ChAlli in Lisbon

A Road Trip with Captain

January 20, 2024 He Said

chad and captain at miradouro santa luzia

Keeping an annual tradition, Chad headed to Nazaré with a friend.

He Said:

Seth Captain has been a friend of mine for 30 years. I cannot believe I just typed that, but it's true. Objects in mirror are closer than they appear. Mind the gap. Don't blink. We get old faster than I originally thought.

Captain suffers from the same brand of wanderlust that afflicts me. He's been to a yet-to-be-counted number of countries, but my guess is somewhere upward of 120. In one of his adventures, he tried to talk himself onto a crowded ferry somewhere in Southeast Asia during Ramadan by using his last name and declaring he was there to drive the boat. Yes, they let him on.

During college, Captain went to The Netherlands to study abroad for a semester. At the time, I was both envious and excited for him, as living in Europe was always something I wanted to do. Upon his return, I was grateful that he shared his experiences, telling me about the places he went. Describing the canals and coffee shops of Amsterdam. Pinpointing the perfect day of the Van Gogh Museum followed by a trip to the Heineken Brewery. Ultimately, egging on my own wanderlust even more.

It's always great to have people in your life who inspire you and encourage you to do the things you most want to do in life. That's who he is, and that's what he's done for my family. So, when Captain said he wanted to come to Portugal for his first visit here, I was all for it. After all, there are few corners of the globe he's yet to see, so showing him a new country is kind of a badge of honor. Welcome to Portugal, Captain.

So what did we do? We did what we always do. Walk. Talk. Explore. Stop for a beer. Grab a bite to eat. Get a coffee. Talk more over the next beer. Walk some more, ultimately winding up in a brand new neighborhood or some nondescript bar that turned out to be a beacon for local Bohemian culture. Maybe after that, we'll go check a few items off the growing Lisbon bucket list. Mostly, though, it was just great to hang with my friend until all hours of the morning. Like wanderlust, Captain also reflects my propensity for staying up late, a trait we can fully exploit here in Lisbon where restaurants don't fill up until 9, not close down.

Captain and I have a tradition back in the States. Every year, we pick a random city and meet up for a 24- to 36-hour jaunt of walking and exploration. Imagine if Louis and Clark didn't have a direction and decided to zigzag across a random city instead, just for the fun of it, just because they could. So far, we've tackled Kansas City, where we walked from Missouri all the way to Kansas, inquiring on one side of the street if the shopkeepers are annoyed by the out-of-state neighbors on the other side. We walked around countless lakes in Minneapolis and found a James Beard Award-winning restaurant that focuses on Native American cuisine. Last year, we discovered how unexpectedly cool Pittsburgh is, landing there right in the middle of a massive street fair called Pickle Fest. So, this being a new year and a new continent, nonetheless, we had to pick a spot.


Captain apparently grew up as a surfing geek. After 30 years, you can still learn things about your friends. So, we rented a car and drove north, stopping for a quick detour in the town of Obidos, and ultimately arriving on the hilltop overlooking the famous big wave North Beach of Nazaré. The waves weren't "big" but they were still big, and being there next to the infamous red lighthouse made me want to go back when the big waves do actually arrive. Next time.

Like in all of our other adventures, we walked and learned. That's what we do best. We discovered how Nazaré was once a thriving fishing town where fishermen would often crash and capsize just off the beach, many of them drowning, dying as their wives and children watched from the shoreline. Our concierge told us all those horrific stories she remembered as a kid, all the screams as people ran down the streets toward the water. We learned all of that stopped when they finally built the harbor allowing fisherman to leave from the cozy confines of a dock rather than directly from the beach. We learned that Nazaré has its own unique way of celebrating Carnival with a strange yet unique form of music. In true fashion, we learned that we happened to arrive on the day their Carnival celebrations officially began. We managed to sneak in an amazing meal of seafood rice followed by port and some Beirão, a famous Portuguese digestif that I had yet to try. We found that the base of the funicular is always a place to find a good spot for a drink, in this case, a cool wine bar owned by a young Swede and his Portuguese girlfriend. And then we started to talk about where we could go next year to keep the tradition alive.

If you're looking for someone to do the vetting for you, we're open to suggestions.

Captain Said:

Saudade. A unique Portuguese word for 'longing'. It is often used like, I have 'a lot of saudade' for that favorite restaurant that closed, or saudade for Dubya. Yeah, it's gotten that bad here. Well, I have been back in Chicago for two weeks, and the saudade runs pretty deep for my time in Portugal.

Chad is one of my genuine soul brothers, starting from the time we did our first Mardi Gras road trip together in 1994 through countless adventures and perhaps the greatest wedding ceremony of all time (ahem). There are few people on our grand planet who view the prism of life in similar fashion, so an opportunity to bond with Chad is something I not only appreciate, but also hold onto dearly. And the fact that he married one of the coolest women I know only heightened this trip.

It would be easy, and not really transformational, to use this space to talk about all the Sagres and bicas we drank on the various boulevard-strewn kiosks. Or the numerous miles we clocked strolling down alleyways. Even delving into our roadtrip sequel to '24 Hours in an Unknown City', or the return to our pre-marital 4 am lives doesn't really provide clarity on the journey.

What captivated me, and what still resonates, almost daily, is the adaptation of a family unit. Witnessing the enthusiasm that Sebastian had for the language, and the food, and don't get him started on Sporting, was to be present in a fundamental growth point of a child. Spending time with Alli, I could see the weight lifted, a woman embracing the new, re-discovering who she is, all happening right before me. Have you had the opportunity to watch a human being elevate? It is remarkable. Chad, of course, was simply in his element, returning to the mental and physical place he has pined for so long. How many of us dream only to accept that it is simply that. Not Chad (or Alli). To live in a dream is no easy feat. How do you pinch yourself constantly? What can you do regularly to appreciate this unique situation? Well, he's doing it. They are doing it. And all I had inside was Pride. Not the sinful kind. The one that warms you up inside, like a cup of hot tea on a cold rainy day (see: Lisbon Weather January).

I was so proud of the entire Stamm family, I wanted to stop strangers, and say, “Look at my friends here. They are doing it. They are living their best selves.” Of course, I didn't. I couldn't really endure one more Lisboeta talking about those damn digital nomads.

Sure, family and friends might read this wondering, “yeah, ok, that all sounds fine and stuff, but what about the dog?” Well, Cody, I saved you for last. You are an Australian Shepherd now living life as a portly retired Portuguese man. If your paws could grab an espresso and a bifana, while perched out your window over the Praça Ilha do Faial, you would be there. How an American, an American Dog, can actually get fatter living in Europe, despite walking more than ever, is a mystery best left for another.

I still prefer the way Brazilians say saudade, and the way Brazilians slowly let their Portuguese flow, and the way a Brazilian can get your middle-aged stiff neck to turn like a child's. But the saudade I have for the Stamm Portugal has already burrowed deep. I want my own family to do as they did. But they won't. So now, when we have those rough family days, it is the saudade for my time with the Stamms that gives me hope. Family can be a beautiful thing.

They Said:

After his cousins left, we knew what to do for Sebastian. We had to remind him of why we were here in the first place, so we bought tickets for the Sporting game that Friday night. We entered to the Sporting Anthem, where everyone was holding out their scarves and singing to the tune of Sinatra's "My Way," and we saw the smile return to Sebastian's face. Later that night he said, "I'm really glad we got to go to the Sporting game. I needed to be reminded of why we're here." Without any prompting, he connected to the intent and used the exact same words.

It also helped to have more visitors over the last few weeks. After the Andersons, we had a quick visit with fellow Rotary Youth Exchange cohorts, Bruce and Linda. Then, Captain came. A few days later, we got an awesome surprise to have our brother-in-law, Max, come to town for the weekend. Max lives in Israel, and were happy to see him and show him Lisbon for the first time. Finally, Chad's cousin Roger and his wife Fabiola stopped in for a weekend on their way to Barcelona. Speaking of Barcelona, that's our next stop! Stay tuned!

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