It all started with a passport, a plane ticket, and a bad breakup. Yeah I know, it sounds like a bad version of Eat Pray Love. Or, since it’s Ireland I’ve been accused of it being a P.S I Love You type of thing. Neither of which is true. Well, maybe a mix of all of the above. I’m not exactly sure. I’ve always loved traveling. Nothing heals the soul quite like a new adventure, and after this last round of craziness I had been through, the plane ticket I was offered was sounding better and better. I had always wanted to travel abroad but had never really had the nerve to do it by myself.
So Ireland bound I was. Solo. What should have been a trip for two was now a trip for one. Nobody to tell me where to go or what to do. Nobody to complain about me not going fast enough and not having to wait on anyone. On my own in Ireland for ten days. I threw myself into that trip, the planning of the journey itself as well as learning basic Gaelic. It was my distraction from the heartbreak. And as the day finally approached I will admit I was scared to death. But thanks to a couple of great friends I got on the plane.
It was the best thing I could’ve done for myself. Looking back on that adventure, I can say that what little bit of fear I had left for the unknown is gone. It left me wanting more and wondering why I had not done this before. So if you’ve been thinking of exploring foreign soil on your own, all I can say is do it. Don’t wait. Plan it and go. Here’s what I learned while I was playing with the Irish for ten days.
- The hardest part is getting on the plane.
It’s scary to think of going somewhere where you don’t know anyone. What if something happens? What if you get hurt or lost? But, from the time you take off from the runway, and you watch the American soil disappear; you know that’s the last time you will think about it until you return. There’s something freeing about that. Once you do that and settle in for your long flight everything else just gets left behind. You relax into the anticipation of something completely new and feel everything else just melt away.
2. Talking to strangers isn’t all bad.
I typically put off the leave me alone vibe when I’m traveling alone. It works for me. Keeps the creeps I tend to attract at bay. But overseas the best way to learn and see things you don’t find in a travel book is to ask the people that live there. Now I’m not saying don’t be cautious, but I am saying talk to people and ask them questions. Step out of your comfort zone just a little bit. Your gut will tell you if they are good people or not and I can almost promise you won’t regret it. I found so many amazing places and sites I would have never found by making new friends. I saw memorials in Belfast I would have never known existed had I not met a new friend there and also had an amazing night on the town in Galway where I learned to curse “correctly” and drink like I was Irish ( Hangover included so do this at your own risk) all while dancing the night away and smiling more than I had in what felt like forever with two awesome chicks. For a brief moment, I wasn’t the reserved me I had always been, I was just living in the moment. Something I’m not sure I had ever done until that night.
3. Sometimes when you think you are lost you’re actually just finding a new way to get somewhere.
One of the best things I was told while gone was that I shouldn’t think of myself as lost- I should just look at it as I’m finding a new direction to take. This was told to be by a hotel staff member in Belfast which was during my first two days spent in Northern Ireland. Later on, I would wind up asking for directions from a man walking down a country road who took one look at me and said ” you look lost love.” To which I smiled and said ” always”. That road would end up leading me to a beautiful waterfall and also come to the realization that being lost in life isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it can lead to beautiful things.
I’m sure there are more things I’ll want to add later to this list, but for the moment I would say these were some of the most important to me. I took these lessons back to the states with me and have kept them close to my heart. The biggest lesson learned?
Until you travel overseas and see how others live and the things they go through, it’s hard to have perspective on your life. This trip showed me not only all those things but a bit more of the real me. The person I am when I’m not trying to fit in with everyone around me, and it was wonderful. So wonderful I did something else I wouldn’t have done until then- I spontaneously got a tattoo. A reminder of these lessons I learned and a perfect souvenir from my first solo trip. It can never be lost or broke and will always be with me. Just like Ireland will always be in my heart.