I planned and plotted and finally landed in Dublin. I haven’t traveled alone like this in a really long time, and when I stop to think about it, I’ve actually never done foreign travel alone quite like this. In the past I rented a place and stayed a while, or traveled for a short time around a business trip. In the states I’ve traveled around a lot recently, but again it was to spend a few weeks or a month in one spot. So having two weeks to discover a new country is a relatively new way to travel for me. I did it with a friend a couple of years ago in Italy, and in college I took a few months with friends and covered a lot of ground, from Denmark to Turkey, but my normal way of travel is either a long weekend or a month or more. The constraints of a job and being unfamiliar with the country I wanted to visit made me take this two-week route again and I have mixed feelings about it.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a firm believer in travel, no matter how much time or money you have to spend. This blog is within my program site that claims that “your next trip could change your life” and I truly believe that. And to be authentic about helping others get the most out of their travel experiences I want to be completely transparent about my own experiences and welcome a dialogue about what works and doesn’t work for you. That’s the beauty of us, of life, isn’t it? No two people have the same exact experience or are meant to live the same exact lives. So here’s what I’ve learned a little more than halfway through my time in Ireland.
I used to be a city person and now I am a not-city person (unless that city is New York or Paris). I know about myself that I feel a little ‘off’ the first day or two after landing in a new time zone so I booked a group tour to a place that was easier to access via a tour operator for the first full day in Dublin and wandered around the city on my second day. But the city was full of construction and people rushing to jobs and I found myself half-heartedly looking at some ‘must-see’ things and wondering why I had just spent so much money and effort to get here. Then on the third day I picked up my rental car.
I am at my happiest and most inspired while driving. Maybe it comes from growing up and living most of my life in California where a car is a necessity. Maybe it’s being an introvert. Whatever the reason, the moment I started to drive off the rental car lot my spirits lifted and I felt that feeling of anything being possible. Even with the concentration needed to stay on the left side of the road and navigate an unfamiliar car on unfamiliar roads I felt free and like I was finally on the adventure I’d hoped for. This is true for me at home, too, I must admit. My most vivid inspirations tend to happen while I’m driving alone for more than about 30 minutes.
Music is a part of my enjoyment of road trips. I took the wrong tip from a website saying that the cars for rent in Ireland would have CD players and not USB ports so I brought a couple of CDs. Well, my car has a USB port and no CD player. I didn’t download music onto my phone ahead of time, and even if I had I need my phone more as a verbal GPS. One downside to solo travel is that there aren’t enough hands to be an effective DJ and driver, especially while driving on the wrong side of the road. Radio is okay, but even in the states I don’t listen to the radio and rely on being able to flip through 100 satellite stations or thumb through the “car mix” playlists loaded up in the CD changer and find just the right song for the mood I’m in. I’ve been focused on other things than downloading tracks and fixing my music situation while I’m stopped at night, but I may have to move that up the priority list at my next overnight location to see if I can deepen my experience on the last couple of legs of the trip.
It’s a catch 22 staying in Airbnb’s and small places when I’m only there for a couple of nights. I like to collect people into my life and when I feel like I’ve made a connection I want to stay connected. Traveling solo and not knowing ahead of time what I’m getting into there is a blessing to being able to move on quickly, but for those times when I meet people whom I feel like I could spend a month with it’s unsatisfying to have a couple of great conversations and then move on.
It’s important to know what you think you need from your trip before you go, and then to let yourself discover what you really need from your journey once you are on it. Before I went on this trip I had big plans for it...to be inspired for my advocacy work and feel free and new and empowered as a transformational leader, oh yeah and also to mark my milestone 50th birthday...some lofty goals that were basically extensions of me feeling like I needed to be “doing” something in my life. To be fair to myself, I do live most of the time in “being” and then start to feel like nothing is happening so I try to fix that by “doing.” The inspiration for this trip and this time to travel alone was based in “being” and then the planning and execution of the trip shifted over into “doing.” Even taking photos and posting them on Instagram have been a mix of being and doing. I love taking photos and feel deep satisfaction when I capture something that I feel is beautiful and balanced, which is very much in the being category. On this trip I was committed to building up a presence for my travel program so I was also thinking of captions for the pictures and if/how I would bring a group back to the place I was, etc. while I was in the moment. I haven’t lived enough as a travel guide for it to feel like being, so stretching into that has introduced an element of doing into this trip that is messing with my expectations of what ‘being’ looks and feels like. Writing and contemplation are also important things for me to remember to work into my daily routine, because the process of writing this has lead to my first big “aha!” of the trip...
I have been holding onto what I wanted to let go of on this trip and mostly feeling like a marketing manager tourist on holiday for her birthday with bursts of activity around a new business I’m starting...which is the exact mindset that this trip was meant to help me leave behind. If I am going to transform from feeling like I have to separate what I ‘do’ from who I ‘am,” well I have to stop ‘being’ two different people, don’t I? So, all I need to do is go one step further and stretch into fully engaging with my surroundings (on this trip and when I get home) as a facilitator and guide. ‘Being’ for me, then, feels integrated when how “I” experience the world becomes one with being a lense for sharing my experience, just like taking a photograph. Instead of feeling like I have to steal away moments that are just for me before I can share them with others (I’m picturing Gollum from “Lord of the Rings” here) I can be both the camera and the image it captures, which feels infinitely more satisfying and exciting. So I’m right on track and exactly where I need to ‘be’ on day seven of my journey, and so happy to be able to report with confidence that your next trip can change your life...if you let it!