Is It Time to Settle Down?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

I was in denial for a while. I'm still using a toiletry case- in a bathroom we've been using for months! I still have a backpack filled with necessities just in case a last minute travel opportunity comes up. I still feel a rush every time I see PROMO FARES in my inbox. But the reality has started to sink in.

We're not traveling anymore. 

We're finally home, or at least we're no longer living out of a suitcase. I even have an actual desk where I get to park my laptop- no more internet cafés or co-working spaces. We now have a garden to grow vegetables, fruits and herbs that go straight to our kitchen. There's even been talks of getting pets- something you would not even consider as a long term traveler.

It took us a while to find a place that we really felt comfortable in. A place where we could relax and feel safe. Somewhere close to the sea so we could surf and swim every day if we wanted. We've searched everywhere. From Baler, Siargao, Penang, Chiang Mai, Manila, Versailles. And now, we're finally in a little village in northern Portugal.

Why Portugal? 

For the waves and the weather mostly. We thought we would give it a try and see how we liked it. The longer we stayed, the better we felt. Every day we spend here just feels so damn wonderful! Why?

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The waves are fantastic. When people think of Portugal, they envision the monstrous waves that Peniche is known for. We live close to 4 different surf spots and we get to surf almost every day! And there are no crowds. I have to admit, it took some time for me to get used to cold water surfing. The hardest part is getting out of my wet suit! But living so close to the sea, watching the sun set over the horizon, breathing in that fresh salty air- it just makes me feel so damn lucky.

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The food is so delicious. There's fresh seafood everywhere. I can eat grilled octopus, sardines, cod- you name it! And meat with beans is another one of their specialties like feijoada and picanha. Plus all sorts of sausages (chorizo) and cheeses (queijo). They also eat a lot of rice (arroz) that I sometimes think I'm still in the Philippines.

The people are friendly. Everywhere I go, people say hello or greet me. Even as a foreigner, people are curious and often smile at ne. It's wonderful to live in a new country and easily feel like a local.

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Hello Mr. Sun! Portugal is certainly one of the warmest places in Europe especially in spring and summer. It also has more sunny days and the sun sets around 9 PM starting in springtime. I'm the type of person who needs a lot of sunshine to feel good. And Portugal makes me smile when I wake up in the morning.

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We're so close to nature. We live so close to forests, rivers, beaches, and mountains that we can go to all those different landscapes within minutes! After many years of travel, I've accepted that I'm never going to be a city person again. Here in Portugal, we just breathe easy, enjoy the open road and play a bit of Bob Marley on the background.

But more than all those reason thrown in together, we just feel good here. 

There's no rush, no pressure. I've even gotten used to a daily routine. I usually wake up early, go for a walk by the river or the garden with Sinaya. Then I make a hearty breakfast with a lot of fruits in season. I work online on the days that I can't surf.

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We usually grill our food and eat outside in the sun. Then we either go on top of a mountain or in front of the sea to watch the sunset. And that's just on weekdays.

A vida é bela!

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Even though we haven't exactly been traveling, we see something new every day. We often cross over to Spain along the coast to try new food. It's only 10 minutes away after all, just across the bridge. We go to many towns and cities in Portugal and see different landscapes and cultures.

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As we transition in our new environment, I also see many changes taking place inside me. I don't feel that incessant rush to be everywhere anymore. I feel content to stay where I am. I even have the desire to take roots which is something I'm still getting used to. I've always been in my element being a foreigner. I've felt at home even without a home. I never wanted to be attached to any place, thing or person.

But in the last few months that we've spent in Europe, I've felt that tugging need to belong. 

When I go into a crowded restaurant where everyone knows everyone else, I wish there was a familiar face who would call me by name. Whenever I would surf in a lineup where people are laughing, cursing at each other or simply sharing the joys of their rides, I wish I could high five them and share that moment.

When I was traveling aimlessly around Southeast Asia, I used to feel like Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat Pray Love when she said:

"I feel about travel the way a happy new mother feels about her impossible, colicky, restless newborn baby - I just don't care what it puts me through. Because I adore it. Because it's mine. Because it looks exactly like me.”

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And now that I actually have that restless baby in my arms, I know that travel will never again take that center stage in my life.

I've also discovered new passions like growing and making food. My grandparents on my maternal side were farmers and I've grown pineapples and sweet potatoes on their farm when I was a kid. I've picked it up again here in Portugal. We're slowly growing an herb and kitchen garden. We enjoy fruits like lemons, oranges, cherries and soon some apples and peaches.

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Then, there are the small, seemingly unnoticed changes. Like not wanting to share so much about my personal life anymore. It's not a conscious effort but I feel more content somehow. More in the moment. I want to savor my daughter's smile, my husband's laugh,  the sound of the rain, the changing scenery without the need to document the experience. To pay attention to everything that's around me.

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I want to just be there.

Not taking any photos, not thinking of an article to write, or a status message to post. I'm simply there and I am happy.

I have learned to make peace with these changes. I have learned to accept that I will never be the same, and that's okay. I don't exactly believe in reincarnation. But I do believe in the possibility of living many different lives in one lifetime.

To reinvent yourself and evolve are all part of the beauty of the human condition.

And today I felt the need to share all these thoughts with you. 

Because you've been with me on this journey for so long. And I know that a lot of these changes might be lost on you. I don't know if you still want to be on this journey with me. Through motherhood, blending in, settling down, but never settling, building this new life and reinventing myself.

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I've been thinking lately that this blog doesn't feel like home anymore. 

That perhaps it won't be the house where my new ideas should live. That maybe it's time to build a new house. I've gone through numerous solutions in my head. I've even considered giving it all up.

When part of what you do doesn't feel like you anymore, do you choose to remove it? 

Every day, when I wake up I ask myself this question:

"Are you still in love?"

And when the answer is yes, I continue to do my little work. And so far, in the last 4 years and 9 months, the answer has been yes.

This blog has been my career for that long. It's a career that I love. And it's been my longest running one yet. Yes, having a career you love is important. But you know what's more important?

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A life you love filled with people you love.

I want to know what you think. Should I continue blogging here, or maybe it's time to start over with something else? If you've been following this blog and haven't spoken up yet, now is the time. 

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It's still me, 

Lois has traveled extensively and have lived in Asia, the United States, and Europe. She is currently based in Portugal with her husband and baby girl. She is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of We Are Sole Sisters and has written the ebook "Where Should I Go in Southeast Asia?" based on her travels in the region for 6 months on less than 2,500 USD.


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13 sole trails

  1. Hello Lois

    Not sure if my previous comment came through - but please keep blogging here :)

  2. this blog has inspired me to travel the world. I may not have blogged about my travels but i do love to read your ideas. please keep this blog. your travels and experiences have been so encouraging.

  3. Beautiful post Lois, I love Portugal and I wish I was settling there too. Reinventing oneself is the most inspiring and most rewarding feeling ever, and I am glad you are embracing this other you. After all, a blog is just a blog, you can shape it as you please, continue sharing, you could become a local expert about northern Portugal. We all know we don't need to travel far to experience...travels :-)

  4. It's okay if you'll start a new blog. It would be interesting to read non-travel related stories from you. Besides, you can still keep this one and update whenever you, or the other sole sisters, have another travel story to share. I'm happy that you're lovingly embracing this new chapter of your life.

  5. Now where do I start? I run the risk of putting out a series of disjointed thoughts not exactly related to each other, but I'll give it a shot anyway.
    1. A traveler never stops traveling. Even if you think you have found your roots after all. I can tell you this from experience. So your feeling of belonging will probably last a few months, or maybe a couple of years before your feet start getting itchy again. And fortunately for the travel community, Ben is a traveler as well, so it's only a question of time before you either start scratching each other's feet, or do the more sensible thing of packing your bags and setting out again.
    2. The very fact that you love looking out at the sunshine, visit the beach every day, go surfing and discover new things daily shows that you are still very much in travel mode! Power to you for that.
    3. The feeling of belonging in Portugal is also probably because you are from the Philippines, which was under the Spanish (the big brother right next door!) and since you liked Goa (India) which was under the Portuguese until as recently as the late 1970s. So you are still in travel mode!
    4. Travel doesn't necessarily have to mean solo travel or backpacking in SEA. (yes, I know you have written an entire book about it). True family responsibilities, the baby (Sinaiya is still too young), later her schooling, your husband's job etc. will place heavy demands on your time and finances. But Sinaya will have her school vacation. Ben will have his vacation time as well. So why not travel around Portugal, Spain, other areas around where you live? You can do a wine tour of Spain and Portugal, starting with the world famous Salamanca town, on the Spain-Portugal border.
    4. After all the time, expense, convincing of relatives, and the learning efforts you have put in so far, not to mention lost friendships (you know who I refer to) it would be a shame to simply throw all that away just like that in the name of finding your roots. Share your experience with the rest of the solo travel community who are in dire need of the inspiration and advice!
    5. Ok, so you may not write for solesisters any more, but I think you owe it to the travel community to continue to share your travel wisdom and experiences. Start your own blog and enjoy doing it the way you want, writing in the language you love, and not having the burden of instructing somebody or trying to play team leader. You need something to do on rainy afternoons and when both Ben and Sinaiya are away at work/ nursery anyway. You are not going to cook or grow vegetables 24x7x365 are you?
    And do please consider starting a new 'wine quest' blog or 'Portuguese dishes' blog or something like that as well!
    And yes, your still using a toilet kit despite being rooted somewhere for several months is indication enough where this is heading! ;-)
    All said and done, it IS sometimes nice to take a break from physical traveling and indulge in armchair traveling, only here you are also have a guide and mentor role, be it physical or armchair!
    So don't give up on your duty to the travel community, and happy traveling! (sooner or later).

  6. But I just found your blog today! : (
    Trust your bliss

  7. Keep blogging, please. I love how Sole Sisters has become a community - a place where future, current or past travelers come and share. What you are living is something some of us active travelers are either thinking about, dreaming of, or maybe even (in my case!) dreading. It's good to read how you still have the freedom to choose whatever place in the world feels like home when comes the time to settle down. Please keep blogging :)



  8. you are at your best when you write like this. i was moved by your piece when you got denied by the spanish embassy. anyway keep on blogging. you write well...whether if its about travel or otherwise. i too, is in the crossroad and also like you has some decisions that have to be made.. go girl!!!

  9. Whatever you decide, embrace with your full heart! You've got a beautiful voice and I hope you continue to share your way with words with the world. But there is nothing wrong with devoting yourself to savoring time with your family either. I've always had a lust for travelling and seeing new places but I've come to realize that some of my favourite experiences have never been seeing the places I have been but rather the people I have shared those places with. Wish you all the best as you chose your path.

  10. I am your no. 1 avid fan! I follow your blog. I read your travel stories. Do what is in your inner heart.God bless you.

  11. Everything sounds beautiful. Just do everything you please, and we readers would love to read your blog post as always.

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  13. My partner and I absolutely love your blog and find nearly all of your post's to be exactly I'm looking for. Would you offer guest writers to write content in your case? I wouldn't mind creating a post or elaborating on many of the subjects you write about here. Again, awesome blog!


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