldest buildings in the city. There were many cafes and bars we passed, and watching the Portuguese enjoy a leisurely Sunday was lovely—they seemed so carefree and laidback.