1. Check the holidays, or at least ask your friends!
But I did effectively employ another previous lesson from Holi, which is that it’s worth it to change your plans and lose a little money, if it means gaining an experience that will be with you for a lifetime! I had a blast in at the festival of Sao Joao in Porto, and I’m grateful that I was still able to go.
Really, though. I’ve started checking calendars. This time for real.
2. Stop comparing in absolutes
Going from Spain to Portugal, everything was much cheaper, a fact that I never missed an opportunity to point out. I also fear that I still haven’t quite lost my awful habit of comparing local prices with prices in NYC, and then citing how much, exactly, an item would likely cost in NYC.
The thing is, it’s all relative. 10 euros for a meal may indeed be high if you can easily get one for 4, and if you only make a few hundred euros a month. This is something that I think I understood fairly well with in Sri Lanka, India, and Nepal, but that I lost when I had to adjust back to the higher prices in Spain.
In any case, I think it’s safe to say that it’s never good to compare prices to NYC. I moved away for a reason, now why am I reminding myself of the things I didn’t like?
3. Local guides are the best!
In Portugal, for the first time in my travels, I had local friends (who I previously met in other countries) that I could visit, and who acted as wonderful guides. It was a whole different way to see the city that I definitely prefer. I had the opportunity to go beyond the surface tourist layer and learn more about the culture outside of a tourist context.
How might my experience have been different in other countries if I had local friends? It’s hard to know. But hopefully I’ll get more opportunities to visit friends both new and old in their home countries, and hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to play host to them in the future too!
4. Don’t let fear of being impolite stop you from speaking up
I had my first car collision ever in a rental car in Portugal, in an unfortunate incident that involved a concrete pole and a side view mirror. I wasn’t the one driving, but I was held responsible…and it was something that I could have prevented.
As soon as I let someone else drive the car, I felt uncomfortable with the driver’s fast swerves, but I didn’t want to say anything for fear of offending the driver. I planned to come up with an excuse to take back the wheel the next time we stopped, but before that could happen, we swerved off the road and knocked the side mirror clean off.
All I could think of was the scene in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, where the villain leads the main characters into his house and ultimately into deep danger, and he points out that they could have left at any time but didn’t for fear of being impolite. And what did that lead to? Imminent torture, rape, and death. A little far fetched, but at least for me, it was just the side mirror and not anything worse. I learned my lesson – offending someone is far better than getting slapped with a bill for repairs or ending up in the hospital… or worse.