It’s been exactly two months since I left for Ireland, on a trip planned only moments before what I think will turn out to be the lowest point of this year. Though, of course, it’s only September, and I don’t wish to jinx myself. All I’m saying is that I was ready to board a plane and never return then, back in April, but I couldn’t really leave until July, on the day I turned 25. I also ended up settling for something more temporary — you know, a regular old holiday, rather than a full identity change and a missing persons report.
A couple nights ago I asked my mom if she’d finished reading Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, and she told me about how she’d sat on the bathroom carpet to read, so as not to wake my dad up. And she said that Lisbeth Salander, the ‘girl’ who does all that stuff (has the dragon tattoo, plays with fire, kicks the hornets nest), was interesting because she was unlike most heroines. It reminded me that just two years before, reading those books and about that very girl was what had given me the courage to decide that I can do it, too. Maybe I can’t fight scary motorcycle men or bug people’s apartments the way Lisbeth can, but I could go on vacation by myself. How easy it sounds, compared to all those other things! My mind was also ringing with Craig Ferguson’s mantra of ‘Between safety and adventure, I choose adventure,’ which I’d also just read in his autobiography. So yes, I admit that two works of popular literature were really what gave me the courage to travel alone — small, single female that I was and still am.
It’s usually some frustration or personal battle that gives me the push to search for plane tickets and destinations. I know I can be every cliché in the book (I mean come on, I embarked on my quarter-century birthday, though that was a lucky coincidence and/or an added bonus), but traveling alone and finding some meaning is a cliché for a reason. But I don’t travel alone just to satisfy the need to soul search — it first happened because, let’s face it, people live such different lives and can rarely spare the time or money to pick up and go whenever you want a travel buddy. So together or alone, I hope to get on that plane every year, from last year until the day I die.
I’m particularly pensive these days, so as a reminder to myself of what is out there, here are photos and lessons from Year 2 of my adventures:
Street in the Temple Bar district in Dublin. The navy and green ‘hostel’ sign is where I stayed the first and last nights.
Tiny, colorful street in Ennis. I bought a couple UK editions of Oliver Jeffers’s books from that bookstore.
Dolmen stone in the Burren National Park. Stories about Fionn McUamhaill (pronounced ‘McCool’), ‘Horse of a Man,’ were told here (and on the bus).
The beautiful Cliffs of Moher.
Bob the Donkey (potentially named Bobra, if female) on Inis Mor.
Loved these crazy signs — this doesn’t even come close to the craziest of them.
One of my new favorite places in the world, Devenish Island near Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, home to an ancient monastery.
Northern Ireland’s history (and perhaps present) is wrought with turmoil. This Peace Bridge, a foot bridge, had just opened a month before in Derry… I saw a group of young boys, who looked like a team of some sort, having their photo taken on the bridge when I crossed, and I thought there wasn’t a more perfect symbol of peace.
The Giant’s Causeway was so mind boggling and wonderful. The colors up at that part of Northern Ireland, especially on that sunny day, were amazing. Another one for my favorite places in the world.
Murals provide political expression for the Northern Irish. This one, in Belfast, was created by children, who wanted nothing more than to play and learn together, whether Catholic or Protestant. Our Black Cab Tour guide aptly said that children often see what adults fail to.
A Peace Wall. These walls separate Protestant and Catholic communities, to prevent violence, though their continued presence really struck me with how heated things still might be.
One of the Black Cabs against a mural backdrop.
Belfast boys singing.
A trip to Belfast wouldn’t be complete (at least not for me) without a sighting of the work of Oliver Jeffers, Belfast native.
Our final stop of the tour included beautiful Celtic crosses.
Oops, I wish I’d taken more photos in Galway… Ah well, next time.
My tour was with Shamrocker Adventures, my funny guide was named Sean, and I met many enthusiastic Australians, who dominated the trip. I saw so much green, so many castles, so many fluffy and blue-colored sheep, so many unbelievable views — but my favorite thing about the trip was definitely the history and stories. The Irish have such an amazing tradition of story-telling, which inspired me to try to tell more stories of my own. It was also easy to see how the imagination could run free in such a rich landscape. It made complete sense. It’d be nice to turn off the television and YouTube and gather round a fire (or just a table with bottle of wine) every once in awhile, to tell tales of fairies and heroes… leave the madness and mundane realities of the city behind.