In between two cover letters, I found a little time for this post, which I’ve been wanting to write since I got back from my trip. In September, after being finally done with my dissertation, I want on a backpacking trip to Ireland for three weeks, all by my lonesome. I started in Belfast and finished in Dublin, stopping along the Atlantic coast. It was an incredible experience, a surprising one as well, and I thought I would share some of my thoughts, feelings and some photos with you.
Visiting Ireland has been my dream since I was about fourteen. I don’t really know why but I’ve always wanted to explore this country. I imagined it as this green wonderland filled with sheeps and whiskey (and attractive men). On these three counts, it definitely did not disappoint!
One of my friends wanted to come with me but ended up finding a job and having to stay behind. Although I would have loved for her to share this experience with me, I didn’t mind going alone. I had this romantic vision of what travelling alone would be like. I would meet really cool people along the way and we would decide to continue the journey together. We would become lifelong best friends and recreate The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants. Well, that didn’t really happen.
Traveling alone can in fact be very, very lonely. I did meet a lot of cool people on this trip and even a couple that have made it on the so-coveted Facebook friends list. However, I was only staying in the same hostel for one to three nights, not enough to create life-long bonds. Plus, I was travelling at a time when most people are either in school or working. Although this made the trip more enjoyable in certain ways, it didn’t help with meeting new people. However, because I was traveling alone, it really forced me to get out of my confort zone and talk to people. I have always considered myself an introvert but during this trip, I surprised myself by almost always being the one starting conversations.
For me, traveling alone proved to be very, very stressful. Being the only one in charge of getting yourself from one point to another, there’s not much space for error. If you’ve ever been to Ireland before, you’ll also know that this is not always an easy task. You can’t really afford to fall asleep on the bus or you might end up in a different county, having to wait two hours for the next bus and pay an extra 15 euros. I found the logistics of this trip to be the most stressful aspect of the whole experience. Having never done the whole hostel thing, I booked everything before I left just to be safe. I’m not a very spontaneous person so I didn’t want to have to plan from one day to the next. However, I did loosen up and change a few of my plans along the way, based on the weather and places I really wanted to see, and I’m really glad I made those modifications because they led to the best days of this trip.
One great thing about Ireland is that it is a relatively safe country so I didn’t really have to worry about anything sketchy happening to me. People were always willing to help if I found myself in a pickle. For instance,when I was walking alone on a national road in the pouring rain to get to a monolithic cemetery, an old man got out of his house in his PJs and asked if I needed help or if I wanted a coffee. I wasn’t about to go into a stranger’s house by myself (plus I don’t drink coffee) but I thought it was really kind of him to make sure I was OK. I did have an unfortunate ass-grabbing encounter at the bar of one of my hostels, but on the whole, I felt pretty safe most of the time.
I do want to emphasise that there are a lot of advantages of traveling alone. First of all, you get to see and do what you want without having to worry about making someone else happy. When I was in Dublin, I did all the literary visits. While I absolutely loved them, I’m not sure that everyone would have endured my five hours at the Chester Beatty Library. Plus, like I mentioned before, you are more likely to meet new people. Finally, it’s an ideal time for self-reflection and I definitely learned a lot about myself in the three weeks I was in Ireland. I wasn’t in the best mindset before I left. I was feeling very anxious and slightly depressed; feelings that I have already experienced in my life but that are never ideal when you’re about to go into something new.
Although these three weeks were psychologically challenging, they allowed me to fulfill one of my dreams and discover a gorgeous country. Would I have felt better if I were with someone else and therefore enjoyed it more? Maybe but it did teach me things about myself and travelling in general that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. I think it’s important to experience travelling alone at least once in your life if you get the opportunity. Some people swear by it and it does have a lot of advantages. Personally, I definitely want to do it again but for a shorter period of time.
If you’ve ever traveled alone, please let me know how your experience was in the comments. I would love to know. Also, if you need tips and recommendations for travelling around Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, I’d be happy to answer your questions.
PS: Next on Pow’s Corner will be a review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child so keep your eyes peeled for that.