I think one month was the perfect amount of time to spend in Ireland (for this particular trip at least). I grew accustomed to Ireland. I complained about the weather. I understood that “ay” meant yes and “yee” meant y’all. I’m was included in the local Glen gossip. I knew which musicians were total tools and who always got too drunk and flirted with Craig even though she was married to David. I hiked the tallest cliffs in Europe, walked the valleys, and bused my way across several counties. I did not come close to seeing or experiencing everything in Ireland, but it was a good start. Everyone spoke English which was nice and almost everyone we met was warm and kind..
On September 27th Cliff drove Caroline, Randal, and I to Donegal. (Well, he dropped of Randal off on the side of the road along the way as he was hitchhiking to his next destination while we were taking a bus.) He told us to make the goodbyes short and sweet. He hugged both of us and said uncharacteristically kind words. Then he’s back in his car, cigarette lit, honking at a van in front of him which is only l blocking his way because it is literally dropping off an elderly woman. And with a squeal of tires and a slew of curse words he is gone. Caroline and I each get a bagel at a bakery by the bus stop. We don’t wait long before our bus arrives and we are headed for Dublin. Dublin seems to be the Atlanta of Ireland. No matter where we are going all roads seem to pass through Dublin. We stay at the same hostel in the Christchurch area, and eat at the same fish and chips joint. An hour later, up four flights of stairs, on the top bunk, I actually go to bed early. Which is nice. Then I wake up a 5AM which is not nice. I don’t actually get out of bed until almost 6AM which is a bad habit that I really need to conquer.
Back in August I remember slightly worrying about the sort of traveler I would be.. Not so much at my workaway stays or hostels, but in the in between period. Would I be one of those anxious, grouchy travelers. Always yelling at everyone to hurry along and snapping at the information desk ladies? So far, I feel quite the opposite. Actually it’s the in-between-bits where I am most comfortable. I like crossing country borders. I like watching the landscapes change around me. I like meeting people from literally all over the world. I like listening to the collective hum of multiple contrasting languages spoken so quickly and quietly that they become white noise. I like the stern look of the train conductors. I like the lurch of the wheels as the train comes to life or as the plane leaves the ground. Most of all I like taking the first step off of the boat/bus/train and onto ground I have never stood on before. It is so silly and insignificant, but every time I feel as accomplished as a conquistador discovering uncharted lands. I am not discovering uncharted lands. I am going to some of the most touristic places in the world, but for me that is a big deal. When you read, hear, and talk about places all your life but never actually see them they start to feel fictional. “The real world” starts to close in only including the places you have been or go frequently. Everywhere else becomes fantastical and feels far from reach. Every time I watch Funny Face and see the Eiffel Tower in the background, it feels as though I’m looking at a well done set. Familiar but distant. I wonder what it will feel like when I look at it in real life?
I don’t know yet.
One bus and one large cappuccino later, we are on a ferry leaving Ireland at long last. About thirty minutes into this journey I feel unceremoniously seasick and it is all I can do not to throw up 18 euros worth of Greek yogurt, granola, and veggie sausage. But I cannot throw it up because I know that I am not going to be able to eat lunch today. I do not know when I will eat dinner. Also, and to be honest most importantly, I’m poor and that would be a total waste of unnecessarily expensive ferry food. These are the thoughts I concentrate on as I gently grip my seat and close my eyes. “You cannot afford to vomit. You cannot afford to vomit.” I repeat this over and over in my head until becomes a meditating mantra and eventually I fall asleep. My nap is short, but when I wake up I am no longer nauseous so we’ll call it productive. I am able to put on my headphones and listen to some French language podcasts as I calmly watch the horizon. An hour and a half later I see the first glimpse of land.. I think. An hour and a half after that, we are in Wales flashing our passports and boarding a train to England.
The train ride is long. I read A New Earth. Sleep. Stare out the window. Sleep. My phone isn’t charging (again). Sleep. Get off at the last station. Buy an oyster pass. Head to Kings Cross. Switch subways..
If you want to ensure your first couple hours in London are miserable. Travel for over eight hours on a bus-ferry-train, make sure your super hungry yet (some how) simultaneously nauseous, and just when you’re pretty sure you’re starting to smell.. Put on your huge backpack and cram yourself onto the Tube.
The subway was literally so packed that I saw the door close on a man’s head(phones) Instead of getting off he just tilted his head to the side so the door could close. How the hell are we going to fit in this thing with our backpacks?? Cut to Caroline and I cramming ourselves between the suited businessmen and forcing ourselves and our packs onto the first train. “You’re pack is literally crushing me!” a lady snaps as Caroline and I try to somehow squeeze into each other even more. Everyone within eyeshot of us hates us. And everyone behind them probably hates us too..on principle. It was so awful that it was hilarious. And every time Caroline made eye contact with me she would laugh, and every time I made eye contact with anyone I would laugh because I’m an inappropriate laugher in general. And every time we laughed, the hateful glares intensified. Forty-five minutes later we reach our stop and free ourselves from the subway.. To go to Subway (the sandwhich shop).. To get a sandwhich.. And also to get directions to our AirBNB. We find the road which is literally right beside the tube station and find our room down a dark alley behind a Chinese restaurant and a massage salon in a row of somewhat dingy brick apartments. It seems we are in the “Queens” of London. Caroline says she feels bad, like she has taken us to a maybe unsafe place. I don’t care. There’s a bed. There’s a kitchen. There’s a small grocery store two seconds away. Feels like home already.
Well it’s 9:03. Caroline is pretty sure she’s got a cold, so we’re going to sleep now.