Açores, beauty discovered

IMG_8477Little did I know, that I was starting one of the longest 24 hours of my life.  After taking off from Minneapolis, I settled in for a quick nap, before tuning into John Wick 2 for some entertainment.  I quite enjoyed it and resolved myself to watch the first one after I got back.  I had a difficult time sleeping afterwards, because the thought of flying through Nantes, France kept bugging me.

After touchdown in Amsterdam, I worked my way through security and spent the next 2 hours researching options for a better arrival time in Ponta Delgada.  Eventually, I exited the main terminal, approached TAP airlines about a ticket from Amsterdam to Lisbon to Ponta Delgada, in which they directed me to Delta/KLM to see if they could reschedule without any detriment to myself (which they wouldn’t), and then re-approached TAP, and bought a new ticket for roughly $300.  It extended my layover time to 8 hours, but I’d arrive in Ponta Delgada around 11:30pm.

I consider this a win for the most part, except, when it comes to questions of letting-go and going with the flow of life, I once again traded a potential adventure for certainty.  It’s not the first time I’ve done this (and probably not the last), but now that it’s done, I have a nagging feeling that something fantastic and wonderful could have happened to me if I just would have given Nantes, France a try (if only for one night).  Now we’ll never know…..  It’s one of the things that I really enjoy about travel – each trip prompts me to question how I approach challenges in life, and beckons me to let go of expectations and judgments for how thing’s “ought to be”.

I arrived at my hotel late, exhausted, and overall feeling disgusting in the clothes that I’ve been wearing for 36+ hours now.  Honestly, travel can be one of the dirtiest experiences you’ll ever experience.  Anybody that says otherwise is either lying, or spends their “adventures” hanging out in “all-inclusives” being pampered and living the lifestyles of the rich and famous.  It’s not my choice for adventure.

I checked into Out of the Blue hostel the next day and immediately felt at home.  Most hostels (at least the good ones) focus on building community and connecting people.  I immediately signed up for their pizza night, where a good portion of the hostelers spent the night socializing and making their own pizza concoctions from scratch.  Over the next 3 nights, I made a number of new friends, some from the states, and others from England, Portugal, France, etc.  I lounged in their hammocks while I spent extensive time catching up my reading.  When I think about the activities I did while near Ponta Delgada, the best memories were (and will always be) the people that I interacted with and the adventures I had.

My two dives were mostly disappointing.  I originally signed up for four, but cancelled the last two.  In fact, I almost cancelled after the first dive, after going through my air tank in record time and getting sick on the way back to port.  But, it’s amazing how much your stomach settles down after you projectile-vomit across the side of the whale-watching-boat-turned-scuba vessel.  My scuba partner was extremely understanding as I soiled the area that he originally was seated.

So disappointment aside, it was great to make up for my diving performance by hiking a volcanic crater, Lagoa do Fogo with three other hostelers the day after.  It gave me some good exercise and good company.  We all spent the night at the Hostel barbecue talking world politics and getting to know each other’s background.

The next day, I was invited to go to the north of the island, but instead, decided to rest up and do my favorite activity, jack-shit.  Due to scheduling at my current hostel, I checked into the 1ofus Bed and Breakfast, 3 blocks away.  After checking in, I took 2 long naps that day, and spent the evening walking the board walk.  I found over the years that I dislike travel where I’m moving from place to place and doing something all the time.  Travel is no different from real-life for me.  I need down-time.  I sometimes criticize myself for not fitting more into my travels, but the alternative is that I’m burnt out and not enjoying myself.

The next day would be my last full day on the island, so I caved, and rented a car for the day.  I hate driving in different countries, but I couldn’t stand the idea of being on a bus for the day, not having any control over where I stopped or what I saw.  At 9am, I picked up the car, and headed for Farol do Arnel, a lighthouse on the other end of the island, just south of Nordeste.  After 8 hours of driving around the island, I can honestly say that it is one of the most beautiful islands I have ever experienced.  Rolling green mountains and beautiful flowers and shrubbery.  There’s nothing a naturist wouldn’t love here.

I spent my last evening here eating and drinking tea at my two new favorite cafe’s, Cafe Cazzif (or the 3/4 cafe) and Cafe Louvre Michaelense.  I love the isolation of being on an island, but I’m looking forward to the mainland tomorrow.  If nothing else, it’s a chance to hopefully get away from the second-hand smoke that is so prevalent on this island.

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Introduction to re-discovering my love for travel

Looking at my last post here, you would think that I haven’t traveled at all for almost 2 years.  The truth is, I’ve taken much smaller trips, and which I haven’t felt like I really have anything to say.  I could have written about snowboarding in Vancouver, or hiking the kettles on Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound area of Washington state, or even walking Cannon Beach in Oregon numerous times over a week during Christmas 2016.  There’s been a lot on my mind, but no desire to put it down on paper.

So, here I am, mid-2017, and I needed to use a travel credit to Europe.  Namely, I need to use something on Delta/KLM.  I originally planned a trip for Luxembourg, but instead, cancelled, procrastinated, and then finally decided on Portugal and the Azores about a month prior.  I’m not much for planning things out ahead of time lately.  I’ve been asked many times over the last month, why I chose Portugal and the Açores, and basically, it comes down to a picture I saw posted on facebook of Mike “Rooftop” Escamilla (BMX and Adventure Sports athlete) diving in the Açores.  It looked amazing, and I felt like I needed to go.

For the past 3 years, I’ve been re-establishing myself financially and continuing to minimize my belongings……. with the intent of getting back out there and doing some globe-trotting for an extended period of time.  And 3 years later, I’m questioning why I haven’t left yet.  A new found conservative / laid-back approach to life, and a new girlfriend have created an unexpected shift in priorities.  But, travel nags at me from time to time, and I felt I needed to rediscover that part of my soul.  So I decided on 2 weeks in Portugal.

Like all trips, the weeks leading up to it are pretty much the same.  I find myself questioning whether I picked the right place or time to take my trip.  I start to worry about being away.  Some is paranoia of losing my job or something happening to my living arrangements while I’m away.  It’s preposterous – I know – but also a reminder that I need to get out of myself for awhile.  The nights leading up to my departure are usually sleepless with worry starting to set in that I’m continuing putting-off packing.  Do I really want to go?

But, the night before, I find myself 95% packed (I only pack enough to fit in a carry-on and a small bag that fits underneath the seat in front of me), and I sleep slightly better than the previous week.  I squeeze two final moments with the girlfriend into my schedule and ride off to the airport.

I’m already checked in, so I just go to the Delta kiosk to print off my tickets and….. something is wrong.  Instead of flying Minneapolis to Amsterdam and then continuing with KLM to Lisbon, they have my flight going through Nantes, France, and then continuing onto Lisbon the next day, which completely screws up my flight to the Açores and plans for the first day that I’m there.  After 30 minutes of investigation with Delta’s concierge, I find out the KLM flight was cancelled.

I guess it’s like Yvon Choinard once said:  “For me, when everything goes wrong – that’s when the adventure starts”.