I had the great fortune to spend time in the beautiful country of Portugal recently. In a word, the place is magical. As generally happens when we step away from our day to day, a change of scenery allowed me to see things from a different perspective. I came home reminded of a few lessons that are applicable both professionally and personally.
Take time to recharge. A vacation itself is an opportunity to recharge. However, I’ve been on vacations where there was so much go-go-go that I felt like I needed a few days off to rest once home. On this trip, my travel companions and I knew it would be impossible to see everything, so we picked 2-3 things we could realistically accomplish in a day, allowing plenty of time in between to rest, wander, eat, drink, and see where the day took us. Some of my favorite spontaneous moments included a 2-hour lunch in beautiful Sintra, stopping for ginja (a yummy cherry liquor) that was sold from home windows, strolling through the many beautiful parks we encountered, trying the local pasteis (custard pastries) in every place we visited, and grabbing last minute tickets to an FC Porto futebol (soccer) match. Those times between our “formal” activities allowed us to experience Portuguese culture in a different way, while still replenishing our energy.
Value history and move forward. Each place we visited in Portugal – Lisbon, Sintra, Nazare, Sintio, Aveiro, Porto, and the Duoro Valley – were wonderful examples of honoring the old while welcoming the new. Beautifully maintained castles, palaces, and monasteries co-exist with modern buildings, businesses, and homes. The Portuguese people are proud of their history, recognizing that their culture is the confluence of many different influences over time. Portugal is also a forward-thinking, sophisticated country. Where else can you drink a portotonico and listen to a rock band while within medieval castle walls? The ability to balance the past, present, and future can be rare, and Portugal is the best example of this I’ve seen.
Beauty can be where you least expect it. We often expect to see beautiful things when we travel, and Portugal was no exception. But there were a few surprises. The Portuguese have turned sidewalks into gigantic works of art by creating repeating patterns using light and dark chunks of limestone. Once considered vandalism, graffiti has been elevated to an art form. The larger cities of Lisbon and Porto are known for their wall murals and street art that provide unexpected backdrops to daily life. And tile – for which the country is well-known – is not only used inside buildings but can make up the entirety of its façade.
Back home now, I am trying to apply these lessons in my daily life by finding the beauty in the ordinary, honoring and learning from the past, and taking time to recharge. What lessons have your travels taught you?
(I strongly encourage anyone who enjoys history, beautiful architecture, great pastries, and good wine to take a trip to Portugal. As you can probably tell, I am a huge fan!)
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