My initial plan fell through and hit the ground with a thud. I was supposed to be touring the Egyptian pyramids in June of 2011 with a college friend. But unfortunately, due to the civil unrest and violence pervading Egypt around that time, our trip was cancelled. To say I was devastated would be an understatement. I was the nerdy child who read about Egyptian beliefs and wished I could read hieroglyphics… not for lack of trying. I did actually buy a book about hieroglyphics in sixth grade. Egypt was the one place I was dying to visit, the top of the bucket list, one of the wonders of the world for goodness sakes! After the initial tears and frustration passed, I got to work finding another place I could visit. This time, alone, as my friend luckily was offered a great job in Austin starting right after graduation. And then Ireland just fell into my lap. A group trip during the same time period of our Egypt plans was touring Ireland’s coast that June. I immediately signed up and began envisioning the luscious green hills and cliffs of the land of the leprechauns.
Although I was psyched to see a beautiful new country, I was honestly very scared too. I had never traveled anywhere alone, any place where I didn’t know a soul. My fear was held abate as I rationalized the likelihood of anything dire happening to me since I would be with a group and in a very safe country. I wouldn’t even have to decipher transportation schedules or sleep alone in a hostel, since it was a preplanned group trip. Needless to say, everything went smoothly as the week of coastal driving passed. I’m not going to list the various towns we stopped in, as there were way too many to name and the overall vibe of the Irish coast was one of quaint peacefulness.
The sloping hills were a lush mix of emerald and evergreen overhung with gray skies that somehow provided an endless stream of rain. Each town had a main street lined with colorful buildings, some form of a pond with vacated rowboats, and one good pub open at what seemed like all hours. I encountered farm animals at least twice daily whether it be cows in the middle of the road, sheep herders, or rabbits, and were serenaded by various musicians, strumming harps, playing bag pipes, and dancing violins.
I hung my head over jutting cliffs with steep drop offs into smashing waves. Wind ripped through my hair as I carefully inched my way to the cliff’s edge. The gut wrenching view was worth the nausea, as cerulean blue waves pounded walls of rock, shooting sprays of water in all directions. The ocean looked menacing and magnificent, a force not to be reckoned with.
Ireland was a big feat for me: my first solo (kind of) journey into the unknown, the epiphany that I would make travel a part of my life forever regardless of going it alone, and the realization that for me personally, travel is much better experienced with someone. I wanted to yelp and scream every time I passed something beautiful (which was about every two seconds), but I found myself just smiling alone as I had no one to share it with. I love that other people find traveling solo so rewarding, but for me, Ireland served as a revelation that I would not be joining that crew. And I’m okay with that. Yes, I would love to be that bad ass to globe trot alone, but that is not me. And I need to be true to myself. So thank you Ireland, for guiding me on this path called life.