Cheri's Blog


A rough-textured wall painted with many realistic human eyes. They're all looking to the right.

I’m never so productive as I am on the road. At home, I’m apt to struggle with motivation, even when the “things I need to do” equal the “things I want to do.”

Each day here contains roughly the same routine. Up early to grab a cup of coffee from a nearby cafe. Three or four intense hours of sightseeing, walking 5 or 6 miles, taking lots of photos. Eat a big, healthy lunch. Take a big nap. Wake up and write for several hours, lost in the story until it’s dark outside. Another walk, shorter this time, to grab a snack and stretch my legs. I haven’t been hungry enough for dinner. Just that big lunch, after which I crash like a hibernating bear.

Sometimes the day is reversed, with writing in the morning and sightseeing in the afternoon. Either way, I’m surprised at how much I’m getting done. Lots of exercise. Eating less junk. Getting my words in, and enjoying them. Less time for boredom, for self-doubt, for getting distracted.

I wish that I felt “like this” when I’m at home. I wish I was walking six miles a day, and eating better, and feeling so productive. Yet I’ve never found the knack of being travel-Cheri when I’m home-Cheri.

Perhaps I’ll figure it out? When I only have two or three hours to write, I certainly spend less time faffing around. And it’s good to be busy, I think, to keep the body as active as the mind. If only I could figure out how to keep it all alive when I’m back in my comfortable rut.

I’ll leave this post here as a reminder to think on it.

Photo: Lisbon Street Art, Alfama Neighborhood

#travel #lisbon #writing

We'd been awake for 24 hours when our flight began descending into Lisbon International Airport. Outside the oval window, I could see only a flat gray sheet, impenetrable and featureless, but the sounds were familiar. The hydraulic whine as wing flaps extended, breaking the shape of the wing, increasing drag, slowing the aircraft down. That, followed by the whir of landing gear extending.

Without warning, gravity pressed us into our seats, hard. The plane’s engines roared all around us. We were climbing, clawing our way up through the sky, feeling the weight of our bodies and the plane beneath us. Alarmed chatter burst out, punctuated by a few laughs, and then faded away. We waited. Surely the pilot would speak to us soon.

Slowly, the pressure on our bodies eased. The windows still showed nothing but dull gray, but now, with my attention sharpened, I could see little flashes of white in the grayness, lights from the wings reflecting in the clouds.

The pilot spoke. There was no need to worry. It was storming in Lisbon, with 40 mile per hour winds, and the approach had been bad. We were circling around for another attempt, to come in from the north. It seemed to take forever to get down. We sank through the clouds, centimeter by centimeter.

Everyone applauded when we landed. Sometimes, you're keenly aware that the pilot's skill makes the difference between arriving safely at your destination and getting smeared across the runway. A covered staircase spit us onto a blustery tarmac where a bus waited to take us to the terminal.

Wild weather aside, arrival in Lisbon was easy. We breezed through passport control, followed signs for the metro, and bought a pair of navegante cards from the machine. Past-me had written down our directions, so we knew which metro lines to take, always helpful when you're running on fumes. Everything was clearly laid out. Everything worked. The stations were clean and well-lit. A foursome of twenty-somethings laughed and joked in Portuguese on the opposite side of the platform while we waited for the metro. In their divergently stylish clothes: sporty, pretty, preppy, and dark, they looked straight out of a John Hughes movie.

We climbed out of the station and into the rainstorm. A massive statue of a man on a fat horse loomed overhead, slickly black in the rain. The sidewalks and even some of the roads are covered in little white and black tiles, like a bathroom (so strange!) and as we trudged uphill with our backpacks, doused in water, dodging puddles, we realized we'd gone the wrong direction. It took us a while, circling, to find our hotel. In the moment when I felt the most lost, I was ready to drop my pack on the ground, burst into tears, and tell Patrick that I was done. Finished! I would sleep right there, on the wet sidewalk, for I was so so tired.

That’s when he squinted. Pointed. Our hotel! It was right across the street.

Too exhausted for dinner, we took showers, texted our parents, and collapsed into bed. In the morning, feeling almost human again, I used a towel to wipe condensation off the window.

“Look at the castle,” Patrick said.

I looked up high, above the rooftops, and saw the wall surrounding São Jorge Castle. Small flags flapped in the wind. The city is spread all around us, red tile roofs rising and falling in time with the steep hillsides, and the rain had stopped.

“I found a place to get coffee,” Patrick said.

He was singing my song.

#travel #lisbon