I’m back from Ireland and could not wait to do this Life Chats post on the entire experience. I will do a photo diary too, most likely tomorrow, but I really wanted to write a separate piece since this was such a personal and special trip. I have so much to say that I am not even sure where to begin, but here I go.
I feel changed. That might sound weird if you have never experienced something like this before. I know my trip was 10 days and not 10 months, but it’s true. It was life changing. It was incredible and emotional and so many other things that it’s actually difficult for me to even put it into words. I felt things that I have never felt before, like freedom. For the first time in my entire life I felt free, free from myself, free from my own mind. I was free from all of the weight that I have been carrying around in my heart for so many years. Sometimes we hold so much inside that we become a prisoner to our own emotions and I finally broke free from it all. I felt this by day 3 on my tour to the Cliffs of Moher. Just being there in that moment witnessing the beauty around me in a new country by myself, it consumed me in the most amazing way. That was without a doubt the highlight of my entire trip. It's when I got some clarity and felt like I found what I have been searching for. It filled me with genuine happiness. I have honestly not been genuinely happy since my father passed. It was amazing to feel that again. How incredible to have experienced this by just day 3?
I have traveled many times before with friends and family, but traveling solo is a completely different experience. You are living outside of your comfort zone and realize all that you are capable of. It’s exciting and scary and beautiful all at the same time. You are very aware that you are alone although it’s not a lonely feeling. I actually did not feel lonely once on this trip. I enjoyed every moment of solitude and I actually met so many great people along the way. We shared our stories with one another of what brought us to Ireland and where we have traveled to before. It was extremely inspiring. Every single one of us has a story to tell, but we don’t always take the time to listen to it. We are so quick to dismiss people and pass judgment on others without really knowing anything about them. If you give people a chance, they just might surprise you.
I met this girl Dana on my tour to the Cliffs of Moher and we literally clicked within the first few minutes of meeting one another that we hung out later that night and the next night too. Of course the way we met was by me asking her to take my photo. [The one below] Dana’s story inspired me and she’s such a beautiful soul. So many of the people I met have literally traveled the world. I was in awe. My very first night in Ireland I went to a pub and tried Guinness for the first time for my father and I didn’t have to do it alone. I met this girl and her boyfriend and spent the rest of my time in the pub with them talking about travels, life and drinking Guinness. They both met each other while traveling in Asia and have been together ever since. The girl had just recently moved to Ireland to be with him. Seriously, so amazing.
I became intrigued with knowing everyone’s stories, whether they were a fellow solo traveler, one of the tour guides, a taxi driver or a server at one of the many restaurants I went to. I just wanted to know everything about all of these people. I kept getting asked why I chose Ireland and I continuously had to share my own story to every person that I met. The more I said it out loud the harder it hit me that I was actually doing it. I made it happen. I fulfilled my promise and brought my father’s dream to life. I was kind of in awe of myself for seeing it through. The entire trip was one of the most surreal moments of my existence. I kept thinking, “Holy shit. Am I really here? Is this real life?” I seriously had to pinch myself to believe it all and I continuously felt that way the whole time.
I 100% felt my father’s presence during this trip and there are several instances that stand out for me the most. I will never forget them. The first time it happened was when I had just landed at Shannon airport. I was exhausted to the point where I felt like a complete zombie. I had been awake for hours and instantly felt jet lag from the 5-hour time difference. I had to take a bus from the airport into Galway, which was about a 2- hour drive. I was trying my best not to fall asleep so I took a few snapchats along the way. I did a 10 second video from the bus window to show the houses and scenery. I did not think anything of it. I honestly wasn’t even paying close attention to the video because I was barely even awake. I got to Galway, checked into my hotel and passed out for a few hours. I woke up to several messages from a friend saying that on the last building in my snapchat video was my father’s name. She even took a screen shot and sent it to me and there it was, “Michael.” Now, I know that my father’s name is very common, but in this video it was the only name and it was the only word shown. There were a bunch of houses and right when the 10 seconds were up there was a building on the corner with my father’s name. Coincidence? Maybe. I like to think it was a sign from him letting me know that he was there with me. It happened at the very beginning of my trip, it showed up at the very end of that video and it was the only word. It just gave me the confirmation that I needed.
The second time this happened was on my second night in Galway. I went to another pub by myself to listen to live traditional Irish music and drink a Guinness, which is exactly one of the things that my father wanted to do in Ireland. I walked in, got my ½ pint, took in the atmosphere and I was fine. The moment that they started to play the music I was hit with this sudden wave of emotion. I mean literally I went from being completely fine to crying all in a matter of seconds. It happened exactly after I took my first sip of Guinness and several seconds after they started playing. I truly believe my father was there with me in that moment. I will never forget that feeling. The third time it happened was basically the entire day of my Cliffs Of Moher tour. I saw my father everywhere, in all of the gorgeous views, in the countryside, in the water, I just felt him all around. I could see his smile. We passed hotels out in the middle of nowhere and I couldn’t stop thinking of how much he would have loved to stay there in the midst of all that land, soaking it all in.
Galway was a very different experience for me than Dublin. Both were amazing in their own right, but my heart is definitely back in Galway. It gave me what I needed and what I was looking for. It’s smaller than Dublin with a cozier feel and I am so happy that I was there for the first half of my trip. Dublin is bigger with a city feel and my hotel was about a 20-minute walk away from the main areas. I admit that when I got there, I realized how alone I was. Again, this was not a lonely feeling, I was just more aware that I had no one there with me. Going to the pubs and restaurants alone took me more out of my comfort zone than Galway. Dublin was also filled with a lot more tourists where as in Galway, I really got to interact with the locals and sort of stood out more as a solo traveler. In Dublin though, I did more touristy things and got to experience so much. I also got to meet a few people from instagram, which was amazing, and got to reconnect with an old friend. Overall as I mentioned, each place gave me something completely different and I have so many stories to tell for a lifetime.
I felt connected to my father the entire time. I did this hop on hop off bus tour and I think that is when I felt him the most in Dublin. He was all about tourist attractions and learning the history behind everything. I did things that I normally would not have done, but I wanted to do them for him. Although he was not there with me physically, I believe he was in spirit and I wanted to show him Ireland through my eyes. Everything that I did, I did it with him in mind. I ate too much and it was great. I refused to count calories. I only wanted to count memories. I drank too much, mostly Guinness, of course. I learned the beautiful and inspiring history behind Galway and Dublin. I was a complete tourist. I tried things for the first time. I got lost. I met so many incredible people along the way. It was amazing.
I learned a lot about myself on this solo adventure. I realized what I am capable of and what really matters. It was therapeutic and in many ways it healed the wounds that have stayed open these last 5 years. I just feel so different already that it’s actually crazy to me. The things that I cared about and worried about before just don’t seem significant anymore. I guess I see the bigger picture now. What I just did, that is what life should be about. There is a whole world out there and this is only the beginning of me experiencing it. This trip was the first of many more to come. I didn’t even know what to do with myself when I first got back home. I admit it took me several days to get back into my normal routine. I feel like my body is here, but my heart and mind are back in Ireland.
I shared so much of this journey on snapchat and I was blown away by all of the supportive and beautiful messages that I received during this time. I feel like this trip connected me with so many more of you and that is such an incredible thing. Some of you told me that you would love to take a trip alone, but that you scared. Take it from me, this 4’11 girl who just went to Europe for the first time by herself, YOU CAN DO IT. Not that my height has anything to do with it, but seriously everyone thought that I was still in school. If I did this, then so can you. Of course it’s scary because you are heading out into the unknown and anything can happen. I am not this fearless person. Please believe I was scared and nervous to take on this adventure. I got through it though and I always felt safe. I was never scared when I was actually there doing it. I’ve never enjoyed talking to strangers as much as I did when I was there. You will meet some people that you will create lifelong friendships with. You will test your limits. You will feel free from whatever has been caging you in. You will get lost and you will find yourself. You will learn to never over pack again. Everyone I met was staying in hostels with one backpack and there I was with like a 50lb suitcase staying at hotels. It changed my perspective. Plus, I wore so much of the same things and did not care. I didn’t even do my hair for half the time that I was there. I also did not wear much makeup majority of the time either. Traveling is not always glamorous! I learned how to spend my money the right way and how to indulge without overdoing it. It got me out of my own head. I didn’t overthink once the whole time that I was there. Like I said, it was FREEING.
I could seriously go on forever about this and I am probably leaving some things out too because my mind is filled with a thousand thoughts at this moment. I will go into more detail about the things that I did and how I did them once I share my photo diary. I hope that this post gave you enough insight into this incredible adventure of mine. I am so happy to be able to share it with all of you and I hope that it sparks something inside of you, the way it has to me, to go out there and LIVE. Go and do something life changing and meaningful and inspiring, whatever that may be. Bring your dreams to life today because tomorrow is never promised. I am already thinking of where my next destination will be for 2016 and once that time comes, I look forward to sharing yet another journey with all of you. Thanks so much for reading this post and stay tuned for more photos and info! If you have any questions about this trip, please don’t hesitate to ask. <3