And while all travel presents challenges in some form or another, there are times when a trip dishes out way too many. My trip to Ireland when I was 19 was such a trip. It was my first time traveling abroad, and I went with my best friend, Sarah, also 19 at the time. We thought we’d had everything planned—until we arrived in Ireland and realized all of our plans had to be scrapped.
Youth hostels? Oh no, I don’t think so. Not once we saw them. Railway tickets? Turned out they were for Northern Ireland only. So, in some ways Sarah and I were stranded just as Camille and Oscar were stranded in Australia (minus the dead father, shipwreck, magic, and budding romance, of course).
We quickly realized we were going to have to fly by the seats of our pants. It would have been easy to complain and have a terrible time. Instead, we had one of the most amazing, eye-opening experiences of our lives. We traveled from coast to coast, figuring out bus and train schedules along the way, and not knowing—or caring—if we would find a B&B or inn somewhere with a vacancy. We were 19 and exploring and out to have fun, nothing else.
We traveled from Killarney on the West coast, to Dublin on the East coast, up to Carlingford near the Northern Ireland border (our favorite stop), and further up into Belfast, then back west to Galway. We rode horseback to Ross Castle in Killarney, slept in a room outside of Dublin that was totally pimped out with silky purple sheets, and went through ancient Navan forts in County Armagh. We visited the home of one of Sarah’s Irish uncles whose children were so excited to learn they had “American cousins!!” On Innismore Island, the largest of the Aryan Islands, Sarah and I rode bikes for approximately 10 minutes along the dirt roads before throwing them down and flipping them off! We saw the stunning Cliffs of Moher on a windy day, the beautiful Connemara mountains, and the filming location of one of my favorite movies, Far & Away.
Sarah and I have countless memories of our trip, and I think needing to ditch our plans and find our way on a whim made it even more enjoyable and meaningful. If we’d stuck to our itinerary, we wouldn’t have done half the things we ended up doing.
I haven’t been back to Ireland since then—over ten years now—and I know the next time I go, it won’t be the same. It was a once in a lifetime adventure…in a way, kind of like Camille’s (you know, excepting the dead father, shipwreck, magic, and budding romance).