The last few weeks of our gap year adventure were quite the whirlwind. Alex and I were reunited in Fisterra, Spain where we spent a few days in total relaxation at a beachside hotel with perfect sunset views.
Although we had a rental car, it sat idle for three days. I just couldn’t not walk. So we explored the peninsula on foot, sinking our toes in the warm sand, climbing the hills for panoramic ocean views, strolling into town for provisions.
We shared Beltane with fellow pilgrims at Albergue Sol y Luna, where I last laid my weary pilgrim head. The owners and volunteers prepared a beautiful feast, followed by singing around a fire, where we ceremonially shed our burdens and set our intentions for the new season by burning pieces of paper that contained words representing that which we desired to leave behind and that which we intended to carry forward.
Before our year away, I wasn’t really one for ceremony, but I’ve come to appreciate the importance and power of ritual over the last year.
Sufficiently rested, we then headed off for a road trip through Portugal and southern Spain. Sitting in the car that first day felt incredibly surreal. I hadn’t traveled any faster than the speed of feet in over a month and here we were cruising down the highway at 120 km per hour. To my great surprise, it only took a couple days before traveling this way felt entirely normal.
Highlights of our road trip included sipping port in Porto…
Exploring castles in Sintra…
Birding (and finding hoopoes) in Doñana National Park…
Touring the souk in Tangier…
Exploring the white hill towns of Andalucía…
We ended the road trip with one night in Madrid where I got to meet Sparkle Goat, and Alex got to play tour guide, showing off his favorite parts of the city.
We spent our last two days in Paris where we did our best not to sink our entire trip budget in 48 hours – dang that city is expensive!
And then the long flight home via Iceland where we made the most of our 8-hour layover by soaking at the municipal thermal pools.
We’ve been back in Portland for a little over a week where we have spent our days and evenings re-connecting with family and friends. Thus far, the experience feels a bit odd, like we are visitors in our own city. We suspect that once we move back into our own house in a few days, we will feel more settled and at home here. I can’t wait to cook my first meal in our own kitchen, snuggle up to our sweet kitty on our own couch and enjoy a fire in the backyard of our own little urban oasis.
I must admit that although there were certainly times during our travels that I ached to come home, when the time came, I didn’t feel entirely ready. There were obviously things I missed about home. Yet, I had become accustomed to life on the road: the joy of exploration, the anticipation of the unknown. And there is so much of the world yet to explore.
For now, we have to shift our focus a bit. Portland is an amazing city, surrounded by beautiful, wild places with endless opportunities for exploration and discovery. We just need to make time for the experiences. Captivating encounters await us!
Spain Bird List: monk parakeet, rock dove, eurasian collared dove, european magpie, european starling^, white stork, blue tit, european goldfinch, black kite, european robin, eurasian blackbird^, blackcap, white wagtail, black redstart, crested lark, cirl bunting, winter wren, sardinian warbler, great tit, great crested grebe, eurasian coot, european stone chat, atlantic canary, black shouldered kite, yellowhammer^, common firecrest, eurasian nuthutch, house martin, song thrush^, jackdaw, common raven^, european greenfinch, corn bunting, collared flycatcher, northern wheatear, barred warbler, linnet, european green woodpecker, great bustard, eurasian jay, rock bunting, red-legged partridge, pied avocet, european bee eater, long-tailed tit, barn swallow^, azure winged magpie, golden oriole, little grebe, feruginous duck, common waxbill, purple gallinule^, hoopoe, spotless starling, crested tit