Travel,  Travel Advice,  Travel Highlights

Saudade: Thoughts after Six Months Backpacking

Oh boy – when I started this trip I didn’t think it would be longer than six or seven months. But here I am…sitting on the computer, waiting far too long for the insurance representative to respond to my messages about extending my travel insurance. Excuse me, “Jaques”, I am trying to give your company more money! I’ve had the trip of a lifetime but traveling isn’t easy, mentally, or physically – especially as a solo traveler.

Thyra posing for a selfie on the first day on her trip in Taipei, Taiwan.
Day 1 of my trip: Taipei, Taiwan.

I haven’t seen anybody I know in six months now, everything and everyone is new. Granted, for me, this isn’t a new issue. When I was 16 I had the same experience of isolation in Costa Rica, but only for five months and I never left the country. I don’t really get homesick, more like I get the feeling of Saudade. Saudade is a Portuguese word and ever since I started to learn the language I have been obsessed with it and its meaning. It describes what I feel, all the time, perfectly. Basically it means the presence of absence, a melancholic nostalgia, very relevant for a girl who loves change. The easiest way to explain the concept is with a story.

As I pack and un-pack my backpack in Asia, I suddenly remember the friendly face of the owner of my favorite Korean restaurant in Minneapolis. She always smiled and exchanged a word or two with me, while I gushed over how much I loved the food. Oh! And there was the worker from the local Vietnamese grocery shop, giving me a shy smile and laughing as I grab the biggest piece of ginger I can find. I remember painting my nails a new color every Friday and singing along with the radio as I cleaned my apartment each Sunday afternoon. The smiling faces of the Honduran couple who managed my apartment building, always inviting me over for coffee and treats. Gyros from the corner store, where I would ask for extra extra spicy, always getting a giggle from the worker. Walking to the grocery store in the middle of winter, waving to the same guy with the cutest pitbull I seemed to always see. Sleeping in silence each night because I lived alone, relishing the intense quiet and security I felt in my big bed.

I leave a part of myself at every encounter I have, every place I live. In return, I take back even more to fill up the resulting emptiness. I eventually end up with an overwhelming saudade: a feeling that makes me not long for a specific place or person, but for a feeling, a state of being I used to exist in.

That is the great thing about traveling – I am creating so many new memories and meeting so many amazing people that fill the void of anything I may miss from my past. On the flip side, I am just creating more opportunities for my endless saudade to creep into my life. But, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Day 183 of my trip: Yangon, Myanmar.


One Comment

  • Kaia

    Love you!! I love saudade! I am going to use it! I feel you on that i used to say i miss people abd thingss but in a sweet lovey way. Saudade is better!

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