They call it the ‘travel bug’, that insatiable desire to travel a lot more often than most people. I travelled a bit when I was a kid and an adolescent, but not as much as I wanted to. After visiting Iceland my travel bug took over and I decided it was time to throw myself into more adventures.
The feeling of wanting to stay in a place one more day was in every single trip. So I promised myself I would make the most of every moment, not just in my everyday life, but particularly when travelling. I always thought I could see something more, walk down the streets like a local and just enjoy a nice cup of coffee while sitting calmly. Without the schedule, without the timetables of museums and parks I wanted to visit. The first time I travelled on my own I decided to go see one of my favourite bands in Dublin, instead of just going to London.
Why would I just stay in Dublin? I’ve been there already. Maybe I should fly to Belfast and visit Northern Ireland, and then head South and fly back from Dublin.
I am so glad I did!
After an exhausting and freezing day at the Giant’s Causeway, I couldn’t avoid asking the bus driver where I could find the best Guinness in Belfast. He directed me to an old pub, the perfect Irish pub you have in mind, with timber, live music and lots of beer flowing. It was packed. I was standing there with my pint, trying not to invade anyone’s personal space. I was crossing a time when I felt uncomfortable among people, often breaking into a strong desire to leave and be alone. I tried to push myself to stay, but I was saying to myself “Come on, finish it quickly and go back to the hostel, the later it gets, the more dangerous it will be to walk alone. And it rains. And you need to rest. And you look like an idiot. And…”.
Lost in my paranoid thoughts I didn’t realise that two old men with a violin and a guitar were waving at me. With a huge smile on their face they asked me to join them so we could all sing together. I smiled back, thought “fuck it!” and sat with them. They offered me another beer, and 3 more. Needless to say my singing got spot-on by the end of it. I was talking to everyone, feeling comfortable and weirdly, loved. We shared life experiences, laughter and worries about the future. Behind me, a 100-year old violin which was this gentleman’s dad before. He said it was so special to him he wouldn’t give it to anyone. He invited me to smell the wood. Have you ever opened an old book and felt like you travelled to a different time? That’s what I felt. I pictured the image of him as a child learning how to play, then growing up and finding in music the emotional hug he needed. He had tears in his eyes when he was talking about music. That night was a gift. I walked back to the hostel under a mild rain, stopping here and there to appreciate the beauty of the city.
I know what you’re thinking. “You were drunk, of course you felt good talking to everyone!”
I’m sorry, but allow me to say that this is not the case. If I hadn’t accepted the challenge to stay out with them, I would have missed out on one of the most beautiful and spontaneous nights of my life. The old me, the me who lived in a small town in the middle of England and had panic attacks and sudden social phobia, decided to kick those fears in the butt and stay. I was tired of feeling wrong, like I didn’t belong anywhere. And I am so glad I embraced the opportunity to sing, talk about life and smell that violin.
You should do that too! Do what makes you happy, don’t follow the schedule that others created for you. Discover your own path.
The following day I woke up early to catch the bus to Dublin. My plan was to arrive there early and head immediately to the hostel before I could jump on another bus for a day-tour to County Wicklow. I was terribly hungover. The bus driver gave me a Tesco bag for emergencies (the Irish know their stuff!) and I tried to sleep during what seemed like an endless journey.
We arrived with a delay, but somehow I managed to sprint towards the bus tours office and buy a ticket for the trip I wanted to do. There I was, going to visit another beautiful natural destination. Walking through the woods was a healing experience. Every tree carried a story. I looked around and saw people busy taking selfies and looking down on their phones, while the landscape surrounding them was suddenly changing. I had lived in Ireland for 8 months before then, so I knew how unpredictable the weather could be. I managed to get to the lake and to take a few pictures before the blue sky filled with dark clouds and a heavy shower came down. People running back towards the bus, taking out their plastic bags to cover their heads. I didn’t care. I made sure that my camera was safe and walked back calmly. The smell and sound of the rain were so intense it was like living a flashback. I was just happy to be there. The bus driver was wearing a t-shirt, of course he wasn’t cold! He smiled at me when he saw how soaked I was, so I grabbed some dry clothes from my luggage and got changed.
When I returned from that trip I was proud of myself for going on my own, for walking into that pub in Belfast and being passionate about photography. Having a big camera on you on a night out is quite unusual, and for some reason everybody seems to think that you are a professional photographer.
Travelling and taking pictures. Maybe I could just do that for my entire life?