Words by Gabriel Speirs - Traveller, Photographer, Skier and Philosopher.
It’s hard to describe the feeling I had within the first 24 hours of arriving in the charming city of Sintra. As the train climbed, my heart warmed, my eyes fixated and my smile grew. Big left turns onto old stone arched bridges, cute little towns, pink, yellow and white houses bordered with graffiti covered train stations. How nice it is to be in a place with so much history. Coming from a young country like Canada, I understand and see why we’ve taken on many ideas from countries like these. Castles stand tall on the top of mountains, palaces sit pretty for us to imagine the way kings and queens once lived. Architecture jumps out at every turn of a corner, built with precise meaning, practicality, and beauty. Theres something to learn everywhere and everyday you just need to be willing to accept it. I was thrown to the wolves my first day here, lost in these maze like streets with no sense of direction, turning in circles. It was magnificent. Steep cobblestone takes my breath away both physically and mentally. The fluidity of Sintra is special, when you walk it’s as if you’re not in control of your destination until you’ve mapped out the entire city in your head. Things come to you when you least expect it here, in my case I found that there are people I meet every day that answer questions within myself without knowing anything about me. I call these my daily angels, they tell me what I needed to hear without knowing I needed to hear it most of the time. This leaves me in a state of gratitude, peace, and love. Thankful for whatever force brought them to me, at peace with the truth that was found and in love with absolutely everything.
I’m sure you’ve had the anxious feeling of not doing enough with your day, feeling as though you haven’t justified yourself enough during the 24 hours which was graciously given to you. I’ve had this feeling and I see it day after day the uncomfortable amount of times someone says “Okay but lets actually get up and do something” yet we stay right where we are on a comfortable couch with a camomile tea. I’ll say it right now before anyone gets offended, this is my opinion, the way things make sense most for me. The term “wasting my time” is quite irrelevant when you think about how we’ve created the idea of time itself, time is the progress of existence and events that occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future. It was an important idea to keep track of history throughout the years, although I feel now it is more of a constraint on everyday life. That feeling when I’ve spent a whole day in bliss and I have no idea what time it is, that moment when I’ve spent a week camping, completely out of touch with the idea of time and couldn’t care less. When you do acid and time stands still, moves backwards yet is always moving forwards. I need that and I think everyone needs that escape, people take vacations for a reason, to break free from the tight grip of time sensitive schedules, just another system of measurement to keep everything and everyone in line, but to who’s standards?
Time does not refer to any kind of “container” that events and objects “move through”, nor to any entity that “flows”, but that it is instead part of a fundamental intellectual structure (together with space and number) within which humans sequence and compare events.
Balance is one of my biggest focus these days, as much as I seem to think time is creating issues it is also impossible to live without it. The trick is to know when to draw the line, to be in control of your actions and state of mind when all this pressure is put on you by a regulated society. There’s much more to life than arriving to a meeting late. Yes, there is a sense of respect that needs to be kept, but if life needed you to be elsewhere or an extra five minutes then who can argue that. Not saying to sit on your ass and tell yourself being late is okay but there’s a calming peace in knowing when to slow down and when to speed up. When you find it there’s nothing but acceptance in where you stand.
A few weeks ago one of my best friends/partner came to visit me here in Portugal and for the week leading up to it I was busy researching and planning my idea of a perfect vacation. The stress of making it a good as possible had me blinded by a strict timeline. A week isn’t much time an there are lots to see in Portugal but for all you experienced travellers out there you’ll know that rushing through a country is a sure way to find yourself disappointed. When we create perfect ideas of something or even someone the expectations you build up are often destined for disappointment in the end. Therefore I’ve found keeping your heart and mind open to anything and everything that comes your way and to expect nothing but what is solid truth is the best way to steer clear from unwanted stress and unnecessary disappointment. This will leave you in a great position, applicable not only for traveling but everyday life.
“Accepting the impermanence and selflessness of our existence, we will stop suffering and realize peace”
The balance between selfless and selfish, balance between ignorance and knowledge. It is true that our human nature drives us to know everything and never stop expanding our knowledge which is amazing. Many times I find myself unable to put something at rest, needing to know more even if there really is nothing more to look for. I’m bilingual yes i speak english and french and my Portuguese is sub par. At first I was very frustrated with not understanding conversations around me or simply ordering my espresso without that language barrier. Now I’ve come to enjoy the comfort in it all, not overhearing conversations I don’t need to know anything about, over analyzing people for what they are saying. Sure i one day hope to be able to have a fluent conversation in Portuguese if i end up staying here a little while but there’s no need with being frustrated with the beauty of ignorance.
There is no good in searching for answers, for love or even happiness. This will only leave you unsatisfied and blind to what life holds right in front of you. There is no need to be constantly trying to use your time wisely, its impossible to divide yourself into different parts and make everyone happy including yourself. I urge myself to step out of the comfort zone a face thi, ask questions im too scared to hear the answers for. Accept truths and ignore gossip, use my words wisely and open your mind.
Turns out I’ll be staying a while.