Emotional Ambience

I recently returned from my very first trip abroad. Needless to say, it was an absolutely wonderful experience – so much so, that there’s no way I could do it justice in just a single blog post. I’ll no doubt write others after this, but first I thought I’d write about the absolute best moment – which is surprisingly easy to narrow down.

Let me start with a bit of context on the trip. I was invited to join a group of seven people on a five day holiday in Olhão, Portugal. This was a holiday to mark the birthday of my friend Neus – the partner of Rory, one of my oldest, closest, and very best friends. When I initially received the invitation, the thought of staying with so many people that I didn’t know was a little bit daunting, but on the other hand, it is impossible for me to conceive of having a bad time when doing anything with Rory, because I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad time with him in the fifteen years that we’ve known one another. I thought that, as much as there would be other people there, I would be mostly spending time with Rory, and that would be fun and okay.

As it turns out, I was completely wrong (in a good way). During my time there, it was very easy to become friends with all the people there, who, in addition to Rory and Neus, were Malena (who I had met twice before and was fond of, but didn’t know well), Victoria, Lorena, Lorette, and Isabella (these last four I’d never met before). Looking back, Rory is probably in third place when it comes to the people I did the most with, behind Victoria and Malena – but every single person there was an absolute delight, and are all people that it is a pleasure to spend time with.

On one of the nights, when we visited one of the many delicious restaurants that we ate at during our time there, I remember saying to Malena that eating one food followed by another meant that the initial flavour created an ambience in my mouth and that eating the second food was even more delicious, because it was blending with the background flavour of the first. Strangely, looking back now, I can’t actually remember what the foods we were talking about were – but don’t worry, this is just a bit of added context, not the overall highlight of the trip that I’m talking about.

The actual highlight came after a wonderful trip to Culatra Island. The trip itself was truly fantastic, and we got to swim in the ocean and walk through a beautiful little village that was on the island. As great as that was, the absolute peak of my enjoyment didn’t come until the ferry ride home. It had been a fairly warm day, and then as we were riding home, the sun was setting, the waves were gentle, and the breeze was keeping us cool. Malena, Victoria and I were sitting on the bottom floor of the ferry at the time, looking out at the water.

At the ferry rode along, Malena and I were having a conversation about the ways in which we communicate our experience of emotion. Just as we don’t really know that everyone sees colour in the same way, we don’t really know that everybody experiences emotions in the same way either – when one person says “happy” maybe they mean a simple feeling of contentment, and when another person says it, perhaps they mean an overwhelming feeling of excitement that’s twinged with anxiety, while another might be feeling an uncontainable enthusiasm. The human spectrum of emotions is infinite, we were saying, and the framework of language that we use to express our feelings actually limits us enormously. The human experience is far greater than anything that can be expressed in any language, and in a different world, with a different culture, and different language, they’d probably talk about emotions which seem completely alien to us.

The conversation was one that was actually very thematically appropriate. Something that always gives me a very warm and happy feeling inside is the realisation that I are solidifying a new friendship. Looking back, I clearly remember feeling absolutely delighted back in 2008 when making friends with Rory for the first time, or when befriending my old friend Stacey in 2011, or my dear friend George in 1999, my housefriend Eilidh in 2013, or my friends Sarah and Edward in 2016. There are countless examples and I could go on, but the point is that the birth of a new friendship is what life is all about for me.

Now, imagine “new friendship” to be the food for my soul in the restaurant of life – gosh, that’s delicious, but imagine the tasty ambience that’s going to make in my soul’s mouth. Then imagine tucking in to a big mouthful of new experiences – having fun in the ocean with friends, exploring a foreign country, eating new foods, riding a ferry over the ocean, watching the sunset, and doing so much else. Well, the two things merged together to create the most amazing emotional sensation, and sitting there on that boat, it came to a head.

“We’re so lucky,” said Malena. “We’re sitting here looking at this beautiful sunset from a ferry – this is our lives.” She put it perfectly. While the entire trip comprises a string of memories that I will treasure forever, I think it was in that particular moment that I felt the happiest. Everything merged together, and it’s possible that I’ve never felt better in my entire life (which is saying something, because I have some pretty darn great memories). I was looking back on how everything had lead up to that moment, thinking about how it’s lucky I didn’t die in 2020 (thanks again for driving me to the hospital, Sarah), or in 2021 (blimmin’ COVID) because that would have prevented me from having such an emotionally powerful experience and how I never would have guessed such nice times weren’t far away at all – and isn’t that nicest thought of all; that an experience like that could be around the corner at any time?

So, a special thank you to Neus for inviting me to come on the trip – I will forever be grateful to you for enabling me to have such a wonderful time. It was absolutely amazing while it lasted, and I look forward to reliving it through my memories for many years to come.

Here’s a picture of the sunset on that day:

And here is a picture of Malena, Victoria, and I:

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