It’s not as dramatic as it sounds. And yet … it kind of is. Ever since I left Norway for Portugal with too many bags, a laptop and my first two translation contracts, I have known that my life would be completely changed from that day. And is was. Though I left Portugal again before the end of summer because I had found love, my heart has always longed to be back at that particular place where the change happened, in that small sleepy town in Southern Portugal, with the beach and the sun and the riverside café and the food and the vinho verde and the slower pace of life. The feeling that everything was possible and that nothing could go wrong as long as it felt right. And the idea that if I stayed there forever, it would feel like that forever.
So we have kept going back there over the years, we even went back for a little week to chill after our honeymoon Camino. And it always felt like coming home, so I have always had a dream in my heart that I would go back for good one day. Every time I am there I look at the crumbling houses, the still empty bar, the villas brilliant white in the hills, and imagine myself doing a place up, starting a business for us both, or retiring to a small piece of paradise outside the little town, going in now and then to have a meal, meet friends, enjoy a concert, spend the day on the beach …
This time something was different. It’s not it, I suspect, it is also me. And time. We’ve both changed a lot, my dream town and I. It’s been sixteen years almost to the day since I landed in Portugal, took a taxi to my little room in town, promptly fell asleep and didn’t wake up until the early hours, to find myself in a beautiful, quiet and empty tiled town under a velvet sky sparkling with stars. I loved it from the moment I saw it and it will always have a special place in my heart. I will be back, and I will love it then too. I just can’t imagine myself living there again.
Maybe it is also because of the Camino. My favourite place now, the place I daydream about and always long to go back to, is not so much a physical location, but a state of mind, a flow of people moving in the same direction, always further, pushing on, one after the other and side by side. It is in many ways a similar dream: the slower pace of life, the food and drink and sun and companionship, but it is more: not knowing what the day will bring, concentrating on the essentials in life, living in the moment, always moving on and following your feet and your heart. I sometimes dream of living on the Camino – in the sense of having a home next to this flow of people – but I doubt any one place will give me what I need. The Camino is in many ways the opposite of a home.
I suppose the nature of dreams is that they sustain you until you don’t need them anymore, or until you make them come true. My Portuguese tiled town dream is over now and it feels a little bit sad. But then I think about the walk up to O Cebreiro … and the smile is back on my face. I haven’t stopped dreaming, I have just cut the anchor and let my dream sail wherever the wind takes it.
Buen Camino, dream.