Fire and Ice (South India, January 2020)

A dramatic title for the description of two mundane things. Winter in the tropics. Winter in Portugal. And yet so accurate. The temperature around me dictates my mood much more than I would like to allow. Give me sun and heat and I will be happy and pleasant. Give me cold and grey and I am too uncomfortable to be nice. Luckily I was born in one of the sunniest countries in the world so there the combination of both, cold and grey, is rare. Which doesn’t stop me from fleeing to warmer latitudes as much as possible.

Fleeing to or fleeing from? That could be the next 500 word exercise. But I digress. Not unusual. This started as an exercise on the differences but what I have been mulling about are the common points. You can avoid the cold, you can travel to the other side of the world in search of novelty and adventure but there is always the common point: you. In the beginning it is so easy to forget all the troubles, all the insecurities, all the unresolved issues. The joy of returning to loved places or the thrill of getting to know new ones overcomes everything else. But after a while it all comes back, sometimes slowly, like the sand gently falling on an ancient glass timer, sometimes crushing  you like an unexpected tidal wave. Spend long enough in a place and you are faced with the usual problems, either within you, either of people around you. Humans are humans. Nature is Nature. You can only be grateful for the temporary moments of peace you get and manage all the others.

The differences between being here right now, near a small village in the south of India, and at home in Porto? Apart from the obvious weather differences, we have the coconut trees dancing in the wind. We have the rice fields where now, the dry season, vegetables are religiously cultivated. We have a seemingly never ending variety of birds flying around. The lightness of wearing very little clothes and walking barefoot most of the time. The simple and delicious food that is cooked for me with so much love. The little hut where I live that seems more like a doll’s home. And the sounds, sounds of Nature everywhere. The sea, that is so close, sometimes whispers and sometimes roars. The birds sing all throughout the day, eagles, kingfishers, crows, humming birds, doves, so many beautiful flying creatures. And at night the frogs and bugs take over with their usual lullaby. In Porto I can hear some trees dancing in the wind but the landscape is very different. Buildings mixed with cultivation fields is what I see from my window. Could be worse. I will need to cover up until May or June and the discomfort of different layers of clothing is something I never get used to. My home is comfortable and I often enjoy my mother’s beautiful food. No love bigger than that. It’s good to remind myself that, although I am returning to much colder latitudes, Portugal is where I am most loved. And isn’t a warm heart the most important thing?

Turns out “Fire and Ice” was not a good title after all…

The Lightness of Little Clothing – reflecting on the future in times of pandemic ( Porto, 20/03/2020)

Oh how things have changed. How things went from “I will be wearing minimum clothing, new Havaianas flip-flops and will be drinking from a fresh coconut in a few days” to “I don’t think I will be able to go back to the tropics this year”. And it’s still March. I was supposed to be in Brazil right now. Leave it to a pandemic viral infection to ruin all your travel plans and jeopardize the little mental sanity you have.

As traveling is as essential to me as eating and drinking I am now wondering when will my soul be able to breathe again. When will I go back to wearing very little clothing and walking barefoot most of the time. Temperature above 30 degrees celsius. A very simple shack, a hammock, the sound of the coconut trees rustling against each other in the wind. The sound of multi-shaped and multi-colored birds from dawn until late at night. The shadows of palm trees under the full moon. How I miss my little piece of heaven right now. There is no material luxury, there is no turquoise sea, and I have seen unrealistically beautiful ones, there is no design furniture by a stylish swimming pool. What is there is the peace of mind given by the certainty that I don’t need much to be happy.

The lightness of little clothing is nothing more than a physical representation of the lightness I feel in my mind in those conditions. Stress is not allowing my mind to rest and my body to sleep properly. My soul can’t breathe. When will I be happy again?

In between – reflection on the past two years (Porto, April 2022)

Now, as we supposedly get out of the pandemic and get back to “normal”, I find myself in my very own limbo. First of all, there is no “normal” and there will never be the “normal” of pre-pandemic times. But, more important, I wouldn’t go back to my previous life even if I could. I am now leaving my cocoon, taking on new wings, in colors I have never worn before, and starting to recreate myself. For two years I saw this time as a time of loss. Loss of my business, loss of motivation, loss of energy, loss of sleep, and the very real loss of my animal companion of over 18 years. To cancer, nonetheless. But that is a love and loss story for another time.

Turns out that after a very well-deserved rest and resetting time, I now see the past two years as an opportunity for transformation. Surely a very hard period, even for the toughest fighters like me. There is no shame in saying that in the first months I sought out the support of a therapist. And the winters, oh the past two winters, how heavy were they on me. I haven’t been on the other side of the world, on my homes away from home in India and Thailand, since the beginning of 2020. And that has weighed on my body and my soul more than I could ever put into words. I haven’t felt the tropical lightness of little clothing in a very long time.

So I am now in this limbo, I am in between what was and what will be. Certain that I will not go back to the same travel routines as before, unsure about how I will find my way to my other homes again. Surely you can say: “but why didn’t you travel there already?”. Restrictions have been lifted, it’s possible to easily travel to Asia now. The truth? I am not ready yet. I am not ready to leave my sick parents. I am not ready to risk getting stuck on the other side of the world because of another wave of a new strain of the virus. I am not ready to believe this is all actually over. And lets not forget there is a war happening that can easily turn into World War III. And also in that case the chance of getting locked in a country on the other side of the world is very real. I am just not risking being unwillingly apart from my family, at least not yet.

Leaving the cocoon takes time. Just like the butterfly needs to fight on her own to leave her chrysalis, spreading the much needed blood on her new wings as she does it, I need to struggle on my own to find my path of transformation. Did you know that if you try to help a butterfly in that state you may actually end up killing her? She needs to move, to open the cocoon slowly, to fully irrigate her wings with fresh new blood before she can gently spread them and fly for the first time. So let me be. Let me get ready, on my own time. I will fly again soon enough.

Alexandra M. – Solo traveler. Independent. Free spirit. I am a Sagittarius, need I say more?//
Viajante a solo. Independente. Espírito livre. Sou Sagitário, é preciso dizer mais?

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