To be a Traveler

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.

Three women (2 from Spain, 1 from France) who went from strangers to hiking buddies within seconds
A pic from my bike ride on the Aran Island Inis Mor. I experienced minor culture shock as I was the ONLY PERSON biking down the street. Instead of cars, there were seals accompanying me.

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! 

Giant’s Causeway… a MAJOR tourist attraction in Northern Ireland. So many tourists visit that within 5 years, they are going to have to put grates over the rocks to protect them.
Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge: another major tourist sight and something Game of Throne fans will likely recognize!
As you can probably guess: the Cliffs of Moher. Super beautiful, but you must do the full 20k walk to escape the massive amounts of tourists.


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. 

The view overlooking the smallest Aran Island, Isin Mor showing pre-historic architecture
My 2 HC friends and I talking with a former IRA member who was in prison with Bobby Sands during the hunger strikes. He shared lots of stories. My favorite: IRA members used cigarette filter paper to pass notes to America… in return Irish Americans would send financial support back to Ireland.
Me signing the Peace Wall that separates Catholic from Protestant communities. Yes, it is still standing, and yes it is only only during certain times of day. ***Que American politics and ‘the Donald*** **History shows common threads, I guess**
Best cafe ever!! You only pay how much you think it was worth! Even better than the prices was the cafe’s fun decor.

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.)

Bobby Sands mural from the Hunger Strikes; found in Irish neighborhood, Falls. Fun fact: Bernie Sanders was the only American politician to write to Margaret Thatcher about the terror Bobby was enduring.
A mural found in Shankill (the Protestant neighborhood in Belfast) that depicts how kids would wake up many mornings to their home being destroyed and their parent telling them to stay away from their old friend.
Another mural found in Shankill showing the guns that watched everybody during the years of troubles. No matter where you stand in relation to the guns, it looks like they are pointing at you.
A very positive mural found in Falls (Catholic community) about Belfast’s future.
Found in Falls; representative of Ireland taking Palestinians’ side in the war.
Mural of strong civil rights leaders who influenced Irish Catholics in their fight for rights; found in Falls
A beautiful mural about climate change; found in Falls
Words of wisdom; found in Falls
My favorite!! More words of wisdom; found in Falls
Found in Belfast city outside of a college pub; embracing culture and a bright future



3 Replies to “To be a Traveler”

  1. thanks for lovely post with tips and lovely photos!. you ahve chosen top things to do in Ireland: Clifs of Moher, Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, Giant’s Causeway.
    Yes, firstly travelling alone, could feel awkward and challenging. But it depends on the person a lot- millions doing solo travelling! I was glad to find out, though it made you anxious in the begining, but in the end of the week you felt well already. Also, could make new friends in no time. well done !
    Wishing the best holiday ever, to those, who are planning the trip to Ireland or you already packing their bags.
    With company, or solo-have fun 😉

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