There’s no photo of my favorite moment in Lisbon.
We were dancing in the streets of Mouraria with women from around the world. I was celebrating my 33rd birthday, with my right arm around a Portuguese woman twice my age, trying not to spill a very full cerveza in my left hand. My roommate, Katie, was next to me, talking excitedly with a girl from Brazil. We didn’t need anything in common to enjoy each other’s company that evening, but we definitely shared a spirit for having a good time.
I felt welcomed in our neighborhood, and for that, I am forever thankful. From the local café owners who poured steaming espresso drinks every morning, to the restaurant crew serving fried cod cakes and sparkling vino verde late into the night, we enjoyed interacting with businesses and families on our block.
The people I’m most grateful to have met are my fellow Venture With Impact travelers. These venturers encouraged me to make the most of the trip. Doing things together isn’t a program requirement; it was just more fun than doing them alone. There’s something serendipitous and energetic about a group of people who independently decide to step outside of their everyday lives, and walk through a once-in-a-lifetime experience together.
We took an electric bike tour through fisherman’s villages just outside of LIsbon, learned the art of tile making, stammered our way through a Portuguese language lesson, listened to Fado music, visited the caves and castles in Sintra, and planned a weekend getaway in Porto. We stayed up late drinking wine and discussing the exhibits we’d toured and the people we’d met. We also talked about our volunteer experiences. Each of us had partnered with a local NGO to provide skills-based volunteer work. That’s how I met the team at CRESCER.
The outreach team at CRESCER monitors otherwise abandoned areas just outside the city, working to reduce risk and promote health among vulnerable populations. They connect people to resources for housing, social integration, and healthcare. Although my contributions were in the area of design and communication, I was invited to experience their mission in action. Here I found the kind of dedication that fosters respect and brings hope to people who need it. You might read that and think I’m just talking about the beneficiaries of the team’s services, but I’m talking about all of us, myself included.
On a related note, I want to give a shoutout to my employer in the States. I booked a plane ticket from Milwaukee to Portugal with a promise that I would perform my day job remotely, and they not only gave me permission, but encouraged me to go. St. Marcus MA Team, you’re the best.
I didn’t see this experience coming. It’s the very first stamp on my passport. Looking back, I’m overwhelmed by the magic of the first days in Lisbon and the impact of the journey over the course of the month. If you’re considering a trip with VWI, then do it! It’s a perfect time.
P.S. Peek more into my Portugal trip on Instagram @iamsarabeaumont