The Beauty of Traveling Alone
By: Camille Siegel
Whoever said “traveling alone is a drag” never traveled alone! The great thing about going it alone on vacation is the ability to really experience another culture on your own terms. (Don’t get me wrong, my trips with my friends or boyfriends were wonderful too.)
Traveling alone makes it possible to do what I call “culture immersion,” that is, the ability to lose myself in the culture. I begin by researching the country to learn its local customs; I like to absorb everything I can and become a so-called native. I dine on the country’s cuisine while taking walking and day tours to find places that you wouldn’t otherwise see. I then like to hone in on the nightlife and drink the country’s wines and eat the local delicacies. While in Portugal, I discovered the national pastime is a form of singing called “Fado.”
Fado is the music of the land and dates back to the 1800s. It’s a soulful music, almost opera-like, that will transport you to another time and place. Every night, I would go to a Portuguese restaurant and listen to a Fado singer, and get lost in the affecting and mournful sounds, while drinking the traditional “green ” or white wine. There’s something to be said for such a feeling! Thanks to Fado, I learned so much about the history of Portugal, and got a real feeling for the people—a warm and engaging society.
Further, a friend who had lived in Lisbon hooked me up with some of her Portuguese friends who showed me all around Lisbon and Sintra. They took me to many places I would have never found on my own. We ended up going to a Portuguese Wine exhibition, a huge space of over 200 red, white, and other liquors—talk about a wine drinker’s dream! I tasted numerous wines, some available in the States. And I ended up conversing with many different people from Portugal, while learning about their wine history.
Overall, the experience of allowing yourself to really participate in the culture is a magnificent event. The time I wandered the streets of Lisbon and went around the coast was an amazing journey and a reflective time. I was able to look back on the year, and chart a new and positive road for 2008. Now if I could only find that bottle of Quinta do Ameal White Wine that I had, life would be perfect!