Great First Day in Peniche!

I slept for 12 hours last night and struggled to get out of bed this morning. The temperature is comfortable about 68 degrees and cloudy. I was hoping for sunny beach whether but I suppose this is better because apparently the sun is very hot here and people burn very easily.

I arrived 1.5 days early so I’d have time to acclimate to the area. After breakfast on the beach, I found a grocery store, atm, a coffee shop and anything else I’ll need while here. It appears to be the off season as many places are closed and the surfers said the water turned cold just in the last week. That doesn’t stop them though. People come from all over the world to surf here. Everyone in this house speaks English to some extent but they’re from Peru, Switzerland, Russia, Poland, and a few other countries.

Eventually, all the surfers left and Kris and I had the place to ourselves. We cranked up the music, opened every door and window in the house and did yoga until the sun came out. In the afternoon we walked to a bike rental place. Holy cow beaches, beaches, and beaches, everywhere you look on either side of any road. There’s more water here than land. Anyway, we attempted to rent bikes for the week so we can ride around and see more of the town. Unfortunately, when we arrived I realized they do not have extra small bikes. I attempted to ride the “one size fits all” bikes they had, and nearly broke my neck trying to dismount. At that point, I knew that Kris and I would have very different experiences here. So I said goodbye to her as she rented a bike, and I set off to find my own adventure. I found myself sitting on the beach watching the hundreds of surfers glide in on massive waves. I also noticed there is a photographer here for every ten surfers. Then I found a restaurant on the water and had cheese, charizo, and wine. I can do this for a week. I worked my way down the beach all day. 

Kris texted me later and asked where I was. By that time I kind of lost track of where I was and mentioned the wrong restaurant. When I realized it, I asked the bartender if I could leave my drink and run down the beach to find my friend. She handed me my wine in a plastic cup, and I said “can I leave with this? Is this illegal??” She said no problem. I confirmed, “this isn’t illegal? No policia?!” “No policia! It ok!” So I walked around with my wine to several bars. When I found Kris, she was on the farthest end of the peninsula and already settled in. I asked the bartender about the menu, “what’s the difference between fresh cheese and dry cheese?” “Well one is fresh and one is dry” he said with a devilish smile. “Perfect! We’ll take both!” It was the great ending to our first day. 

Ok, so I’m here in Portugal but my Camino doesn’t actually begin until October 9th. So what exactly am I doing here so early?! Well, ironically, it was the changes I saw in myself following my first Camino that lead me to be interested in what’s going on in Peniche this week! It just so happens that there is a Surf/Pole retreat the same week I planned on getting here! So Kris and I will spend the next several days here in Peniche taking surf and pole lessons from professionals!

First let’s talk about surfing. I’m not a fan of the ocean. To me, it looks a bit like a giant toilet and I hate being submerged in water. I never understood why someone would want to be in a situation where they can’t see what’s around them. So the idea of taking surf lessons scares the heck out of me. The surfers here also said the water is super cold already. To make it worse, I Googled “Portugal waves” before getting here and learned that this country is famous for some of the largest recorded waves. Zoom out on Google Maps and you’ll find that Peniche is this stubby little peninsula sticking out into the Atlantic with no protection from the vast ocean. ::gulp:: I’m also nervous because I’m 99.9% positive this places does not have a wetsuit that’ll fit me so I’m not sure how that will impact my experience in the cold water. But I figure this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it’s just one more step in my journey towards entering the unknown! Who knows? Maybe I’ll fall in love with it! Prior to my first long-distance hike, I probably wouldn’t have been brave enough to try something so scary for me (surfing in another country) but I came away from my first Camino with a powerful lesson. I realized that I have had absolutely extraordinary experiences in my life and exactly zero of them occurred inside my comfort zone. It’s when we face the things that scare us that we find ourselves and our passion for life. So my drive to try new things has only been strengthened by my Camino.

The other big draw for me is that this quaint little house by the beach is also a pole camp!! As many of you know, I’ve been training to be an aerialist for about 2 years now. I’m not too good at it yet but my passion for the sport overwhelms me. For my 29th birthday, Brian got me front row seats to Cirque du Soleil and I was blown away by the power and passion of the performers. I saw small but mighty people flying through the air, defying gravity, and telling bold stories through movement. The music, the costumes, the athleticism! I imagined myself being that skilled but quickly dismissed it like with most daydreams. Fast forward several years later, after I hiked across an entire country, my perspective about what I can and cannot do changed dramatically. I had learned from walking 500 miles, that I’m physically capable of just about anything if I’m just willing to put the work in. Following my Camino, I was also driven to find new ways to push my physical limits. I NEEDED to stay active. Without it, I became depressed and anxious. I tried lots of things to satisfy my athletic appetite; Crossfit, Orange Theory, Zumba, mountain biking, etc. but then I found an aerial studio near my home and began training on Silks which are the long silk fabrics that hang from the ceiling. I was hooked. Soon after that, I tried hoop (called Lyra) and then poling, which I completely fell in love with. It thoroughly exhausts my drive to push my physical abilities to the limit as it is hands down the most physically demanding thing I’ve ever done and there’s always more to learn. Poling is also highly competitive at the national and international level but it’s not super popular in the US yet. So if you’re not familiar with it, check out the champion of Australia’s Got Talent last week. Kristy Sellars gave an awesome performance. Check it out!

Anyway, over the last two years, I’ve trained in studios all over the country and I love my amazing network of athletes around the world. It is actually much more popular in other countries so I was absolutely thrilled to find a pole camp in Portugal while I already planned to be here! Today, the surfers will leave and the other pole students will fill this house. Do I plan to be an expert? No. But that doesn’t mean I can’t love the process. My current stretch goal is to compete in a 2020 Pole Sport competition in Boston. At this point, I don’t think I’ll be ready in time, but a lot can happen in a year and I’ve learned if you keep your head down and keep working, one day you may look up and find just how far you’ve come. In the meantime, I’m thoroughly enjoying all the new opportunities it introduces me to, like this camp for instance.So, I imagine between the surfing and poling, I’m going to be pretty beat up before my Camino even begins but I’m so excited about all of it and how perfectly they all fit together!

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