Cork, Kinsale, and a lot of beer. 

Monday evening arrival in Cork: 

I have arrived at my first hostel and I think what I didn’t want to happen has happened, but it being my first day / evening / night alone, it is not all bad. I found my hostel quickly, as it was literally just a few minutes from where my bus dropped me. I checked in with reception, got my key, only to open the door to an empty room. The lady at reception assured me my room would be full, and it is a female-only dorm, but I can’t help but wonder when whoever else is coming might be arriving. So for now, I am just sitting here at a little desk in front of a mirror, typing away on my iPad. 

Anyone who knows me knows that my social abilities are almost aggressively bad, and that I am mostly too introverted for my own good. I enjoy being alone, though I don’t necessarily want to be right now. So it’s not exactly easy to “get out there” at barely 5:00 on a Monday night, especially when it’s raining and I have only just arrived. There is a bar downstairs, though, and I think that will be a good way for me to interact with others, even if I am just sitting there with a beer and waiting for someone to talk to the girl with a horrible case of resting bitch face. I’m sorry, I can’t help that I look so mean, it’s really just my face, even if I am kind of an asshole. 

In this moment, I am also really glad that I have locks that fit my backpack as well as a cable lock. The lockers at this place don’t fit my lock, and though someone could easily just cut the cable, it is at least locked, as are the main two compartments on my backpack. Logistics, logistics, blah blah blah. 

 —

That night, I met up with a guy from tinder who was actually an Italian living in Ireland. I really just wanted someone to show me around who knew the area because I was there for such a limited amount of time. And that’s exactly what I got. The first pub we went to is where I first tried the Cork version of Guinness called Beamish, I think. He ended up showing me the oldest pub in the city and it was warm and cozy in comparison to the cold, rainy night in Cork. 

The next day I woke up at an early hour, took a shower, and headed down to breakfast with the girl in my hostel room who I had met the evening before I went out. She is from Germany and has been working on farms in Ireland since March. Pretty badass if you ask me. It made me think about the other ways I could do this kind of trip one day. After breakfast, she was off to do her own thing and I was off to Kinsale for the day. It was a pretty town that I had heard a lot of good things about. I ended up meeting a girl on the bus who I recognized from the hostel, and she and two other girls were headed to Kinsale to explore as well. We ended up exploring the town together, starting our afternoon at supposedly the most recognized restaurant in Ireland called “Fishy Fishy.” I splurged on a salmon dish in a chili sauce over basmati rice and tempura onion and it was easily the best salmon I have ever had. 

We made our way to Charles Fort, about a 30 minute walk from where we were, and the views were absolutely worth the walk. It was a stunning fort, with buttercups lining the tops of the walls. I really couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful way to spend the day, and I was so happy to have met other people to spend the day with. 

Two of the girls I met were from the states, one from Washington and another from Jersey, while the other was from Canada. They were all there for different reasons. One planned to move to Ireland but after the time she had spent there decided against it, another was just on a 9 day journey to explore, and another planned to visit the UK after Ireland. I think no matter what the reason, being able to travel at any age is so important, and it is so cool how many people are just deciding to up and leave to explore a different place. No matter what, getting out there is more than some people can do. 

It’s interesting to see how many solo female travelers there are, and not only that, what they’re actually doing with their travels. I thought more people would be like me, where they were exploring all over Europe, but in Ireland, many people are just staying in Ireland. I can understand why, especially as a person traveling alone, because Ireland is English speaking and relatively safe. 

I consider myself lucky to be so content in my solitude, to enjoy it, to crave it. I don’t think many people are comfortable being completely alone at times, or have trouble seeing beyond what they miss and can’t look forward to the life ahead. I am lucky to have overcome what I have, to have learned from my own mistakes the first times, and to have learned from the mistakes that others have made in their lives. In all aspects of life, I know what I want, and I know that I will get what I want, but I’m not naive enough to believe that there won’t be struggle, hardship, and serious bumps in the road. Success comes in many forms but you don’t have success without an open mind and hard work. When life throws you a curve ball, use everything in your power to catch it, and if you don’t, then just move on. 

The biggest reason why I know I will be ok throughout this journey, and really in everything that I do, is because I know that no matter how bad things might get, they will get better. A missed bus, a canceled flight, a fuck up with the hostel accommodation, no matter what happens, everything will be okay, everything will sort itself out. Worry is a waste of imagination.

I found this quote on my Facebook memories just today, from 4 years ago: “Whatever you desire is already connected in some way to who you are and what you now have. Find that way, follow that connection.”

4 years ago, this trip was only a distant, wishful dream… and now here I am. On a bus in Ireland. Babbling.

Advertisements

Not quite on my own, yet…

While I certainly didn’t expect Florida weather in Ireland, I definitely didn’t imagine it to be as cold as it is. I packed mainly for the other countries I’m going to, because the weather there will be at least 70 degrees, and will probably reach over 100 in certain parts. I certainly do not take the warmth of the sunshine for granted after being here for only a few days. 
I landed on a bright and sunny Thursday. With only really two hours of sleep, not even that, I was exhausted as soon as I got to my cousin’s house from the airport. I showered and napped for only twenty minutes before heading back out for a walk with my cousin’s wife and two grandkids of theirs. We walked down to the water, the kids played on the rocks, and we strolled over to the James Joyce Tower/Museum and walked along some narrow stairs up to the top. 
After that, we headed for ice cream from the famous Teddy’s before I finally got an Irish SIM card and connected to some real data. That night we had steak, potatoes, vegetables for dinner, and finished off with wine and cheese later in the evening. 
The next day we went to Longford after I strolled to town for a flat white and a little muffin cake thing; my cousin and I stopped for lunch on the way there before meeting my third-ish cousins. And then more third-ish cousins. And then some more. It was a long day of jet lag and exhaustion, and way too much food and tea. I had no idea tea was so popular in Ireland, and I also had no idea how much it makes me have to use the bathroom…every single hour. Now I understand the man who once handed me the mug where I work (as I’m a waitress) and said, “tea makes me potty every place.” I thought he was just being weird and old, but seriously, it does. Every evening ends with wine and cheese, and those are two of my favorite things. 
The following day was a day for Guinness, but only after a flat white and a chocolate croissant. You’re probably wondering what a flat white is; it’s basically a cappuccino. A shot of espresso with milk. We took the Dart into the city center of Dublin and walked our way through Temple and Temple Bar. The campus is absolutely beautiful and I love the streets of Temple Bar. I walked nearly 10 miles that day. Guinness was definitely a tourist attraction; when we first walked in on the first floor, the line was moving at a glacial pace. We went up each level and ended in the Gravity Bar floor, where we saw a seriously stunning view of the city and mountains. 
The evening carried on to a restaurant / bar / wine cellar that I cannot remember the name of, and lunch ended with a flat white before heading back to Dun Laoghaire. My cousins were headed to see an opera so I was on my own for the evening, I found a nice “gourmet food parlour” down by the water and had some sliders, a glass of wine, and a large piece of fudge cake that even I couldn’t finish. 
Of course, I have been on Tinder as a 22 year old traveling female in hopes for recommendations and things of that nature, but none of my conversations have amounted to anything beyond wondering what the hell some of the phrases mean. Later on, when I’m really exploring “alone” I hope it will amount to good recommendations and conversation. Either way, here is my Irish-English slang dictionary. 

Class = cool. That’s class. 

Bad means good. 

Craic. Pronounced crack. People ask, what’s the craic? Or, that’s good craic. Apparently, it means fun. I thought people were asking for crack. Sorry, I don’t have any. 

Another guy said, if you’re free, lets grab a scoop. I said, a scoop of ice cream? Sure! Apparently, it means, let’s grab a drink. Sorry, what? Can you still buy me ice cream though? 

Grand. Everything is grand. That’s grand. 

Cheers. Here, I am paying for my meal. They say cheers. Cheers cheers cheers. But you don’t say cheers when you clink your drinks together. So. 

Do you fancy an ice cream? That’s a little more obvious.

Today, a Sunday, the day before I leave Dun Laoghaire and carry on to Cork alone, I fell in love with Ireland under the sun. It finally warmed up, to a measly 60 degrees when you’re in the sun, but I finally was able to take off my rain coat and only wear a shirt and a sweater. My cousin took me to a beautiful nature path and we explored by the water as well. The ocean looked stunningly blue green. I had never really seen the ocean from such a high point, and it was hard to not fall in love. 

And tomorrow, as mentioned, I am off to Cork for two nights. I will be visiting Kinsale for an afternoon, but beyond that, I just want to accustom myself to the hostel life. It will be my first hostel I will have ever stayed at, and I can’t say I’m not a little nervous for it. I just hope there’s hot water. At the same time, I’m ready for it more than anything else. The real part of my trip is now about to begin. No obligations. No schedule. Each day will be totally up to me, not that it wasn’t these last few, but I can only rely on myself. 
Cheers. 

waiting is the hard part

I’m sitting in bed, watching The Office, in my last hour of being home. I wasn’t really sure how I would feel in these final moments.

I’ve never been away from my family for an extended period of time like this. I’ve never been that far from the comfort of my own home. I think this is the hard part – being here, knowing what’s about to come, but not being there quite yet. This small waiting period counting down the actual beginning of my trip is grueling. Making sure I have everything, worrying about forgetting something. Goodbyes are weird. It’s not that long of a time, but it’s the longest amount of time for me.

I feel overall excited, blanketed with a sheet of nervousness and topped with a small combination of fear and sadness, but even with all of that, my mind can only focus on the future and what I have to look forward to. I have been planning this trip for over six months, and now it’s just a matter of living out all that I have planned. Getting from place to place. No expectations. Just living each day. I am yearning to be there, to start. Waiting is the hard part.

One Month Countdown

The one-month countdown has finally begun. I still can’t believe I’m doing this – and it doesn’t seem like all that many other people can believe it either. I can sense the doubts of others as I tell them my plan, I see their reactions when I say the word “hostel,” and I can feel their concerns when I say I’m doing this alone.

I have had my doubts, though very few. As time keeps passing and the day of my departure comes closer, my excitement churns to nervousness and sometimes even I wonder if I’ll really be comfortable being completely alone all of the time.

But then I remember who I am. I remember what I’ve been through. The hardest moments of my life I have lived through alone. There have been so many times in my life where I thought, “How am I going to be able to move on from this?” or, “How am I ever going to be okay again?” and I remember what is most important: the idea that everything in life is temporary. Fear, pain, confusion, yearning, joy, illness – everything is temporary. Feelings, both good and bad, rise and fall, and that is what life is all about.

This is what I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember and I have always imagined myself being completely alone during the journey. Maybe not completely, but at least without the company of someone I actually know. If everything I have ever experienced has led me to anything – it is this summer.

I’ve got it all figured out. I have my support systems. I have my friends, my family, my penpals in multiple countries of the world to reach out to if I’m in a bind, or just need someone to talk to that’s somewhat close by. And to be honest, I’ve planned this trip rather strategically, though of course, I know that nothing ever goes as planned, and I’m ok with that. I know that the stress will only be temporary, too. The scary moments will dissipate. Every moment of my journey will be fleeting – and that’s why I have to appreciate every single moment. Every landscape. Even though I’m traveling often, I have to allow myself to soak it all in, no matter where I am.

I start my trip with family in Ireland. I’ll be in Ireland for two weeks before heading to Portugal, and then Spain, each for about a week. I have no doubt I will be able to get through my trip. I have so much to look forward to, every day, every night. Once my first month has passed, I get a two-week break with my Contiki tour, so I’ll have some time to breathe and not have to worry about getting from place to place.

Time is ticking… and I’m ready.

Narrowing it all down

With only 74 days (!!!!!!!!!!) before I leave, I have a LOT of work to do. Working on the last six weeks of my trip is a lot more difficult than the first six.

Booking Ireland, Portugal, and Spain was fairly easy. Though Spain has a lot to offer, I knew more or less what I wanted to see and where I wanted to go (Sevilla, Madrid, Barcelona). The last six weeks of my trip have a lot more countries to book, the countries themselves are a lot bigger and offer a lot more, and I generally know very little about them all.

My Contiki tour ends in Rome, and from there is where I pick up my final 6 weeks. In my last six weeks I will be roaming around France, Italy, Austria, Czech, Denmark, the Netherlands, and the U.K.

France is posing a lot more difficulty than I originally intended. I am beyond excited for Paris, but it is so far up North and generally isolates me from the rest of France that I want to explore. I’ve made the decision to let Paris be my final destination before I head to the U.K. in the beginning of August, while touring the south of France after my Contiki tour.

From Rome, I’m thinking I’ll fly into Marseille, travel to Aix-En-Provence, then head over to Nice for a bit before I head back to Italy for some solo-exploration. I have been using Rome2Rio.com to sort out the vast majority of where I’m going and how I’m getting there and it’s proven itself to be highly beneficial, as it displays every possible way of getting there and its cost.

Here is where I’m having trouble. Contiki already takes me through a great bit of Italy, including: Florence, Venice, Rome, Bari (barely), Salerno, and Pompeii. From Nice, I’m thinking about traveling to Genoa, then Milan, then Verona, before I head up to Innsbruck, Austria. It’s difficult to say I want to go to all of these places prior to looking into accommodation, because a lot of where I decide to go depends on the safety of where I am able to stay during my time. Peak-season will be apparently over in Austria and Czech in the summertime, though I’m sure there will still be plenty of traffic all over. In Austria, after Innsbruck, I will probably go to Salzburg, Vienna, and then head up to Czech where I will go to Brno, Prague, and other places that I still have to figure out.

Now, it’s just a matter of taking the plunge and getting things booked. I take a lot of time looking into each city. I compare every hostel and I always have to take into consideration the times at which I can fly/bus into certain areas. I avoid, at all costs, arriving anywhere at night. Booking does provide a lot of anxious excitement. I know that I can cancel without penalty, but saying “this is where I’m going for sure” gives a very strange feeling. I wanted to go into this trip with a lot of my decisions ‘up in the air’ but it just isn’t realistic for someone my age, doing what I’m doing. If I had been to Europe before, I think I could have more confidence in “winging it.” Everything I do, I do for a reason, and I just have to keep reminding myself of that.

Thanks for reading! And please, if you have ANY recommendations or tips for France, Italy, Austria, Czech, throw them my way – I love and appreciate any and all input.

A bit of rambling

I can’t wait to be somewhere else surrounded by people that I don’t know. I want to come to life again and feel something outside of the routine that I’m stuck in. I love to learn but I miss feeling. I love where I live but I want to fall in love with a new landscape each day for a while. I miss emotion and being kissed by the sun and really feeling its warmth on my skin. I want to feel frustrated and maybe even a little scared by different ways of life and unknown street signs. I want to feel drunken joy and heart pounding excitement. I want to be in a place where I don’t know anything.

With emotion comes words. I want my mind and heart back from the glue of school and work and school and work. I want to feel again.

Here goes nothing

So, rather than driving everyone I know and love absolutely insane by my constant travel-chatter about how excited I am, I decided to create a blog to let it all out, while talking about what I’m doing, how I’m feeling, where I’m headed, and what I’m learning along the way.

There is an insane amount of work that goes into planning a trip by yourself to Europe for 90 days. I figured there was, but not exactly to this extent. I have been planning for months. I have maybe half of my trip completely sorted, with another 6 weeks to research, plan, and book. When I originally decided to do this, I imagined myself on a lot of trains, seeing beautiful sights, and eating a lot of delicious food. That’s all I thought about. I honestly didn’t even give my accommodation that much thought before I started planning.

Now, why did I decide to save up every dollar I made just to spend it all within a few months in different countries? Well, why the hell not? Growing up in an extremely privileged community while not being wealthy was not the easiest thing in the world. I couldn’t really comprehend how my peers had so much money to do whatever they wanted. I have watched them go on euro trips with their families and with schools, I have watched them study abroad, and while they’ve been snapping and uploading pictures to Facebook, I’ve been taking notes of some seriously beautiful places. My list kept growing as did my savings. I originally planned to go for about two months, but after realizing how far my money could stretch, I decided to throw in an extra month so I can see more. It is finally my time to live an exciting life of adventure, food, and fun. I am going to explore the places I have longed to see and eat the food I have dreamt of for years. Clearly, food plays a huge role in my travels. I seriously intend on eating my body weight in cheese.

Though I am excited, this is a little threatening. I am 22 years old and I have never left the U.S. Hell, I’ve barely even explored the U.S. As I started to do more research about things in Europe, it started to dawn on me that I knew nothing about anything. The prices of trains are actually insane… Flights are cheaper than trains sometimes! Busses are a must and they’re inexpensive. Some of them even have Wifi, who knew? Anyway, I realized that if I want to stay in a good hostel during peak season in Europe, it was going to cost me more and as the days of my trip approach, the beds fill up pretty fast. So I started planning and booking.

I guess you could say that I’m a planner, but I honestly did not think I would be planning this much. With a time constraint, budget, and the fact that I’m going to be traveling completely by myself for 11 out of the almost 13 weeks, I have to know what I’m doing, where I’m going, and how I’m getting there way beforehand. I’m trying to avoid traveling at night, I have to take into consideration bus schedules and cancelations, and I have to be in touch with my hostel before I get there. My excitement of my journey is just as important as my safety throughout the experience; I have to make sure I’m prepared and know what I’m doing.

Honestly, this entire thing is the most exciting thing I have ever done in my life and I am learning a lot about myself in the process. Right in the middle of my trip I am going to be with a group of people exploring the Adriatic region; I will go more in depth below, but for 2 weeks we are seeing 7 countries and I won’t have to worry about my accommodation or bus schedules for a little while. But, it’s time to start planning and booking the last 6 weeks of my trip.

If you’re interested, here is what I’ve booked and planned so far:

Landing in Dublin, Ireland.

Bus to Cork, Ireland.

Bus to Killarney, Ireland.

Bus to Galway, Ireland.

Bus back to Dublin Ireland,

Fly out Dublin, Ireland, to Porto, Portugal!

Bus to Lisbon, Portugal.

Bus to Faro, Portugal.

Bus to Sevilla, Spain!

Bus to Madrid, Spain.

Bus to Barcelona, Spain.

Fly out Barcelona to Rome, Italy.

START CONTIKI TOUR –

Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, and it ends back in Italy.

I still have to sort out the last 6 weeks, but I’m thinking I will fly out of Rome and into Paris, France, work my way down the country to the Provence region, then head back to Italy for some solo exploration, head up to Austria, then Czech, then Denmark, Netherlands, the U.K. and then back home.

If you’re reading, I appreciate you. If you have recommendations or tips I will greatly appreciate them all.