My last stop on the four month trip abroad was Lisbon, Portugal. I was admittedly tired and having worn the same outfits across two continents and countless cities, I was ready for some wardrobe variety. I flew from Malta to Geneva for one evening, then headed to the western edge of Europe where I lingered just four days before making the much longer leap back across the Atlantic.
Sometimes you don't know when you are saving the best for last, and how fortunate that is. Lisbon surprised me with its warmth (in temperature and kindness of the people) and quickly made me wonder if I should rebook my flights home. I took a free four-hour walking tour around the city on my first full day, exploring the ins and outs of each region of the city and getting to know what made this vibrant place so special. I tasted every pastry available in the local bakery, including a surprise shrimp pot pie that was a bit too much for 9 AM, in my defense it looked like a croissant and my Portuguese is lacking. I got a workout walking up and down the endless Lisbon hills in the heat of the day. To future tourists, do not underestimate the size and prevalence of the hills, you will feel defeated at the sight of another staircase ahead, I recommend perseverance because there's always something worth it around the bend in Lisbon. I watched the sunset from a parking garage rooftop bar, wine glass in hand and Golden Gate Bridge in view (okay, so the Portuguese version, but google it, they are identical). Most of all, I savored my last nights as a solo traveler as I mentally prepared to return stateside and visit with family.
I used Lisbon as a gateway back to reality, dulled by the warmth and fattened by the pastries I was ready to pack my bags one final time. There is a sense of sadness you inevitably feel when you board a flight away from the experience of a lifetime. But as I sat in my airline seat next to a very hipster Australian and his service dog, what I felt most was pride. I had always wanted to travel alone, and I had done just that for nearly four full months. From Thailand to Portugal and all the places I was fortunate to experience in between, the stories and memories will always be a unique part of me.