Yesterday, I took a different hike route due to Covid. As I walked, I looked up and saw something that provoked so many anchor moments in my life. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw, “Heaven’s Door,” on a building above an entrance to a temporarily closed restaurant. I had to smile at the irony as I reminisced a little about my journey to where I am today, and who I am today.
I took my first international trip while working for Ford Motor company in 1991. I had designed a software API that would help push operational data on the plant floor to plant management for quality control helping them improve their plant operations. The plant was in Pamela, Portugal, a city located across the Tagus River from Lisbon. I did not know it at the time, but Lisbon, and the whole travel experience had such a profound effect on me that I became enamored with the European way of life.
Of course, we completed the work we needed to do at the plant, but on trips like these, there was always time built in for personal pleasure as I would come to find out throughout the rest of my career. I remember walking the artfully designed cobblestone streets of Calcada, the city center of Lisbon. And my first taste of that coffee. At that time, I distinctly remember saying that the coffee there made ours taste like water!
Our host from the plant took us to a Portuguese restaurant where I experienced my first genuine European meal. The flavors of the treasured national dish called Bacalhau, (Portuguese cod fish), exploded in my mouth. It was accompanied with the haunting background music called Fado, which comprises a mournful sounding solo singer accompanied by a classical Portuguese guitar. This was an experience that would become an anchored memory forever etched deep inside with the passion on the singers’ face combined with the bellowing sound of the guitar and the ubiquitous “Lisbon” smell of the restaurant. I was hooked.
A few years later in my career, I was offered a one year contract to move to Amsterdam to help grow the business. With the memory of my first trip to Europe still fresh in my mind, the decision to take the offer was a no-brainer. Of course, I said yes. Things went well and I ended up expanding the business very effectively, and one year turned into seven!
I got the food bug, the travel bug, and the understanding that you could hang out with people from foreign countries, and learn things, and take pleasure in coming to understand them. I felt blessed that I was able to live, work and play in over 100 countries during that period. I’ll treasure the experiences I’ve had and the friendships I’ve made for the rest of my life.
Here I am, 30 years after that first business venture, retired in the country where it all started for me. Choosing Lisbon as my home was another one of those no-brainer decisions for me. So, knockin’ on heaven’s door? I’m already in.