Extract of a chapter in a travel memoir
Solo Travel – In Search of Self – A memoir The ‘how’ and ‘why’ of travelling
To explore the intangible rewards of travelling the world
The author’s notes on an RTW journey. Historical, political and social research
While passing the Forte Ponta da Bandeira at the marina, I enjoy watching its walls glisten in the warm afternoon sun. It was built in the 17the century to defend the town against naval attack. Ahead, a group of young people are gearing up for SCUBA lessons against the backdrop of a blue sea that’s refecting a brilliant, cloudless sky. Across the road, medieval castle walls built by the Moors invite a closer look. It’s possible to climb to the top of the walls and get a magnificent view of the town with the sea beyond. Further along the beach esplanade, I pass a white, arcaded building which was once used in the slave trade. In fact, this market in Lagos was the first slave market in Europe dating back to 1444. The slaves sold here were captured in Africa. Like so many European countries, Portugal has its share of grim history.
I turn the corner to find a shady tree-lined street where dozens of diners are enjoying their alfresco lunches under umbrellas squeezed between a dozen souvenir stalls. An accordion player with bright eyes and engaging smile adds atmosphere to the colourful scene with his lively music.
To my surprise, the young man I’d met yesterday is here and invites me to sit at his table. His partner’s not due to arrive until this evening, so he’d been at a loose end. Yesterday, we’d talked for hours and found we shared remarkable similarities. Today again, I reflect on how valuable it can be to exchange existential insights. Those strains that harmonise with another are like a melody that reassures that we’re not alone in this world, even when the ‘other’ is a stranger met on a journey. Perhaps that’s why some of us are compelled to travel; to discover both the new and different in the external world and to uncover our essential selves as reflected and shaped by the differences and similarities we discover between ourselves and the people we meet. This is a diamond amongst the many intangible rewards of travel.