You might be surprised at what you find
When I went to Ireland with my sister, I faced one challenge after another.
The first challenge began with driving. When my sister and I first set out from Dublin in our little Citroën, a windstorm blasted through Ireland. I was nervous enough driving out of a city I didn’t know, on the left side of the road through busy traffic. It felt like the powerful gusts of wind would blow us away at any second. I remember gripping the steering wheel with a death grip, trying to keep the car still.
The next problem began when we found ourselves lost in the middle of Wicklow Mountains on our way to Kilkenny. We had just left the monastic city of Glendalough, which is nestled in a glacial valley. As we drove, we were surrounded on all sides by sloping mountains, dense woodland and lush green fields sprinkled with houses. It was beautiful — except for the fact I didn’t like the steeply rising roads and my sister was convinced we were lost.
We decided to stop at an inn on the side of the road and ask for directions. The woman advised that we head back the way we’d come, from Dublin, where there were more signs and highway. Part of what got us confused was the signage in rural Ireland; it seems to end so suddenly. Deciding that would be the safest best, we headed back towards Dublin — only to find that we had lengthened our drive by several hours. We had also complicated our route and ended up missing our exits more than a few times.
Our lowest point came when we stopped in a town, pulled into the parking lot of a grocery store and cried, worried that we wouldn’t reach our next destination in time to check into the inn.
But the thing about tears is that they’re usually the best form of release. Letting out all of our frustration, fear and worry seemed to harden our resolve. We stopped at rest stops along the way and took turns as navigator and driver. Fortunately, we reached the inn just before midnight.
I can’t count the number of hours we drove that day but we sure got in a lot of practice!
We both shared a strange mix of relief and pride. We were relieved that we had figured it out but also proud that we had faced what was probably the most difficult and daunting experience of the trip.
We really found out what we were made of and realized that we make a great team.
“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” -Henry David Thoreau
This wasn’t the last of our worries though. The last big storm came when we nearly missed the last ferry back to Doolin from Inis Mór. We rented bicycles for getting around the island. And it was pretty awesome — at first. We wanted to fit so much in — shopping around for Aran knitwear… having lunch…seeing the stone fort…
But it was only when I glanced at my watch that we realized we were running low on time. We ended up rushing through the ring fort, the minutes ticking by, reminding us that we had precious time. Panicked, we hopped back on our bikes and raced toward town.
Our legs burned and protested as we climbed the steep hills. Being stranded on Inis Mór didn’t seem like such a bad thing but it was unlikely there were any vacancies at any of the island’s inns, even in September. My sister and I must have some kind of luck — or maybe better timing than we think — because we made it to the harbour in time to catch the ferry.
As we took the ferry back to Doolin, I thought about how crazy our day had been and wished that it had turned out better. I think we were both a little disillusioned by the day.
But then one moment changed everything.
As we were snapping pictures of the water and coastline, I caught sight of cliffs in the distance. They looked really familiar and then it hit me.
“Aren’t those the Cliffs of Moher?” I asked my sister.
“Yeah, they are,” she replied.
Everyone started snapping pictures of them, pulled in by the breathtaking sight. As I looked at them and marvelled at the beauty of nature, all of the worry and stress of the day vanished, like mist on the sea.
It amazed me that everything could go so wrong in one day and then go so right the next. Suddenly, nearly missing the ferry didn’t seem like such a big deal. I was sailing over the Atlantic ocean, taking in a view of the Cliffs of Moher as I sat cozy in my Aran-knit hat and gloves. At that moment, I really didn’t have anything to complain about.
“I got lost but look what I found.” -Irving Berlin
Going to Ireland was one of the most difficult but life-changing experiences of my life.
It’s in those intense highs and lows of travelling that you’re reminded that everything is temporary, including feelings and unpleasant moments.
And when you experience those amazing moments of awe, excitement and inspiration, you remember that no matter how crappy things may seem, something really great could be waiting for you around the corner.
4 Surprising Ways Travel Changed The Way I Think About Life
Travel is not merely a means of escape…
And you could end up with some really great stories too.
“Traveling — it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”-Ibn Battuta
The trick is to just keep travelling forward and take every moment as it comes.