My previous blogs have laid out my traveling and experiences, but a point I don’t always clarify on is that the majority of my traveling has been done alone. I have been asked the usual questions, “are not you afraid to travel around alone” or “don’t you want to be able to share the experience with someone”. My answers are not simple nor are they straightforward.
Am I afraid to travel alone? Yes at times I am. I have gotten lost in big cities, and I have been in situations that were disorientating where I was scared. While I might have been scared I managed to tuck the fear away and figure out a solution. There is something infinitely comforting about having someone next to even in a scary situation your subconscious is aware that you are not alone and some of the fear is alleviated. I did not have the comfort, but those situations have had some of the largest impacts on my personal growth. I did not have a safety net, which forced me pull up my big girl panties and solve my own problems.
Do I want to share this experience with someone? Yes I do. I would love to be able to point at something and share a moment of camaraderie taking in the beautiful sight. But this is a dual sword. I realized during this last trip that if I had someone with me I would be closed off to meeting new people. It would not happen intentionally, but when you have someone there you are wrapped up in each other and the experience it is hard to stay open to the possibility of random conversations with strangers. Or it can be just as likely that you seem less approachable when in a group. Regardless of the reason it is a potential sacrifice when you travel with other people.
My greatest example of this happened recently on this last trip through the Antrim coast. Along the way I met several people (most of which I didn’t get a name) who in some way or another made an impact on me. I may be fanciful, but I like to believe we meet people for a reason and each person leaves their mark on you no matter how small that impact is, it is still there. Most of my previous blogs spent a considerable amount of time on the cities trying to portray their image to the best of my ability in an effort to share this experience with those I love. I believe the people inside the cities are just as important because in a beautifully complicated cycle they are connected. It is hard to understand one without understanding the other. With this last trip I was not in a city, I was seeing what Ireland is known for: its beautiful landscapes. Along the journey several stops were made to some of the most famous places within Ireland: Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Giant’s Causeway, and Dunluce Castle. The scenery was breathtaking, but what really made the experience was the people along the way.
At the Giant’s Causeway I went into a little pub called the Nook to have some lunch. It was packed and I hung out by the bar until a table opened up. The weather had been awful and everyone inside was drenched, but the Nook was cozy and warm. There was an older gentlemen sitting on a stool next to me and he turned to me and said “it is a lovely day is it not?” We struck up a conversation that was relatively brief before a table opened up and I was finally able to sit down resting my soggy feet. The table was for four people, but soon after I was joined by an older couple who also needed a table. They were from London, which I had just been to so we talked about London and even America as we waited to be served. They were a lovely couple who amused me with their banter. They both had a wonderful sense of humor and teased each other to the point that tears were streaming down my cheeks. The conversation probably didn’t last more than 30 minutes, but it still made the lunch infinitely humorous and will be a memory I cherish.
The Nook was packed when I was trying to leave. I had to wait at the bar to pay allowing me to strike up another conversation with the older gentleman again, who was actually a bus driver for a tour company. He told me a hilarious story about an experience he had had at the Nook about being confused with the staff. I was actually in a hurry to get out of the pub afraid I was going to miss my tour bus and this gentleman, who came often to the Nook and knew the staff, got their attention and had them collect my money so I could leave. I didn’t catch his name, but he shared a wonderful story with me and he helped me out creating a memory that I will love to share.
I met these people, who I might not have met had I not been travelling alone, and each made a lasting impression on me. They each created a special memory with me that I will always have and they taught me a valuable lesson: don’t be afraid to open yourself up to new possibilities. Yes I have been trying new things and creating new experiences, but I had held part of myself back not engaging people along the trips that I was taking. I am sure this is, in part, due to the fact I was already slightly overwhelmed by the experience to pull myself away from it to socialize. But this created a gap in my travels. As I was trying to uncover/ discover the secrets of the places I was going I was overlooking a crucial element: the people living inside the city. I described Belfast, London, and Galway in great detail. But I forgot to mention the youth I met in Belfast that helped breath life back into the old man or in London with the smooth charmers housed inside the old lady or in Galway where the avant-garde lurked in the heart of the rebellious teen. It is one more layer that I now know to try and unpeel as I try to reach the core of a city and it is one more layer I can add to myself as I continue down this path of self discovery.