We were about to leave for shopping when a couple I’ve noticed the previous days left Tings for sightseeing. Sometimes you don’t know when to introduce your self – but since I was standing next to our car just outside our door, it felt natural to say good morning and wish them a good day.
When they reached the Miradouro (which is only 10 meter from our door) they returned and came back and shook my hands: Just wanted to thank you so much for your pleasant hotel – we enjoy our stay very much… and what a fantastic house.
It turned out that Richard & Teresinha had been in Graça before – and that they actually thought about buying our house around the same time as us.
In addition to their praise of how we have turned the dilapidated house into Tings Lisbon they had a lot of questions. So we ended up having one of those nice conversations many people would label as banal small talk, but for us is another of the many talks we have and like so much. Talks that makes you reflect on our traveling life – end especially about how much people around the world have in common.
People usually look at us as if we were from Mars, when we tell them about how we move around on this planet. How we ‘just’ decided to leave our privileged life in Denmark to start a hotel in Kathmandu, then off to Yangon and off again to Lisbon And why we have decided to stay in our hotels, and not somewhere else.
Our plan was to start up 5 hotels around the world and travel between them. Kathmandu was our first. Yangon should have been our second, but that never happened. Instead we started Lisbon.
I think they smiled when I told them our reasons for doing what we do: That we want to get involved. That we actually like the idea of creating jobs. That we enjoy living a life with local shops, locally produced products, that follows the seasons – in principle every where.
The way we have lived the past 10 years is just our way of combining work and traveling. I explained.
Of course there are differences between the places we live. But the differences most people notice on their travels – like Kathmandu’s dirt & chaos or Lisbon’s dilapidated houses – simply disappear once you get settled and accustomed to your new settings. We never think about the cows in Kathmandu’s streets anymore.
It’s hard to explain – sometimes the similarities between places often get bigger than the differences. Especially when you try to live as locally as possible and get to know your way around things. But once you cross the every-day barriers, you realise that people are the same and struggle with many of the same problems no matter where you are.
It took me almost a year to explain my Portuguese butchers what “Fedt net” is – not because they didn’t know, but because it’s impossible to translate. That was the same time it took me to explain my Nepalese butcher to cut the sirloin for me. He is Hindu and don’t eat beef (and like most other non western countries consider Pork as ‘unclean’ and doesn’t eat that as well). Instead he eat Buff and Wild boa which look exactly the same on the cutting board in your kitchen.
In Kathmandu the butchers & fish stalls in Sundhara, the vegetable shops, my Blue Moon grocery and my local bars & cafes around Tings in Lazimpat are used to me and treat me like a local. Exactly like my two vegetable shops, my small grocery shop, my local Meo Super and my cafes, tascas, restaurants & sport club I visit at least once every day here in Graça do.
And like in Kathmandu nobody cares about my poor language skills. We have found other ways to communicate. I know I’ll never be able to read Pessoa in Portuguese – but none of my local friends have done that anyway. And when we have problems, we almost always find solutions locally, and almost always after we have given up on the solutions our Portuguese speaking foreign friends and English speaking Portuguese friends suggest. So obviously we have so many other things in common that things work – so what’s the use of spending time on language 😉
After a lifetimes of travelling all over the world – and after having stayed in places long enough to get soaked into the local life I have reached a conclusion: People all over the world may be red, black, yellow and boring white. And they may have different religions, political beliefs and traditions. But we all have so many things in common, that it’s possible to settle and live everywhere.
That’s not the same as saying that I would like to live everywhere… For example: I have problems with cold weather and need the sun and access to the sea. But it’s possible.
I have never heard of Chapel in North Carolina – but if they have a local Coimbra it must be fantastic – we love our’s in Portugal! USA have never been on our list of places to live – but neither was Lisbon. It ‘just happened’.
After my very brief conversation with Richard & Teresinha and after having read the note they left behind, my thoughts started drifting… I am sure that there must be a lot of things we have in common. And as stranger’s are friends you do not know as Jim Reeves once sang – who knows? Maybe we’ll give them a call and drop by one day.
Or maybe we should go for a Tour-de-Friends-around-the-world. The list of guests we have met through Tings and on our travels is long.
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