Over the past couple of weeks, I have experienced two very exciting trips. The first was to Doolin (right outside of Galway) where I travelled alone for the first time! The second was with my two Holy Cross friends up to Northern Ireland – a place we could not have visited merely a decade ago.
I could easily spend this entire post writing about the murals in Belfast, but I really do believe the city has more to offer than its dark past. So, instead, I posted the murals I found significant at the bottom, and wrote instead about the two lessons both cities taught me about travelling. Enjoy, and I hope my lessons correspondingly convey the beauty of each city!
LESSON ONE: Travelling solo does not correspond with being alone for multiple days on end; travelling with friends does not justify being anti-social
When I boarded the bus in Cork to depart for Doolin alone, I was anxious as I anticipated how I would feel happy and excited for the next two days without my friends. Yes, I did have to embrace alone time, but I also was not by myself all weekend. I learned that when travelling solo, I had to enjoy time alone, while also being completely open and ready to socialize. In any given moment, a stranger, who I could share great memories with, might enter my life. If I had not been open and friendly, I could have missed a moment to connect with the stranger. Yet, as I was in Doolin, I could not remain in standby mode, anxiously waiting for the next person to talk to. Had I not embraced alone time, 40% of my trip would have been wasted yearning for something else. By the end of my weekend, I had become confident in my ability to embrace alone time while also embracing every stranger as a potential friend.
A week later in Belfast with my friends, I considered how open I was to strangers when I was travelling alone. I realized that when you are with your friends, it is easy to be so caught up with your group, that you forget to be open and friendly to every stranger that passes through. As I continue to travel, I aim to find the balance between enjoying abroad experiences with my friends, while also embracing every moment as an opportunity to befriend somebody completely different.
LESSON TWO: Behind all of the main tourist sights, communities always offer a deeper way for you to connect.
First things first… it is hard to connect with places that are overly touristy. Sure, they are a great experiences; however, you’ve seen the best of the best pictures already. Plus, there are always way too many people around to enjoy. Here are my tourist-esque pictures with more significant pics to come!
Beneath the main tourist attractions, very community has someway for you to connect more deeply with it it. In Doolin, it was the Aran Island where I biked the ancient streets completely alone. In Belfast, it was the murals that allowed me to connect with its troublesome history. I also loved Culture Night as well as the Victorian market that led me to experience the bright future the city seeks.
If nothing else, Doolin and Belfast made me realize that I can feel exhilarated 85% of the time while I am abroad… it is just a matter of embracing every opportunity to explore new culture, embrace new people and to step outside of my comfort zone. Here is to chasing thrills in the best way possible!
(More pics below of the murals in Belfast! They truly do capture and past and the present of the city. I hope they speak to you especially given today’s modern conflicts.)