Lisboa: finding beauty in the after-party debris

street wisdom cafe lisboa

It’s a sign of either sheer naivety or incurable optimism that I chose to host Lisbon’s first Street Wisdom on a Saturday morning at 9am sharp, starting from Mercado da Ribeira’s garden. It’d only been three to four hours since the night’s revellers left for their beds and the signs were everywhere; sticky pavements, abandoned beer bottles, Lisboa lazily waking up to the weekend.

street wisdom slow right down lisboa

And so it felt incredibly special that six humans and one dog turned up to find fresh answers to their questions (the dog does not do social media, and had been tipped off by its human master. Phew).

Despite the enormous differences that make Southern and Northern European folk their own cultural breeds, urban life in the West is made of very similar trappings. Once the group had opened up about their questions, it became obvious that there is no foreign land when it comes to being human in the city.

‘Am I ready to move to the country?’, ‘Does it still make sense to run my business?’, ‘What’s next for me?’ were the sorts of very universal matters we discussed. One of our participants had no questions at all, but appreciated learning how to switch the mindful toolkit on. The majority of participants were on corporate careers, trying to navigate their true sense of self within those structures.

And if you can see beauty in everything, when surrounded by the after-party debris of the biggest outdoor urban rave in Europe (p.s. it happens every Friday and Saturday), then you’re really jamming it when it comes to the tune up. We spotted happiness in a group of drunks wearing less-than-flattering nylon fancy dress onesies, saw jigsaw patterns in the mash of cigarette butts on the pavements, and looked slightly differently onto the groups of pigeons hanging out by the park benches.

street wisdom pigeons lisboa

I always feel blessed and privileged to witness what participants are willing to share at the end of the Quest. Connection is part of what makes us human and yet, somehow, we’ve been socialised into walking anonymously in the city. We swapped tips about where to grow vegetable patches in Lisbon (before checking out to the countryside), learnt about the joy of talking to complete strangers, and opened up about very personal struggles. And we did it without hesitation, before a group of strangers, our only armour being strong expressos and the stunning late Spring Lisbon sunshine.

Lisbon, get ready. We’ve only just started with you.