“Despertado en tu lado en el amanecer
Nada es igual
Nada se compara.”
– Me Voy de Viaje, Jory Boy
All roads lead us out into the world, and then, eventually, into ourselves.
Looking at the photo above, I could hardly believe it was taken right smack in the middle of December — two Decembers ago, in fact — from my brief explorations of Faro — the fourth stop in my two-week first ever solo trip. The weather was spectacular, and I savored my solitary presence as I wandered through the cobblestoned streets of the Old Town. Even all the big cities in the world can’t quite compare to this tiny coastal town with its charming little squares lined with orange trees and the promise of the sea so close, you could smell it from afar.
Faro being navigably small, I decided to ditch my backpack at the station and rent a bike — perhaps the best decision I’d made to make full use of my five hours here.
In the span of an hour or two, I could explore so much more of the town than had I simply walked on foot. I visited some churches around, most notably, the Capela de Ossos (Bone Chapel). It was bizarre and beautiful, in a perhaps macabre way — I had never seen anything like it, and nor will this shocking first impression upon entering this holy establishment leave me, even years after I have written this.
My bike was rusty but it was the perfect size for me, and the thick tyres were most suited for navigating the rough, uncertain cobblestoned surface of the backstreets of Faro. The back tyre lacked a mudguard, and my Fossil Sydney Satchel grazed against it repeatedly as I cycled along the bumpy streets, leaving scars on the maroon leather. I did not realize this until I’d cycled through half of the town. But no matter — this is proof that the satchel has traveled far, and has indeed proven to be a most faithful companion on countless adventures with me through more than 20 countries in the past two years alone.
I’d arrived in Faro from Sevilla, bringing with me so much more baggage than I had intended. But I thoroughly enjoyed taking the time to be alone here, to get lost in Faro’s winding streets and to be surprised by what awaited me at every street corner. On my bike with just my satchel and my map, I felt a little reckless — I was on my own in a coastal Mediterranean backwater town in the south of Portugal, and actually having the time of my life on this road I’d unexpectedly taken.
Before I knew it, it was time to return the bike to its rightful owner and claim my own backpack. I boarded the train to Lisbon with such fond memories of Faro, ready to explore my next and final destination. The next time I stop over in a small town like this, I know what to do — ditch my backpack, rent a bike, and get lost (preferably with a map, but if that’s hard to come by, I suppose I could go map-less). This would be a great story to tell the grandkids.