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The Importance of Setting Objectives, as Seen in Porto, Portugal

First things first: Porto, Portugal is beautiful! Gaze at these photos and let’s all heave a collective sigh of “Oooh! Preeeety.”

Now let’s talk about goals.

Stunning Porto, Portugal.
Stunning Porto, Portugal.

Today, my wonderful brother, David, was mid-way through a bite of cheese and onion omelet when I popped my favorite type of question: “So what are your objectives for this week in Portugal?”

Objective-setting is key in a classroom (answering the whine: “what’s the POINT of what we’re learning today?”) but it’s also essential in travel. Now, we’re not talking whip-cracking, sob-inducing To Do lists that go on for miles: just general aims to keep in mind so you’ll feel focused and satisfied when it’s all over. These goals should be realistic, achievable, and important to you. This practice works in daily life, too!

The center of Porto.
The center of Porto.

Here are three different parts to daily goal-setting which you can fiddle with yourself, no matter where you are:

1. Set physical objectives: Errands, Places to go, People to see, Sightseeing…

David and I pulled out a map of Porto and began listing tourist site objectives first. We identified our tactile goals:

– Wander the cobblestone streets to ogle the ornate stone architecture. Castles, castles, everywhere!

– On a friend’s suggestion: Jaunt over to the famous Porto riverfront and cross the graceful metal arched bridge to the cafe-filled Gaia neighborhood

– See the gorgeous bookstore, Lello, (pictured here) which inspired the set design for Harry Potter movies

Lello Book Store in Porto, Portugal.
Lello Book Store in Porto, Portugal.

– Scope out the Port-making wine cellars for which this town is famous

– Buy train tickets to Coimbra for tomorrow

– If time and energy permit: Walk the miles to the Casa de Musica which is a giant cube structure that looks zany and has a nice park outside.

The result of our Physical Objectives? All were accomplished except the last one! At first I felt guilty that we hadn’t scheduled ourselves to see every single corner and structure of Porto like diligent little robot tourists, but in the end, realistic, fun, interesting objectives were perfect.

Palm trees and architecture in Porto.
Palm trees and architecture in Porto.

2. Set emotional goals: “I want to feel happier by the end of today!” or “I want to relax.”

After three months in a small town in West Africa, entering Europe has been culture shock city for me! So much of my physical, mental, and emotional self has changed in the past ninety days in Ghana, and as a result, I am wiser and more fulfilled, but also exhausted and not quite my whole self.

“My main goal for this week,” I said to my brother as we huffed and puffed up a particularly steep cobblestone alley, “is to renew the parts of myself that I had to push aside in Ghana. That will make me feel re-energized and good.”

Colorful buildings in Porto.
Colorful buildings in Porto.

3. Set goals of activities which will lead to your desired emotional goal.

“What do you mean?” asked my brother.

“There are four things I haven’t been able to do in Ghana over the past three months that I usually use to make me happy and revitalized,” I told him, “and so I want to do them all today to start the renewal process!”

The bridge in Porto, Portugal.
The bridge in Porto, Portugal.

These joy-inducing activities for me include:

– Taking ridiculously long, wandering walks (since sun in Ghana fried me when I tried this!).

– Talking extremely rapidly and using creative American slang. (Ghanaian buddies and I couldn’t understand each other’s accents unless we all slowed our speech way down.)

– Chopping large amounts of brightly colored vegetables. (Millicent was a far better cook than me and thus I stayed out of the kitchen.)

– Steaming and eating aforementioned chopped veggies. (I did not stray far from my beloved fufu and banku for the past three months). A gal can’t live on Portuguese pastries alone!

People in bunny suits?!
People in bunny suits?!

Easy to accomplish, right? If not rather bizarre. But listen: the things that make us happy, relaxed, or revitalized usually ARE strange, surprising, and… easy. The key is just allowing ourselves the time and permission to actually do them. What does it for you? Watching reality shows while eating carrots? Singing at karaoke? G-Chatting with a long lost love? It’s all good.

So now it’s midnight here in Porto’s stunning Poet’s Hostel, and David and I can proudly say we achieved the majority of our Physical and Emotional Goals for today and are feeling very content. Most notably, we are now supremely full of a delicious stir-fry containing: carrot, garlic, onion, potato, broccoli, zucchini, radish, cabbage, and tuna. Yum! (And by the way, this whole meal cost just $1.50 U.S. Dollars each, thanks to the local market and free hostel kitchen, and is big enough to last for our lunch, too!)

That said, there was one thing we should have added to our objectives but foolishly didn’t: Find a herd of humans dressed in pink and brown bunny suits (pictured). So awesome! If that doesn’t renew your spirit with uncontrollable gales of laughter, who knows what will!

Quite the view in Porto!
Quite the view in Porto!

So now, here is your homework assignment: Set yourself at least one physical and one emotional goal for the next twenty-four hours, and arrange the activities to make them a reality! You likely do this anyway to some extent, but really, explicitly think about and reflect on it today. Report back on whether this exercise was useful and nice or just plain silly!


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Escape Hunter

Saturday 13th of September 2014

Porto amazed me with its vast old neighbourhoods... a huge chunk of that city is essentially and "old town". Indeed, one has to set clear objectives... on of mine was to discover Porto's beautiful vintage churches.


Thursday 31st of May 2012

Well done! Great post ;)


Thursday 31st of May 2012

Merci! Thanks for reading and sharing!


Monday 6th of September 2010

I like the idea of the emotional goals. I long gave up the to-do list when I arrived in a city but the emotional ones are interesting.


Sunday 4th of July 2010

Great pictures!

Imported Blogger Comments

Thursday 27th of May 2010

Catia said... I actually do this quite often, somehow making lists (even if they're just in my head) helps a lot to get me motivated again.

And thanks for this, I needed a bit of a kick in the behind today. I'll take up this challenge and plan out some stuff for tomorrow. :)

April 3, 2010 1:50 AM

David L Macaulay said... This is a wonderful blog to stumble on. It give me the wunderlust.

April 3, 2010 2:34 PM

Fay said... I love this blog. You are such fun to read and your posts (the ones I have read) are interesting.

You have given me some more ideas for my own blog. I retire in August and plan to travel with!!~! Ya Ho0!!

April 3, 2010 5:28 PM

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