Lost in Portugal, I found my way home


If you have ever met anyone from Newfoundland, Canada, trust me you’d know it. There is a pride us Newfoundlanders have for not only being Canadian but more specifically for being from “the rock”, Newfoundland. My home province is a unique island in the North Atlantic with a rugged beauty and mixes influences of its many European visitors. The island is said to have been first discovered by the Vikings and later visited by fisherman from France, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and England. There is a joke that says that Newfoundlanders are the only people at the gates of heaven wishing they could go back home.

Earlier this year I was working in the southern United States and Mexico when I lost my job. I was suddenly forced to move back home. Although like most Newfoundlanders the thought of returning to “the rock” was a happy one, I was not looking forward to facing a bitter cold winter after having escaped it for two years. My next thought was simple. While looking for a new job I would continue to learn Spanish. I would go to study in Spain and travel through Portugal to defrost and explore somewhere I had never been. What I didn’t realize was that after traveling over 4000 kilometres I would arrive back in my Grandmother’s kitchen.

Traveling is my favourite hobby. I am one of those people with an ever growing list of must-see places and spend more time staring at maps than I’d like to admit. There is a sense of independence and freedom that comes with traveling. It could be that all your possessions are in the one backpack you’re carrying or it could be from the unpredictability of it all.

I loved Portugal right away. As soon as I arrived my shoulders felt lighter and everything moved a little slower. After touring during the day I was eager to try some Portuguese food. Without warning I was suddenly home again. I was transported to a time when I would sit on a kitchen chair and watch my grandmother cook. The taste of the deep fried cod brought back the smells of her stove and the crackling sound of the fish hitting the frying pan. While trying the Portuguese fish cakes I was reminded of my grandmother’s trick, use cornflakes to give them crunch. The Portuguese rice pudding flooded my mind with memories of fighting with my family over who would get the crispy bits left in the pan. In trying to leave Newfoundland I had done just the opposite. While lost in Lagos, Portugal I had found my way home. This revealed itself again when I was visiting the Discovery monument in Lisbon. There it was on the map, Newfoundland year 1500. Was it possible to feel independent while interdependent? I think Forrest Gump summed it up best when he said “I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze. But I think maybe it’s both. Maybe both are happening at the same time.”

A few weeks prior I was on a train from Madrid to San Sebastián. An older man sitting next to me struck up a conversation. Speaking half in Spanish and half in English he asked where I was from. When he asked where in Canada I took out my phone and showed him on a map. His face lit up as he told me, “Oh! Newfoundland! I was there on a fishing boat from Portugal in 1960.” I smiled at him and said “Small world, isn’t it?”

About the Author: Emily Hatt is a young engineer born and raised in Newfoundland, Canada. Since graduating university two years ago Emily has traveled to 18 countries and counting. Always adding to her list of must-see places, Emily is always looking forward to her next adventure.

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One response to “Lost in Portugal, I found my way home

  1. This piece really appealed to me, a Newfoundlander living away from home who loves to travel. I’ve often thought of going to Portugal, and having read this travel piece, I’m now determined to go! Evocative detail. I’m checking airfares even as I write this comment!

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