Saying Goodbye to Portugal

March 31, 2017  |  By

Flying to Madrid at 7:00 AM, landing at 8:30 AM, and working all day from my hotel lobby was a first. And it was worth it. From the time I met my shuttle driver at the arrival gate of Adolfo Suarez Airport until he dropped me back off a few days later, he provided a history lesson of Spain from a perspective unlike any I have heard. From the Spanish inquisition to Adolfo Suarez redelivering democracy to Spain, he was as eager to teach as I was to learn. He set the tone for an excellent visit.

Portions of Madrid are similar to any other major city. On Gran Via, the suffocating throng of shoppers prevents walking. But other illustrious destinations are breathtaking in another way. Ernest Hemingway frequently sat and ordered the suckling pig I devoured at Sobrino de Botin. Envisioning Hemingway and other historic figures dining in the restaurant is chilling. From the roasted garlic soup appetizer to the decadent fudge cascading over vanilla ice cream for dessert, the meal was delightful. And, chalk one up for solo dining because I sat down without a long wait and without a reservation.

Furthermore, after adding in a few revisions to a memo that I was collaboratively drafting with my coworkers back in Dallas, I had a day full of walking tours. From El Oso y El Madroño, a famous statue of a bear reaching for Madroño fruit (the logo for the City of Madrid) in Puerta del Sol to the Royal Palace, I gallivanted around the city. This gallivanting included a tapas tour where I discovered myriad traditional Spanish tapas. In fact, one important tradition I discovered is that anything can be tapas including paella, a Spanish potato omelet, or an entire fried fish. Finally, I ventured to the Museo Nacional del Prado. And I’m glad to have done so. No trip to Madrid would be complete without it. I fit so many interesting moments into my time in Madrid that the days passed without notice—I blinked and I was on my way back to Lisbon.

Read our thoughts on Desk Independence in: Why We’re Sending A First-Year Attorney to Portugal

The same has been true of my experience with abroad so much has happened that I didn’t notice how quickly the month has left me. Though my time has sped by, it has also taught me many lessons. Like accepting the unknown. For example, throughout my life I’ve been fortunate to have friends with me everywhere I’ve been. In fact, I’ve never lived with two people I didn’t know, and coming from a town with 2,000 people, I’ve known my friends for twenty years. Consequently, stepping into a realm without a safety net to lean on was an invaluable experience that taught me to trust myself and to embrace the unknown.

Traveling abroad has also taught me to always keep an open mind. It seems like just yesterday that I crept into an apartment full of strangers. Yet those strangers have become friends, and the experience has revealed and made me rethink preconceived notions and judgments about people and situations I face. When I first arrived, I was planting roots in a new city and a new community. Thus, finding my place within that dynamic was challenging. But, thankfully, the participants were extremely welcoming. They understood the position I was in. Because they experienced it themselves four weeks prior. Indeed, this open-mindedness is a lesson we all teach each other from our own past experiences. This trip offered me the opportunity to meet extraordinary people that I plan to remain friends with for as long as I can.

Finally, the experience reminded me to be present in my life. Unlike my office where I can barricade myself inside to prevent distraction, a new city and new people forced me to remain in the moment. Ordinarily, my view of Mockingbird Station doesn’t coax me to explore as the view of Lisbon from the LX Factory has. But, combating the distraction has strengthened my focus. Moreover, because colleagues and clients are counting on me to deliver my best, I know now that whether on a plane, train, or crowded cafe I can push distractions aside, roll up my sleeves, and work.

Notably, this adventure has made me a better person. With manufactured societal restraints stripped away, I’ve been able to become friends with people I often wouldn’t and understand sides of them I never could have imagined. Additionally, they have challenged my perspective to understand the other side of the coin. And, I’ve placed myself in uncomfortable positions and risen to the occasion. Strengthened by this experience, in the future, I will stand a greater chance of doing the same.

Despite the experiences I’ve had, I’m ready to bring this perspective home (along with toasted goat cheese; you should try it). Reinvigorated, I’m eager to visit friends and family, work from a quiet office, and resume my quest to find Dallas’s best queso once again. That’s not to say that I won’t miss Lisbon, the people I’ve met, and these adventures. I will always feel a certain saudade for Lisbon. But, when I arrive at the DFW airport at 7:00pm on Sunday, I hope I can be as gracious to the people I meet and clients I serve as Lisbon’s citizens have been to me.

Posted in: VW Abroad

About the Author(s)

Vela Wood

Vela Wood is a boutique corporate law firm with a local feel and a global impact. We focus our practice in the areas of M&A, Private Equity, Fund Representation, and Venture Transactions.

Other Posts in this Series
1 of 8 VW Abroad
Why We’re Sending a First-Year Attorney to Portugal
2 of 8 VW Abroad
Como Pode Ajudá-Lo Hoje? How May I Help You Today?
3 of 8 VW Abroad
Nic’s First Week Working in Lisbon, Portugal
4 of 8 VW Abroad
The Road Forward – Week 2 Working in Portugal
5 of 8 VW Abroad
Week 3 in Portugal: Exploring the “City that Works”
6 of 8 VW Abroad
Saying Goodbye to Portugal
7 of 8 VW Abroad
What a month in Croatia taught me about entrepreneurship in the U.S.
8 of 8 VW Abroad
What We Learned From A Month Working Abroad