The old Fiesta, beast of burden
I spend a weekend in my hometown roughly once a month. It’s a bittersweet experience, as nostalgic as it is joyful. Spending time with my sister and my friends who still live in Oporto is very gratifying, but I always feel a bit sad that I can’t take them back with me come sunday evening.
Even though I’ve been based in Lisbon for the best part of five years now, and most of my close friends live here, it’ll probably be a while before this city feels as much like home as Oporto does. There’s a wonderful familiarity to crossing the Infante bridge towards São Lázaro, having a beer at the Pinguim, or walking on the Passadiço along Gaia’s shoreline. I don’t think I’ll get it anywhere else in the near future. This leaves me feeling a bit like a foreigner all the time.
Moving out of my hometown prompted my mind to embrace the world in ways it never could when all my concerns were confined to a small geographical area. Expanded it, if you will.
It’s hard to describe exactly what it feels like. One possible analogy is perhaps imagining that you live in a house with just one room, which you never leave except on holidays. At some point, an extra room is added to your house. Your world doubles in size not only physically but, because this new rooms if full of very different furniture and holds the strangest books in its shelves, also intelectually.
Being social animals, we’re extremely sensitive to the culture of the place we live in. Our beliefs, prejudices and ambitions are informed by those of our peers, thus affecting our behaviour. By moving from one community to another, these cultures and their tenets become fully evident and it’s much easier to identify their influence over one’s own beliefs and behaviour. Such introspection can be extremely eye-opening and inspirational. I think that’s one of the reasons why people who travel a lot seem so interesting. 80% of that probably stems from their shedding of tribal prejudices and stale ideas.
In the end, I guess moving away from one’s hometown (or travelling a LOT) is a bit like the choice of knowledge over ignorance. Sure, ignorance may be bliss, but knowledge makes everything more interesting even if it does come at a price.