Travel Angels: Hello Lisbon Series

Travel Angels:  Hello Lisbon Series

“Are you looking for a place to sit?  I’m done, so you can have my seat.”

 

Ok, so technically it wasn’t a hello.”  Your opening line doesn’t LITERALLY have to be hello, ok?

 

I didn’t even want to say it.

 

Not because the family didn’t seem nice.

 

I was jet lagged, exhausted from sleeping on a couch for three nights, preoccupied with worry, maybe a little embarrassed too, and human interaction seemed so difficult at this point.

 

BUT…that’s how it started.  One of the most moving experiences I have had in Lisbon so far.

 

Seriously.  I got home that night and had tears in my eyes.

 

Just two sentences, and I swear that those two sentences changed my life.

 

 

Travel Angels

 

The concept of a travel angel is relatively new to me, but I absolutely believe beyond a doubt.

 

It was always there, but I just started recognizing the phenomenon after it was given a name.

 

A travel angel is exactly what it sounds like.  A person who comes to your aide in your time of need when you are traveling without any expectation of anything in return.

 

The idea first came to my attention on a flight I took to London back in February.

 

I was seated next to a smart sassy woman named Jacqueline.

(No, I’m not exactly sure how to spell her name, but she deserves a fancy spelling.  Class, Wisdom, and World Experience.  I know we crossed paths for a reason.)

 

Jacqueline gets credit for coining the “travel angel” phrase.  She told me about her world travels with her husband and her friends and story after story about the many travel angels she has encountered along the way.

 

She helps me, and I introduce her to some handy travel apps.  I think, “Maybe she was my first travel angel of the trip?”

 

And it turns out, she was the first of many on that trip.

 

 

time out market lisbon travel angels

 

A Foodie Haven

 

Mercado da Ribeira, Lisboa

{aka:  Time Out Market, Lisbon}

[aka: The scene of my first Pastel de Nata]

 

Michelin Star chefs, Portuguese classics, sushi, pizza, burgers, thai, and fancy charcuterie from the Manteigaria Silva all rolled into one.  Giant banquet style tables command the center of the atrium with little bar areas scattered about.  It’s a hustlin’ and a bustlin’.  The party don’t stop.  Trays clacking, wine glasses clinking (and some shattering), children crying, honeymooners…well…can you guys just get a room please?

 

It is a food lovers paradise, but I was in hell.

 

My fourth day in Lisbon, and I find myself sitting in the middle of this commotion.  Normally, I would be happily munching and people watching.  Solo travel doesn’t bother me.  Actually, I am starting to prefer it.  I splurged on some entrecôte [aged steak] and vinho verde [best wine EVER].  My second real meal in four days.

 

time out market lisbon travel angels

 

I imagine that my RBF was out in full force.  Add insane exhaustion to the mix, and it’s GAME OVER.  Nobody wants to approach me or talk to me.

 

When searching for an open seat, I pick this small group of girls who I think might be traveling alone.  Turns out they are not speaking English, and I admit defeat.

 

Across the room, I see two women (about my age) sit down strategically next two these two guys.  Looks like they all speak English, and they’re connecting.  Sadly, I think, that could have been me…if I was feeling a little more like myself.

 

I am about to give up when this family comes along.  They are chattering away, looking for a place to sit, and trying to decide what to eat.  All rosy cheeked, like they just had a wonderful adventure.  A close family.  Reminds me of my own.  A little pang of homesickness creeps in.

 

Mom, Dad, and two daughters.  The daughters are probably around my age.

 

The spot next to me has three seats.  This family needs four.  I do not feel like socializing, but I want to make sure they can sit together.  Might as well do something nice.  I am just sitting here taking up space at this point anyway.  It sounds like they are speaking English, so this is when I decide to be brave, speak up, and say my line.

 

My First Hello

 

“Are you looking for a place to sit?  I’m done, so you can have my seat.”

That’s all it took.  One little line.  I am so glad I spoke it.

 

“Oh, are you sure?  Where are you from?  How long have you been in Lisbon?”

 

The floodgates opened.

 

Doug & Kip.  Alli & Annie.  They are from Albany, NY.  Alli and Annie are currently living as roomies in Boston.  Alli is about to start a super cool job at ESPN and Annie is getting ready to start nursing school.  Bright, bubbly, friendly, fun.  This family has their shit together.

 

Alli starts telling me about their adventures.  She has tons of cool bars and restaurants to recommend in Lisbon and all over Portugal.  She also shows me how to make and share lists in Google Maps (TOTAL GAME CHANGER YOU GUYS).

 

Doug heads out in search of food, and the girls, Alli and Annie, invite me to a secret rooftop bar they discovered called Topo Chiado for a drink later.  I am not super comfortable about the idea of going back to my apartment alone after dark, but I say yes.  This might be my one chance to go.

 

topo chiado travel angels

 

Topo Chiado

 

Topo Chiado is difficult to find (mostly because Lisbon is built on a series of hills with streets that crisscross each other on different levels), but I make it there.  The whole family is there.  They insist on buying me a drink, and they want to know all about me.

 

Usually, I am uncomfortable talking so much about myself, but they put me at ease.  When they find out I am in Lisbon, pretty much on my own, for a month, they use the word “brave,” which makes me sit up a little bit straighter.  I dive on in and start explaining about why/how I got here.  I think I probably spilled out my whole life story.  Teacher.  Dumped On A Cruise Ship.  Stalker Situation.  Travel Addiction.  Digital Nomad.  Blog.  Lisbon.

 

Alli and her family are intrigued by the digital nomad world.  She wishes she knew about this whole work-online-travel-the-world lifestyle much earlier in life, and says she would have liked to do something like this too.  The family asks about the logistics of moving here for a month, finding an apartment, etc.

 

I tell them about behere…

 

Apartment Hell

 

I really was not planning on telling them, but I could not [and still cannot], in good conscience, refer this company to another woman.

 

When I meet this family on Sunday, July 29, 2018, I’m in a bad situation.

 

My apartment is terrible, but above all else, the location of the apartment is NOT SAFE for a single woman traveling alone.  It’s not safe for anyone traveling alone.  Or even in a small group.

 

Safety First.  No Question.

 

The company described the apartment as being in a quiet neighborhood on a pedestrian street.  Scratch that.

Let’s try “in a dark secluded alleyway” instead.

 

The main purpose of using this company was to make sure that I WOULD NOT BE IN THIS SITUATION WHEN MOVING TO A FOREIGN COUNTRY FOR A MONTH.

 

The biggest safety concern is that I cannot be dropped off in front of my apartment by car.  I have to go down some sketchy stairs that also have construction going on around them.  Think lots of dark corners.  Graffiti, poop, and garbage.  I kid you not.  The area is not well lit, and I have to turn down three different alleyways (in this dark narrow mess) to get to my door.  NOT a good situation to be in every day and night when trying to get home.  Common sense.

 

I also find out, on NIGHT ONE of my trip, that one of the company’s OWN employees (a woman) was attacked in this neighborhood, had to move, and is going through the legal process in Portugal.

 

My gut is SCREAMING at me to get out.  I am at risk here.  UNNECESSARILY.  Especially since I PAID (good money I might add) TO NOT BE HAVING THIS PROBLEM.

 

I reached out to behere on night one (Thursday).  It is now night four (Sunday), and I am still stuck in this mess.  behere’s first move was to reach out to the “accommodation partner” (aka the landlady) to tell her that I don’t feel safe.

 

Um.  How is that HER problem to fix?  You guys are the ones who supposedly vetted this place and put me here.  How about YOU fix it?  She can’t change the location of the apartment that YOU chose for me.

 

When I brought up my concerns again, behere fixed me up with a free walking tour of the neighborhood.  There are nicer streets in the neighborhood, but I am not located on one of them.  I’m still not sure how the tour was supposed to fix the whole dark alleyway, secluded area, construction, dark corners, CANNOT-BE-DROPPED-OFF-IN-FRONT-OF-MY-DOOR, have to walk through this mess alone, YOUR EMPLOYEE WAS ATTACKED HERE situation.

 

I am embarrassed as well.  So many people told me not to go.  They asked how I knew this wasn’t a scam or a waste of money.  I assured them that this was LEGIT.

 

And now?  I was feeling like I wasted my time and my money, and I wanted to go home.  Travel is not always so glamorous, eh?

 

travel angels

One of the “streets” I had to walk down to get to my apartment.  The stairs are up here, to the right, and then left.

 

My Travel Angels

 

This wonderful, kind family listened to my story with deep concern.  Mostly, I just didn’t want Alli to use the company and end up having the same awful experience that I was having.

 

The entire family was appalled to say the least.

 

Kip quickly forms a plan.  Doug and Alli will take me to my apartment while she and Annie will go back to the hotel to pack.  They have an early flight to catch.

 

I was just going to walk.  It’s before midnight still.  I tell them I will probably be ok, but they insist.

 

They go so far as to call an über, even after I say that I can order one.  Not only that, but Doug and Alli take the über with me, get out of the car, and walk me to my door.  I take them down the creepy stairs, right, left, right…through the dark, secluded, sketchy streets.  As soon as we exit the über and see the stairs, Doug says, “Oh no.”

Afterward, Alli messages me on Facebook.  The entire family is worried about me.  I cannot stay there.  I need to get out, and they will back me up if necessary.  Just let them know.

 

THEN, they continue to check in with me to make sure I am ok and that my apartment gets moved.

 

The kindness, the generosity, the concern shown to me by this family STILL blows me away.

 

I was [and still am] so touched by everything they did for me….

 

  1. Taking me in, buying me a drink, & genuinely caring about who I am and what I am doing

 

  1. Making me feel like a member of their family

 

  1. Being my family and watching out for me when my own was so far away

 

  1. übering me home

 

  1. Walking me to my door

 

  1. Continuing to check-in with me to make sure I got out of the situation

 

I mean, who goes out of their way like that to help a complete stranger?

 

I was in a bad situation, and they dropped everything to help.

 

That night, after I locked the door safely behind me, I had a minute to reflect on what just happened, and it brought me to tears.  I still get emotional about it.

 

travel angels

Imagine going down these bad boys by yourself at night

 

travel angels

View of the “street” to my left when exiting the apartment.

 

travel angels

View of the “street” to the right when exiting my apartment.

Now Do You Believe?

This family is just amazing, and they deserve to be recognized.  I will repay their kindness one day, and I will make sure that I pay it forward when I see someone else in need.

 

Doug, Kip, Alli, and Annie were my travel angels that night and beyond.

 

They gave me the courage to keep fighting with the company to get my apartment moved.

 

I made two awesome new friends @allimoffett and @anniejameson_.  These two ladies are gorgeous, smart, and so much fun.  Check them out.  My door is always open to them if they want to come see Detroit.

 

This experience also gave me the confidence to keep speaking up, even when it is difficult, and to keep saying, “Hello.”

 

Many more beautiful adventures have unfolded as a result of this first hello.

 

 

If you did not believe in travel angels before, I hope you do now.

 

Keep an eye out for your angels, and also make sure that, when you have the opportunity to be a travel angel to someone else, you seize the moment.

 

It can be something so small, but you never know what kind of a difference it will make to that person who needs help.

 

Maybe, to this family, what they did seems like it wasn’t a big deal.

 

But to me, it made all the difference in the world.

 

Thank you Doug, Kip, Alli, & Annie! <3

 

travel angels

Annie, Me, & Alli

 

 

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18 Comments

  1. August 16, 2018 / 2:41 pm

    I’m so so glad that you met this wonderful family! Them being so willing to help you and to be so concerned about you brought tears to my eyes. Love you friend. 😊 💞

    • Alyssa
      Author
      August 17, 2018 / 6:06 am

      Thank you Rach. Love you too <3 I am so excited for girl's night when I get back!

  2. Rebecca
    August 16, 2018 / 2:44 pm

    I am so thankful for that family helping you out! It’s amazing how impactful some interactions can be. I’m so happy you’re enjoying your trip. You deserve it!

    • Alyssa
      Author
      August 17, 2018 / 6:10 am

      Thank you Becca! This family really made a huge difference 🙂 Can’t wait to see you soon and catch up!

  3. Kelly Paul
    August 16, 2018 / 2:45 pm

    Wow!!!! 1. What an awesome story and sweet family that you encountered! 2. Thank goodness you opened up and started talking. 3. That apartment would freak me out!!! 4. Please get into a new place ASAP!!! 5. You are most definitely very BRAVE!!!

    • Alyssa
      Author
      August 17, 2018 / 6:11 am

      Thank you Kelly 🙂

  4. Mary Matt
    August 16, 2018 / 4:49 pm

    If you are reading this Doug, Kip, Allie, and Annie, I also want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for looking out for my daughter when I was too far away to help. You gave her the strength she needed to be an advocate for herself. You truly are travel angles. I am forever grateful.

    • Alyssa
      Author
      August 17, 2018 / 6:12 am

      Mom, you are going to make me cry! I definitely met them right at the time I needed help the most. So grateful!

  5. Hollie G.
    August 16, 2018 / 5:02 pm

    It sounds like you’re having the time of your life!! I love it! Keep enjoying it!

    • Alyssa
      Author
      August 17, 2018 / 6:12 am

      I definitely am! Thank you 🙂

  6. Renee Bacon
    August 17, 2018 / 9:35 am

    Glad you are growing, learning, expanding your world, and listening to your gut! So proud of you! Speaking up for ourselves is so very hard in some situations…especially half way around the world, with totally unfamiliar people. Have a great rest of your trip!

    • Alyssa
      Author
      August 17, 2018 / 10:49 am

      Thank you Renee! You are right. This has definitely been a trip of great personal growth. I can’t believe I only have about a week left! Ah!

  7. Susan
    August 18, 2018 / 10:33 am

    Love this post and the idea of travel angels! I have always believed that people come into our lives for a reason, no matter how long or brief the relationship is. This special family was sent to you at that exact moment for that specific purpose. So glad they were there to help!

    • Alyssa
      Author
      August 18, 2018 / 11:06 am

      Thank you Susan. I completely agree!

  8. Mike Lerchenfeldt
    September 21, 2018 / 9:22 am

    Nice job on your blog!

    • Alyssa
      Author
      September 21, 2018 / 9:44 am

      Thank you Mike! I appreciate the support! 🙂

  9. Annie
    November 11, 2018 / 6:52 pm

    Hello,
    I really love your blog! Keep up the good work.
    Annie

    • Alyssa
      Author
      November 11, 2018 / 7:00 pm

      Hi Annie!

      Thank you so much! More to come soon 🙂

      <3 Alyssa

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