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Lisbon

A literary thank you letter to Ana, my Airbnb host during my summer in Lisbon last year, who did so much more for me than provide me with a comfortable stay just steps from Parque Eduardo VII. It turns out, I’d be one of her last guests, and I’m glad I made the cut.

I grew up in your kitchen, though we were acquaintances at best. I fumbled to light your gas stove, rummaged for the appropriate pots and pans to perform my pedestrian alchemy, burned my toast and attempted what you would characterize as a winter stew. It was the middle of summer in Lisbon, but it was one of the few things I could make by memory.

The sound of your espresso machine punctuated the a new day. Your ritual; two shakes of cinnamon and espresso downed in two gulps.

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For the last several years, the thought of an extended weekend trip never crossed my mind. I was hyperfocused on exploring as slowly as possible. Thanks to my new-ish freelance lifestyle, it was possible for me to work and play for two weeks in Colombia, or most recently, to stretch the limits of the Schengen visa to spend a summer in Europe.

While there, I sampled digital nomad life in a loosely structured environment in Barcelona with Unsettled and learned a lot about myself. Like, how it’s simultaneously distracting and rewarding to live and work from a new place with people who are just as interested and curious about people, pursuing passionate endeavors and new experiences as I am. To be completely transparent, this same experience ate away at my productivity, no thanks (but really thanks) to the cool people I met in the program and all of the horchata, vermut, tapas, sunset strolls, beach days and more.

 

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One late evening in Madrid’s Huertas neighborhood, three twenty-somethings spooned fro-yo dinners into their faces while they discussed the current state of the world. As visitors and new and fast friends from Istanbul, Lyon (hi Pelin, hi Tiffany!), San Diego we wondered if there was any one place that is completely safe.

In the weeks before I boarded an Air New Zealand flight bound for Europe, news broke of the Brussels attack. Shortly before that, Paris was under fire. And the terrible news hasn’t let up.

Days after my return, Orlando seized the spotlight. Most recently, my newsfeed has been filled with an outpouring of prayers for Turkey, Dallas, Baton Rouge, the list goes on. Hearts break, communities grieve, the living react with anger, anxiety, the list goes on.

Fear is a natural reaction. Flights are cancelled, destinations crossed off bucket lists; both logical decisions following news of conflict. Internally, we build walls to fortify ourselves from the chaos “over there.”

Life can be so arbitrary sometimes, and on introspective days I think about how much control we really have over our days and why bad, unfair things happen in this world to really good people.

In times of conflict, what do we do?

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