All Grown Up — But Still the Same: Travel Memories in Salema

Southern Portugal’s Salema, while very small, is filled with great travel memories for me. Dropping by every couple of years since the 1980s, I’ve seen the locals grow up, along with their fishing village.

I first landed here back when our “tour program” was just me driving a minibus with eight other travelers. I remember venturing off the big road down to a series of humble beach towns and wannabe resort towns for a couple of hours until, just as the sun was setting, we landed in Salema. It was perfect. I parked the van and, while the group enjoyed the beach, I found private rooms for all of us in two or three fishermen’s homes. (Back then, we were more experimental, and I often found rooms for our tour groups upon arrival.)

In denial about how long I’ve been at this, I told my friend Romeu in this clip that I first met him here 20 years ago…but it’s actually been nearly double that long. I’m thankful the “back doors” I found back then are still great places — more comfortable…more affluent…but with the same local communities and the same historical and natural appeal. And I’m thankful locals like Romeu are still running their shops, cooking up their fish so expertly, and pointing travelers in the direction of good rooms to rent.

(This is Day 40 of my 100-day trip to Europe. Follow my travels at