I didn’t care that I hadn’t slept on a real bed in 9 days. I didn’t care that my hair looked like a tumbleweed. I didn’t care that our van ran out of water two days ago. The rugged simplicity of the experience made it wholesome. The chaos of the adventure made it memorable.
May 23rd, exactly two weeks and 3 days earlier, Julian, Finn, and I had submitted our final pieces of course work for our undergraduate degrees. We, three best friends, wore jeans and sweaters in our seaside Scottish home. Now, June 9th, we sat in a cheap Italian restaurant with red-checkered tablecloths near the coast in Porto Covo, Portugal. We sported dirty t-shirts with shorts to show off our fresh tans.
Porto Covo appears old. Not in a historical way, but in a “this place could use some paint or a major make over” kind of way. The rugged demeanor of the town matched the sloppy presentation the three of us had adopted after living in an RV for nearly 10 days.
I’ll forever remember our time in the van as the epitome of happiness, bathed in yellow, radiating warmth, and sounding like an 80’s greatest hits album. Each day, we woke up, joined a local gym to use the shower, and drove south looking for something to do and somewhere to park for the night. Early on, we decided negativity didn’t fit in our compact vehicle. Any hardship we encountered would be met with laughter and a quick solution. And it was.
When I stalled on a hill in the middle of traffic in Porto, we laughed as we ushered a Portuguese man to come take the wheel and get us to safety. When Finn knocked off the right rear view mirror in Lisbon, we laughed as we agreed the mirror wasn’t essential. When Julian stalled in the middle of a four-lane highway in Lagos, we got serious, got out of the stall, then erupted in laughter.
We had so much fun, continually, that joy became the norm. I didn’t notice how infrequently I checked my phone or the constant smile on my face. It was irrelevant our socks stunk from days without a wash, our voices reflected the atrocious amounts of cigarettes we’d inhaled, or that we’d eventually need a lawn mower to take down the hair that had grown on my legs and their faces. We couldn’t care less. We just spent the last 9 days living without a schedule, disconnected from social media, and exploring new places with a delightful optimism often neglected in the hustle and bustle of the modern everyday.
Tomorrow, we would return the van in Albufeira and rejoin society. But, for now, the three of us sat in a comfortable silence. I looked at the boys, both of them having the final puffs of their post dinner cigarette, ashing next to a pile of half-eaten pizza crust. I realized my luck for having found people I could spend endless time with.
These part-time comedians part time pop stars, as they’d like to think, were incredible individuals. I was lucky to have conquered the western coast of Portugal with them by my side. I felt warmth and happiness bubble right down to the pits of my stomach. Staring at them and the ocean in the distance, reflecting on our time together, I felt love. I felt friendship. I felt joy.