Saudades – The Hardest Part About Travel

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post about the Lessons I’ve Learned from World Travel.  That article was about some of the wonderful aspects of travel and how they have shaped me. Though, I didn’t mention some of the more difficult parts of travel. Before I tell you what the most difficult parts about travel are for me, I’ll tell you what they are not. It has nothing to do with the physical body. It isn’t getting tired or hungry. It’s not the aching feet from walking 20 mi (32 km) in one day. Nor is it the days I was stuck in my hotel room with food poisoning thinking that I was about to die. In that post I talked about how those are things that toughened me up, and hence I view them as a positive. No, one of the hardest things for me is leaving pieces of my heart in every place that I connect with.

New Orleans

Have you ever heard Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans, by Louis Armstrong? Listen to the lyrics and you’ll know right away that Louis gets it. The Big Easy is one spot where I left a piece of my heart. New Orleans was my home in 2011-2012. Sometimes I think about the creaky, old, 19th century houses on St. Charles, in Midtown, Tremé, the Garden district and the Marigny. I look back on when I used to walk through the French Quarter after work. All the lights would be out except the old gas-lamps. I used to stroll around my neighborhood and smell the scent of sweet olive and jasmine floating through the moist swamp air. I loved taking the creaky St. Charles streetcar to work during the week. I miss the festivities, the humidity, the history, all of it…

Paris, La Seine

For me it’s also Paris, another once-upon a home of mine. I reminisce about when I would walk around the city for hours and hours. I lived in a tiny, bohemian mansarde (attic room previously for live-in maids that had a slanted ceiling and only a few feet of space at one end where one can actually stand up). I was broke, but I was so happy to be living in Paris surrounded by beautiful architecture and interesting people. I used to wander into the grandiose cathedrals and ponder the stained glass. I miss the parties in my Spanish friend’s little 5th-floor apartment.

The most recent place where I left a piece of myself was Vila Velha, Brazil. I had a nice one-bedroom that was only a 10-minute walk from the beach. I went there almost every day. My friend and I would swim and watch the sea turtles coming up for air. Sometimes I would spread out a sarong and read in the sand. Oftentimes we would attend independent film festivals at the university. I miss cooking Moqueca, Feijoado and other Brazilian dishes. When I got tired of cooking I’d go out for Gormet Pizza, Churrasquinhos and Açai. It was an unforgettable time for me.

Those are just a few major examples from my life. I have other places where I left a piece of my heart such as the village Tad Lo in Laos, also Budapest and Madrid. Even if I’m happy in my current location, there are always feelings of longing, or Saudades in Portuguese. I feel  that longing whenever I’m reminded of that place. Sometimes it’s from a song, a movie, or someone mentioning that they were there recently. Sometimes I just daydream and the feeling comes out of nowhere and smacks me right in the face.

And, if you should return to a place looking to relive that magical moment in your life be forewarned. It probably won’t feel the same. I’ve learned over the years that you can’t return to a place and expect to get the same feeling. The connections formed with those people and places were not coincidence. They were the coming together of many factors and energies. These converged to create a unique and special moment in time and space for me and the people I shared those experiences with. They are singular and cannot be replicated.

So how do I go on traveling, leaving pieces of my heart in so many places around the world while still staying whole? Though it feels like I leave something in each place, I also integrate something new into my life. A friend of mine Brazil said it best –

“Vamos deixando pedaços de nós pelo caminho e cada pedaço que fica para trás nos mostra que podemos seguir com menos medo de perdê-los.”

“We go about leaving pieces of ourselves on the road and each piece that stays behind shows us that we can continue onward with less fear of losing them.” – L. M.

Thus, I continue to embrace the Saudades I feel almost on a daily basis. All these experiences, bitter and sweet, have shaped me. So, when I am having one of those moments or periods of life, when I am forming a deep connection with a person or place, I try to live those moments to the fullest. I try to give my whole heart to the attention of the moment, because that moment will never come back. It can always be relived and revisited in your memory, but can never be replicated. And that to me is one of the most beautiful AND the most difficult parts for me about world travel.

Stay tuned for part 2…


The Louvre

No…. it’s not a real word, I just made it up. But Louvrephiles do exist and I’m definitely one of them. Today was about the 17th time I’ve been to the Louvre during my 7 month stint here in Paris. When I arrived my girlfriend and I got the carte louvre jeunes for only 32euro each that let’s you: go as often as you want, skip the long lines, bring someone else along free on Wednesday’s and Friday’s, go to many of the shows and concerts that the Louvre hosts free of charge, plus includes the audio guide for free every time. After 17 times I’ve pretty much seen every bit of the Louvre and some sections more than once. It really is the best art museum I’ve ever been to bar none, the museumus rex. About 6 years ago I took an Art History class in college. I have a good recollection of that class and it really blows my mind to see probably more than 50% of the pictures that were in that textbook  in person at the Louvre. I especially like the Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Italian paintings sections. I enjoy going Wednesday evenings when it’s open late and after 7:00pm there aren’t as many people. It get’s a lot quieter and if you’re lucky you can get a picture of the Mona Lisa without having to elbow through a crowd. Not only are the exhibitions amazing, the building is a work of art in and of itself. Unless you go you just can’t imagine how vast that place is. You can walk for a long time and only have seen one section of one wing of one level of the Louvre. I find it relaxing to stroll through it’s lengthy, spacious halls and to stop to admire a statue, artifact, or painting that jumps out at me. Sometimes I go with an notepad to draw a statue that I particularly liked. The pictures I’ve taken can do it more justice than words can…

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Château de Vincennes

Last week I went to the Château de Vincennes, barely 25 minutes from where I live. Since I was little the Middle Ages always fascinated me (also I had just been nerding out on the series Game of Thrones before going there).  In fact, it was the first castle that I’ve ever been to in France. Of course I’ve already been to the Castles of Versailles and even Fontainebleau, but to me they are more like palaces than castles. On the other hand, the Chateau de Vincennes, constructed around the start of the XIV century, isn’t quite as luxurious. It’s simply a castle of stone, complete with castle walls, towers, a dungeon, a moat (currently without water) and even the narrow windows made so that the archers would be well protected when defending the castle. Also there was an exposition in another (more modern) building about the escapades of Napoleon I that wasn’t bad and a large chapel that was quite pretty but I must say what intrigued me the most was the castle tower and dungeon. Here are a few photos I took.


La semaine dernière je suis allée au Château de Vincennes, à peine 25 minutes de chez moi, c’que c’était vraiment magnifique. Le moyen âge m’avait toujours intéressé depuis que j’étais très petit (et en plus je venais de geeker sur la séries Trône de Fer juste avant d’y aller). En fait c’était le premier vrai château que j’ai vu en France. Bien sûr je suis déjà allée à Versailles et même au Fontainebleau, mais à mon avis ce sont plutôt comme des palais que des châteaux. Par contre, le Château de Vincennes, construit vers le début du XIVème siècle, n’est pas si luxueux. C’est un château de la pierre, tout complet avec des murailles, des tours, un donjon, un fossé (sans d’eau actuellement) et même les fenêtres étroites construites pour que les archers soient bien protégés quand ils défendaient le château. Aussi il y avait une exposition dans un autre (et plus modern) bâtiment à propos des escapades de Napoléon I qui n’était pas mal et une grande chapelle assez jolie mais j’dois dire ce qu’il m’intriguait c’était plutôt le tour et donjon. Voilà des photos que j’ai prises.

New Years 2012 Champs Elysées

Today I went to see Diane Krüger (Troy, Inglorious Basterds) light up the Christmas lights on the Champs Elysées. I didn’t think I was going to actually get to see her but I ended up getting pretty close. Thanks to a little bit of climbing skills shuffled a few feet up a light poll in order to see above everyone’s heads. She pressed a button that turned on all the lights on the whole street, and a volcano-like thing shot tons of silver confetti up in the air. It was a pretty cool sight to see. Afterwards she headed towards a building across the street where I suppose she was having a party, an exclusive party of course.

Aujourd’hui je suis allé voir Diane Krüger (Troy, Inglorious Basterds) allumé les lumières de noël sur la rue Champs Elysées. Je ne pensais pas que j’allais la voir mais en fait j’ai été assez proche. Grâce à quelques compétences en escalades je suis monté un lampadaire et je pouvais voir ci dessuis les têtes de tout le monde. Elle a appuyé sur un bouton qui a alluminé toutes les lumières sur toute la rue, et un truc comme un volcan quoi a erupté avec d’argent confetti en l’air. Etait carrément cool à voir ça. Après elle a traversé la rue et elle est entrée dans un bâtiment ou je suppose elle a fait la fête, une fête exclusive bien sûr.

Diane Krüger Champs Elysées 2012, not the greatest pic but I took it with one hand