Often a change of perspective puts life
in perspective. Many of we locals have
been doing everything possible to restore,
revive, and renew Lewistown, Montana.
Frankly that can at times be a daunting
task given none of us seem to have the
answers. However after traveling across
the globe to Lisbon, Portugal I'm more
optimistic about things back home. In
Europe I'm reminded that nothing is new.
Therefore the keys to our success have
been sitting right in front of us. Meaning
that sadly, we've done this to ourselves.
Lisbon is a popular tourist destination.
Yet it remains uniquely Portuguese.
It's not overrun with Eurotrash or
global brands. Instead it's proudly
different and hence beyond special.
Therefore my first lesson learned is
the importance of insuring that if or
when Lewistown grows, it remains
100% Montanan. In order to woo
newcomers, that means leveraging
many of the things locals consider
liabilities. So here's a reality check -
Who wants to vacation at Walmart?
Before and after
First settled by the Phoenicians in the
seventh century B.C, much of Lisbon
was destroyed by an earthquake and
tsunami in 1755. Thus the "new" is in
fact quite "old." Our hotel - The Solar
do Castello (above) is housed in the
former kitchens of St George's castle.
Those who renovated this place had to
work within stringent building codes
and historical guidelines. The result is
not only beautiful, it's unique (see our
room at left). Lesson number two is -
THE OLDER, THE BETTER.
Better here than there
What I've learned here in Portugal is that
nobody is a stranger. Like most Europeans
everyone we meet speaks English, French,
Italian, Spanish, German, and of course
Portuguese. However what's not lost in
the translation is all of the reasons why
Lisbon is so special. Hence most of the
local shops are filled with locally made
goods. Proud of who they are, Lisbon
residents celebrate what makes their
city special rather than wanting to buy
and sell merchandise made elsewhere.
Lesson number three - SHOP LOCAL.
Our first evening we dined overlooking the
city (above.) Last night we ate at a tiny six
table restaurant that had opened two nights
before. Both were delicious. However the
most inspiring element of last night's meal
was the owner/chef - a young man in his
late twenties. Obviously thrilled, he was
gambling everything in order to make his
dreams come true. Isn't that how the west
was won? Our forefathers blazed trails to
create our community. So why can't more
of us invest in Lewistown's future?
Lesson number four - JUST DO IT!
Down and out
What stands out most is that this
city is home to 2.6 million. That
means there are few vacant spaces
left uninhabited. The streets outside
of our hotel are lined with homes.
Given almost every window has
laundry hanging in front, it's more
than obvious that locals live where
they work. The reason the heart of
our community is empty is that we
left the premises. Lesson number
five is that successful community
cores have people living in them.
Been there... done that
To recap - Here's what I've learned
thus far while in Lisbon, Portugal
about Lewistown, Montana.
1. BE MONTANAN
2. THE OLDER THE BETTER
3. SHOP LOCAL
4. JUST DO IT
5. GET DOWN!