1. The Peruvian girl who lets you couchsurf for a night in her apartment
She welcomes you with a strong American English accent and right away offers you a mandarin orange and something cool to drink. She is lovely and smart and funny, and when you wake up the next morning, she gives you a delicious strawberry-banana smoothie.
2. The pretty, lonely girl in a bus station waiting for the same bus as you
If you’re brave enough to make the move and go speak to her. Of course you are. You’re a real traveler, right? Then probably she’ll sit next to you on the bus all the way from Porto to Lisbon. And in that time, you’ll discover she’s from Romania, and you’ll both watch the movie Equilibrium on her laptop and even share a frango sandwich at one of the stops.
3. The ultimate traveler
“You can’t travel too much.” That’s what you think after meeting a Scottish guy who’s working night shifts in the small hostel where you stay. He doesn’t work for money but for accommodation and surf classes every morning. He becomes your surfing buddy the whole week and also an inspiration after he tells you he’s worked as a scuba-diving teacher in India, a DJ in Thailand, and a hotel manager in Turkey. One month later he sends you an email: “I’m going to Nepal.” You just say “wow!”
4 & 5. The American couple traveling by bike along the Portuguese coast
She’s from Tennessee and he’s from South Carolina. “That’s wonderful,” you tell them. “Big Memphis Grizzlies fan here.” They smile. She teaches English in a rainy city in the north of Spain. “Their English is horrible,” she says. He’s a civil engineer who’s visiting his girlfriend for a week. They thought an original way to spend these days after some time living so far away from each other was to cycle around and visit some beautiful fishing villages in Portugal. And yeah, it is.
6. The Central European girl who can speak at least five languages
She fluently speaks Bulgarian, German, English, Spanish, and French. After discovering that, you don’t know where to hide. Finally, you embrace the tricky situation and talk some more with her. She’s an always-smiling girl from Bulgaria who lives in Münster, Germany. One night in the hostel you play Jenga with her, and she wins five times in a row. Always smiling. You too.
7. The local surf teacher who’s an artist
“Ready to surf some good ondinhas?” he asks when he arrives to pick you up with the gigantic green van overcrowded with surfboards for rookies. During trips to the beach, he tells you a different and exciting story every day. One is about the near-death experience he had last winter surfing at Supertubes. Another day he tells you — quite happily — that he paints some surfboards for Garrett McNamara, the world’s best big-wave surfer. How cool is that! He’s just an artist-surfer. And no matter which story he tells, you just admire him too much.
8. The professional photographer who sleeps in the grass near the Duero River with an empty Porto wine bottle next to him
You shoot him with your camera for beginners. Best picture of your travels in Portugal, no doubt. Then he wakes up, reaches for the empty bottle, and gets angry. After that, he stands up and looks around. He can see your “fresh traveler” face and feel your curiosity. He salutes you with his right hand, smiles, and walks away, leaving the wine bottle in the grass. Time to find new visuals. His professional camera, his astonishing photographs, and himself.
9, 10, & 11. The three hot Italians girls who arrive at the hostel when you’re just checking out
No need to say more than that. You spend the journey home thinking of all the things you could have done in a marvelous surfing village like Peniche with three, yeah, three, gorgeous girls with sexy accents and hot bikinis. For sure.
12. The lost man
Everywhere you go you see this guy. He’s from the other side of the world. After saying hello and learning where he’s from (the Kamchatka Peninsula in Siberia), you can’t stop thinking, “in one of the smallest villages I’ve ever been to, in the middle of nowhere in Portugal, I meet a guy from the Kamchatka Peninsula. Are you kidding me?” The world is always funnier than you think.