Lisbon, Portugal – and last week on board

Does Lisbon have a major drug problem?

Ha, that got your attention, didn’t it?

Four days left on the ship, and I swear I got more offers to buy drugs during my visit to Lisbon than in the previous 26 years of my life. I don’t know if they have a problem per say, and Lisbon certainly seemed like a clean, cultural, beautiful metropolis (Portugal’s capital and largest city). So it’s not like crime and drug trafficking were rife… but man I got a lot of offers as I was strolling the streets with my friend. Maybe they just get away with it more?

It always went something like this: 

“Senhor… excuse me?”

By now, four months into traveling all around the world, I had become quite good at maintaining the stone-walled face of ignoring anyone trying to pester me as a tourist. You know, to protect yourself and get along. Either ignoring or simply saying “no” and moving on (usually ignoring).

“Senhor. Sunglasses? Sunglasses for Senhor?”

Why was everyone asking if I needed sunglasses, it was always the same question. And, I had sunglasses on my head. I’d say no, and then the immediate follow up:

“Good Senhor. Cocaine? Heroin?”

Excuse me??? Just like that from selling sunglasses to offering hard drugs? And on the main street (no, I don’t venture into back dark alleys). What was going on here? All along the main drag of Augusta Street, my friend and I were asked about five or six times. We ignored everyone asking us, but man… it was amusing.

So, Andrew’s Advice: if you’re shopping for sunglasses in Lisbon, you might wind up with more than you bargained for.

Strolling the streets, it was all typical European flavour: all of the grand architecture of Portugal’s glory days conquering the world and reaping the riches. Some of the streets and plazas even went beyond the typical cobblestones… some were lined with mosaic tiles. Very snazzy. Lots of buskers, great shops for the ladies, cafes… a very atmospheric, clean and exciting city to visit.

After finishing work for the day, I joined a few of my crew mates to celebrate a birthday. We headed to Lisbon’s trendy harbor front with its bars and restaurants. There, I realized that Lisbon seemed to be copying other parts of the world: the immense red suspension bridge that is a direct copy of the Golden Gate Bridge, and in the distance on a hill a replica of Rio’s Statue of Christ the Redeemer.

We had dinner of Portugal’s celebrated seafood at a super-trendy waterfront restaurant called “Blues.”

**********

And during that dinner, I really started reflecting a lot on my last few days on the ship. About the close connections I made in such a short span of time with people from around the world, and how much I’d learned from everyone’s unique experiences in their own lives. Certainly, the last few days on board were spent in lots of parties savoring the last moments with those I worked and lived with.

Of course, with the power of email and Facebook the reality is that keeping in touch is more possible than ever. Ultimately if I needed a place to stay around the world, I’d be able to call someone up.

But the sad reality, and the trade-off of the joys of travel and experiencing adventure in different places, is that you meet people who touch your life… but whom you will probably never see again. No matter how much practice you get saying it by moving around with the adventures of life, it’s always hard to say goodbye.

But recently, I read a great reflection from a friend I met on board… Joe Kita’s son Paul who tagged along while his dad taught the memoir-writing course on the ship. Paul kept a blog on his travels, too, and reflected on the end of the cruise like this:

“As the ship sailed to its final port in the England, I said goodbye yet again to all the friends I had made. But this time I noticed a change. I’d learned that if you can capture a lesson, just one lesson, from the friends you make, you can take that person with you for the rest of your life.”

In a way, that makes leaving (a tiny bit) easier. Because I knew, without any shadow of a doubt, that I’d enjoyed myself and been enriched immeasurably by what I learned from the job, from the experiences, from the cultures and ways of life around the world – and from the inspiration of those who shared their friendship over the four months.

This experience will always be a part of me – and so, too, will all those who made the experience so remarkable.

*** Now I point you to both the photos of Lisbon, and a collection of how I enjoyed my last few days with my crew mates. Oh yes, we had fun. 

Then there are the sappy/melodramatic photos of actually stepping off the gangway and bidding goodbye to Crystal Serenity.

*** Then, hit the “next” button to read about leaving the ship and starting off on my solo journey through Europe. 

Next installment: traveling solo in Europe! The adventure continues.

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