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I arrived back to California a few nights ago and I already feel like a weight has been lifted, as if my shoulders can finally relax from carrying around the backpack that I’ve been living out of for the past 5 and a half years.
Without a doubt, it feels good to be home because I know this is exactly where I want to be right now.
It’s the first time in a long time where I’ve been content to not have any future trips planned at the moment. Mostly, I’m excited that I moved into my new place in San Francisco yesterday and that I’m already starting to set up a more fixed life in the Bay Area.
When I was walking around the city on my first full day back, waves of excitement kept washing over me with the dawning realization that this is my city now. It’s a place that I can start calling home and get to know in a more detailed and nuanced way.
I moved into my sublet on July 1st, signifying the start of my summer and new life in Lisbon. It’s hard to wrap my mind around that only being 4 weeks ago because so much has happened this month.
I’ve settled nicely into my life in Portugal, although I would by lying if I didn’t say that there are quite a few things that have surprised me about this country – both good and bad.
I knew within about 2 weeks of living here that it’s not a place that I’d want to live longterm, but I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here as a temporary expat.
Just as soon as I started getting used to life in the UK, I found myself on a plane to Portugal mid-month to immerse myself in a new language and culture completely.
You would think after all my years of travel I would have little to no culture shock by now when arriving in new places, but I always forget how challenging the first couple weeks can be in a new country, especially non-English speaking ones, and especially when you plan to live there for awhile (i.e. you’re not just a tourist).
On a whim, I decided to base myself in Porto for a week and a half before my friend Adi from San Francisco arrived at the end of June, and before my sublet started in Lisbon at the beginning of July.
Porto was a good start to my summer in Portugal (partly because it included a lot of wine tasting!), and I’m glad I was able to enjoy a northern city before settling down for awhile in Lisbon.
It’s hard to believe that it was just the beginning of May that I was still stateside. It feels like I’ve been away much longer, mostly because I’ve done a lot in the past few weeks, adventuring to Iceland, Scotland, and England.
The month started with a round of goodbyes in California. I had a night out for my going away drinks in San Francisco, and saw some of my closest California-based friends before I took off for expat life again.
Before the second week of May, I was on a plane with my friend Urvi to explore Iceland for a week. The country was even more awe-inspiring and understated than I thought it would be. It’s a place I could see myself coming back to regularly.
The rest of the month was spent in the UK, in England and Scotland.
It’s weird to think of the past sometimes and where I was in February at this time last year – in Thailand, then Vietnam, and at the very end of a bad relationship. I was at the cusp of so many things – both positive and negative.
I was in a place where I had shut myself off from the outside world (i.e. living on a tiny remote island). And what I didn’t realize at the time was that I was also preventing myself from appreciating quality connections – both nurturing the old and creating the new.
Fast forward a year later, I’m back in California, surrounded by some of the closest people in my life, and I feel more grounded than I have in years. Maybe it just took coming home for awhile, or realizing that California is still very much a ‘home’ for me even after all the times I’ve left it and come back.
All this is to say that my February this year kicks last year’s February’s butt.