@loripalminteriTweets by @loripalminteri
Strange Dreams In Strange Places
I’m no stranger to strange dreams. And I don’t know if it’s because of some sort of chemical imbalance, an overactive imagination or what, but I fail to remember the last I woke up without dreams from the night before distracting me in the morning, ever deciphering, “what does it mean? what does it mean?”
When I travel, this is doubled. It makes sense to me that this is because you’re far from home, in a foreign land, and the brain is extra restless. In my private room at the hostel in Baleal, Portugal, I awoke from the bottom bunk bed in the small room with three vacant beds (there were two sets of bunk beds). In the dream, I was watching myself unzipper out of myself, as though my body was some Halloween costume, and I did this over and over, multiple versions of my-self’s exposed, each one as true as the last. I think about this as I zip up my wet suit, getting ready for surfing that morning.
It’s my third day. The previous day I injured my toe and ankle. The wound is too fresh for scar tissue but it’s not bleeding. I’ll live. And what’s more, I’ll surf.
I read somewhere that being a writer means being a little sad all the time.
I guess that much is true. Whether we are “deeper,” more narcissist, empathic, tuned in or out, it would be most honest for me to admit that there is some sort of sadness, a longing perhaps, like a nerve that connects my head and heart. This doesn’t mean, however, that I am in misery. Quite opposite. Sadness often derives from grief which is the absence of love and/or beauty, and that absence doesn’t mean it’s lost and gone forever, it just means the tireless mind is often accompanied with a sensitive heart.
What’s also true as a surfer is you’re almost always in pain—at least, when you hit a certain age. Make no mistake. The tale to follow was wonderful, and at times magical, but my whole body hurts. Traveling with Lori is exhausting. It is my aim, anywhere I go, to pack the most life into the trip as possible. Never knowing if you’ll ever return again.
Permanent injuries like the herniated discs in my neck cause me to wince every morning and evening. My left big toe is missing a chunk of skin. My right ankle is scraped up and infected (I was obsessed with cleaning my toe to avoid infection that I neglected the ankle). My other toes are scraped and bruised and I’m not fully convinced one of them isn’t broken. My shoulders are tight as hell. Every day, I am more sore than the last. Will this stop me? Fuck no. Do I have a high tolerance for pain? My chiropractor says so.
It’s good to know the toll adventures take on your body. The rewards, for me, out weight the temporary aches and pains. But beyond the pictures of another world is a girl pushing herself. Additionally, I’d like to be candid about the cost of the trip. Since I am relatively poor, people are often perplexed when I travel. Staying at the surf hostel in Baleal cost me $500 for the whole week which included the board and wetsuit rental. The flight I got for $400 round trip. Food, compared to New York, is cheap. And wine is really, really cheap (3 euro for a bottle) and really really good. Also, a natural muscle relaxer.
The locals aren’t very friendly. Which is fine. Because everyone else is. There are people from all over Europe. I wouldn’t meet/talk to another American until my last day when I visited Lisbon. My main goals were really just to surf, do some exploring, visit a small island called Berlenga, and obviously, get my work done. Portugal is five hours ahead of New York. My hours are already late/wonky. So, pretty much every day, I’d get up, surf, make a little breakfast, rest/nap, surf again, work, go out for dinner/drinks, and then come back and work late at night (although a couple times I drank a little too much and had to wake up at like 4am to finish work from the night before). Intermittent sleeping isn’t the most healthy way to live your life, but it’s just for a week.
The Belgium pole dancer was the first person I made friends with. She was also there alone, but only for a few days before her husband would join. They had two teenage daughters (neither of which were with them) and they had previously come to Portugal for their daughters to learn how to surf. But then they fell in love with it. Then, there were the Germans. It’s the Germans whom I’d end up getting drunk with night after night. I had with me a THC pen. Europe is behind when it comes to all things weed, to my surprise. They hadn’t used these before. I told tales of dispenseries back in the states, and they listened wide eyed like I had been to Willy Wonka’s factory. I was officially the girl in the hostel getting everyone high. The American girl.
The German’s were just as crazy as I was. This thirst for constant thrill. This love for exploring. Once I trusted them, we always had plans in the evening to eat and imbibe. We were getting so loaded night after night that when I was leaving they were genuinely sad, “Portugal isn’t going to be as fun without you.” Damn fucking right.
So the third, fourth and fifth day, I surfed twice a day. One of those days I also did an 11 mile mountain biking trip around the peninsula of the Peniche. I love mountain biking and I miss it so. Though, it was a little sketchy at times as I hugged the edge of the cliff as the brakes on the bike were iffy. The scenery was nothing short of what could be featured on a calendar. Then, I’d work and go out with the Germans and we’d drink and smoke and laugh and laugh. I was killing it over there. Genuinely, I was more loose than I normally am. Plus, Germans have a dark sense of humor so they really took to my snide remarks.
No romance came of this trip, for better or worse, in the event that you were wondering. One of the German guys for sure had googly eyes for me. Because for what it’s worth, you will never meet anyone else like me. I, however, found his friend to be far more attractive. Isn’t that always the way. But I didn’t want to hurt anyone or cause drama. Plus, I wasn’t there to fuck. I was there to surf.
My best surf day was a day that was so foggy, you couldn’t see anything. I skipped surfing that morning, because I couldn’t even see the waves. As the day went on, the fog didn’t clear much. As stated, I was there to surf. I’ve surfed in fog before plenty of times in New York. But New York has a sand bottom. Here, there were rocks. If you hit your head and went under, no one would see. The fog would swallow you forever. Alas, I’d been surfing this spot all week and the waves broke in the same spots. With caution, I paddled out. As I did, other surfers came into view. When I reached the outside break, you couldn’t see the shore at all. And yet, this turned out to be my best session the whole trip. The waves were clean and there were only a handful of us out there. Wave after wave, five to six feet, I caught, almost effortlessly. My face was smiling as well as my heart. I cheered other surfers. I cheered on myself. As mentioned in the previous blog, the surfers here were very serious. In the local New York waters, we get super stoked when the waves get really good (which is not that often), so there’s a lot of hooting at each other. Especially with my surfer boys. We’re always going, “yee, yee, yee!” I got some looks but I didn’t care. I was having fun.
On Saturday, the Germans and myself went to Berlenga island. Although the German’s had been to Portugal, they never took the 40 minute boat ride out there. This magical rock was surrounded by the clearest blue water where you could see fish swimming all around. We hiked down to the fortress/castle, did a little cave tour and then hiked back up. I said to the German’s, “boys, I have to go swimming in this water. If I look back at these pictures and didn’t swim in that water, I will regret it my whole life.” They didn’t hesitate to join. It wasn’t especially hot that day, but we had hiked enough to build up a sweat. We were the only people on that island who stripped down to our bathing suits and swam. It was glorious. People watched as though we were half crazy, perhaps with some envy that they weren’t as free as we were. I hadn’t seen another American in six days, and I’ll be damned if I left Portugal without giving people the impression that New York surfers were out of their goddamn minds in the best possible way.
On the taxi drive back to our hostel, the taxi driver suddenly started blasting “The Macarena,” for the whole taxi ride and we were all belly laughing the entire time about it. They knew a lot of the good restaurants and I ate what was hands down the best octopus I’ve ever eaten (and I live in Astoria where the Greek restaurants have amazing octopus). You do forget living in New York how much amazing and authentic food we have. We are a bit spoiled in that way.
The housemates had convinced me to spend my last day in Lisbon, which originally wasn’t the plan. But I’m glad they talked me into it. Lisbon isn’t a big city and it’s winding streets and history make it an enchanting European city. I covered most of it on foot on that Sunday. Mind you, by this point of the trip, every step I took hurt. But you just block it out. Sure, I would love to return to Portugal, but you never know what life will bring you, and there are many other places I’d like to see. Walking the city, eating, observing, touring a castle… you start to feel like you’re in a story. And then you remember, ‘oh yeah, I am in a story— my story. And right now, my story fucking rocks.’
It’s sad saying goodbye to friends you make while abroad. You do hope you’ll cross paths again, but it could be goodbye forever. The Germans were trying to convince me to visit Berlin. And I let them know if they ever make it to New York to reach out. They were characters in an unforgettable trip, which is not lost on me. No doubt, they won’t soon forget me either.
I could have easily stayed longer. The hostel was super clean. The weather was great. The surf was consistent. The company, fun. But I also longed for my bed. I missed my nephews and niece. My sister had posted on her Instagram a video of my niece (3) singing, “the more we are together, together, together, the MORE we are TOGETHER the happier we’ll be.” This was stuck in my head for days.
I did not feel lonely on this trip. I didn’t feel lost except when I purposefully got myself lost. I didn’t feel empty or afraid. I felt so much like myself, the best version of me. When I got home, I was thrilled to sleep in my bed. My precious and perfect mattress. It was the best sleep I’ve gotten in months. And when I woke up, I got an email. An email that may change the course of my life. A writing job I was once up for, and was passed on, was once again reaching out to see if I was still interested. Fuck yes. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me. That when things “slowed” and I decided, “fuck it, I’m going on a trip,” only to come back to good news. So maybe I ought to go away more often then?
It’s not that being 32, single, with an unstable career isn’t without it’s hardships, nights of questioning and a sharp loneliness… but being able to just go somewhere, not answering to anyone, just the ocean— well, it has it’s upside.
I’ll write this for you, but also for me, because I will forget. If ever you’re on the fence about seeing something new, having a potentially epic experience, a pang to follow that little compass in your heart— go. Go, with doubts and all. As a writer, it is also especially a gift. To be immersed in something new. To meet like-minded people raised on the other side of the world. This is living.