Wandering indecisively in Portugal

In Faro, Portugal, the writer takes a picture of what she thinks were the gears of the clock or bell of the cathedral, which were enclosed in glass. In the background, the beach. Indecisiveness was her ticket and it served her well. CHRISTINE GARTHWAITE
In Faro, Portugal, the writer takes a picture of what she thinks were the gears of the clock or bell of the cathedral, which were enclosed in glass. In the background, the beach. Indecisiveness was her ticket and it served her well. CHRISTINE GARTHWAITE
Posted: July 15, 2012

I have never been good at making decisions. In fact, I think that may be one of the things I am worst at. I'm not sure, I can't decide.

When people ask me where I want to eat or what I want to do, I get stressed, contort my face in different ways for a while, and eventually exasperatedly state, "I don't know, you decide." So when I thought about planning a solo trip while studying abroad in London last year, I would normally have had a hard time deciding where to go. Luckily, my law-student budget made the decision for me, and I picked the place with the cheapest flight and hotels in December: Portugal. With a few clicks of the mouse, the entering of a credit card number, the reentering of the credit card number (why can't they design credit cards with numbers I can actually see?), I soon found myself stuffed between two other budget travelers on a plane to Faro, Portugal.

But something I hadn't considered when booking a solo trip was all of the decisions I would be forced to make. When I landed in Faro, I realized it was up to me to decide where to eat, what sights to see, and what routes to take. This took some getting used to. In fact, I never really decided what to do, but rather wandered aimlessly around Faro for two days, camera in hand, snapping pictures of birds and churches and a few birds on churches. I then boarded a train that I hoped would (and luckily did) take me north to Lisbon. Wandering aimlessly around Lisbon proved a bit harder, as it was much bigger, hillier, and, at the time, rainier than Faro. But I couldn't decide what to do, so I wandered around aimlessly anyway. I got soaked with rain, was lost most of the time, and often thought someone was going to kill me (not for any particular reason, I just always think someone is going to kill me when I'm alone). But I also found old, beautiful churches that weren't listed in the guidebooks. And when I stumbled upon national treasures without having planned to see them, I felt like I was the first to discover them. "Did you know there was a castle up on that hill?!" I would ask the locals. (They always did, and for some reason they never seemed nearly as excited about it as I was.)

After I boarded the plane back to England, my clothes still damp from wandering through the rain the last few days, and all of my belongings crammed into the overhead compartment since no, I was not going to pay a million dollars or 30 euros or any other ridiculous fee to check them, I closed my eyes and reflected a bit on all of the sights I had stumbled upon. I then realized that perhaps not making decisions might have turned out to be my best decision of all.

Christine Garthwaite writes from Newtown Square.

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