My Happy Places


Clouds in the Sky

I always thought that Italy was ‘my place’. I studied Italian at school and college and love the language. I’ve visited the country 4 times and at one point stayed for 3 months doing work experience. I love the food, I met some amazing people and the country is beautiful.

But there were enough ignorant encounters to remind me to watch them. The constant staring was a regular irritation. My workplace was so close to the Milan Passport Office which regularly had long queues of Non-white people waiting to be seen. The disdain shown to them was not exclusive.

My husband had found his place and after 2 years of dating, he wanted me to experience it too. That place is Portugal…The Algarve to be exact but, we didn’t go there first.

For our first trip together outside the U.K. we went to Lisbon for 4 nights, a first for both of us.

I loved Lisbon. We both did. Apart from the usual things that people love about Lisbon, the thing that struck me the most…was that I wasn’t stared at. At.all by the Portuguese.

Image of Beach on The Algarve, Portugal. Sand takes up half the picture. Then you can see a thin strip of the sea. The top of the picture is of clear blue sky.

There was none of that even once. I was so relaxed that I didn’t pick up on it until near the end of our trip. I think the fact that there are Portuguese people of a wider variety of skin tones…I just wasn’t exotic and for that I was and still am a happy Kat.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying there isn’t ignorance or racism there, I’m saying that for the first time, I didn’t experience any on a holiday and that was an amazing feeling to finally experience.

I just wanted  to relax and have a nice time and I did!

Was Lisbon a one off of was it indicative of Portugal itself? I wanted to find out.

I did a solo trip to Faro and again, I had a lovely time. I had stares but, from other tourists on a day trip to Lagos apart from that, had a brilliant time. Headshot of Katty Janneh on the beach. You can see some of the navy bikini she is wearing. In the background is the sandy beach, some of the sea and Blue skies in Faro, Portugal

Then It was time to visit ‘his place’ in The Algarve. He went twice a year and he hoped that I would like it too.

He stays in a small village called Cabanas near Tavira. Again, I was able to completely relax. The stares  were from other tourists again, but it didn’t happen often.

I found my place. It is pure escapism and privilege for me to be able to travel to a place where I can relax and not think about anything I don’t want to.

We have been every year staying in different areas and it’s the same feeling every time.

When I’m home, being near water or nature gives me the same feeling. I used to study in Brighton and when you come out of the station, you can see the sea in the distance as the station is at the top of a hill. Every time I see it, my smile comes out automatically.

Brighton beach at sunset. The sea looks like a thick dark strip across the image. There are faint sights of clouds above it then clear blue sky. The pebble beach is very dark and looks like soil

The train ride from Hastings to Brighton does the same thing. A walk in my local park which thankfully is Greenwich Park does the same thing.

Visiting these places brings me joy and that is part of my self care.

What or where triggers your joy? Which places bring you a sense of peace and joy when you reach?

I recommend finding your space if you haven’t already. Life cannot be just work and no play.

We do not live to work, we work to live.

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