It's a big call but here it is, one of my favourite places I've been this year. The south coast of Portugal, the Algarve. The beaches of Arrifana and Monteclerigo, the rocky cliffs along Lagos, the lighthouse at Cabo de Sao Vicente and the learn-to-surf beaches of Sagres.
It seems like a lifetime ago now. Though that's how it's been this entire year, time stretching and ripping so far there's gaps of time where I can't place where I was or what I was doing. And trying to catch everyone up back home is a lost cause. It's been too long between drinks to be able to say what I've been doing, what's really been going on. More weeks away, more wine and stories, tapas and to-do-lists. There's been road trip after road trip, country after country, weeks away, classes missed, plans to make more plans.
It's the home-stretch, the final quarter. The sun still shines but there's a bite to the wind and a coolness in the air that was absent all of summer. Night eats more into the day sooner than I thought. I've had to buy stockings again and take out all blazers and jumpers. Looking back, it's coming full circle and it's scary. Scary to think of going home after a year away, scary to think that you'll fall apart because you've changed too much, scarier still to think things will go back to being the same.
But there's new plans and bigger dreams and the things that scared you before are childs' play now. You'll go back to tell them you know where your favourite place is in the world, to tell them you know what it's like to go cold at night in a foreign country without a place to stay, the sinking of your gut as you realise you missed your flight, the adrenaline rush of climbing a mountain, of getting to that lake, of stepping into that medieval castle hundreds of years old, of standing where leaders stood, where revolutionaries spoke, where reforms were made, regimes rose and fell, where history was made. And you'll always, always have that - whatever else comes after.