Today marks three weeks since I left Canada. It’s crazy how time flies. I had the chance to visit Ireland last week and crash on a friend’s couch for two nights. Tomorrow, I’ll leave for Scotland (specifically, Edinburgh) for the weekend. Haggis, here I come! In the interest of continuity…
A few observations over the past week or two:
1. Your mentality creates your reality.
I’m stealing this mantra from Sean Stephenson. It’s one I’ve grown attached to over the past couple years, and it continues to prove itself to me in different scenarios. You can look at it two ways: either as a means of visualizing and pursuing life goals, or on a more basic level, how your attitude affects your everyday experiences. A similar perspective is offered in Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth. Tolle gives the example of philosopher J. Krishnamurti, who once delivered a speech on the key to living a happy life. He told the audience, “Do you want to know what my secret is? I don’t mind what happens.” I was reminded of this lesson on my trip to Dublin.
I planned the journey so that I would leave at night, and through a combination of buses and a ferry trip, arrive in the city by late morning. I only had two nights in Dublin, so I wanted to maximize the amount of time I’d have to sightsee before leaving. As it often happens in life, things didn’t go as planned. My initial bus was late, and the ferry was even later. Ultimately, it meant that I didn’t arrive in Dublin until six or seven hours after I had hoped to touch down — a significant chunk, given I only had so many hours of daylight to work with.
I could have allowed that disappointment to set the tone for my entire trip. I saw enough of my fellow passengers do exactly that. Instead, I shrugged it off and made the best of the time I had to work with. Guess who probably had a better time in Ireland?
2. There’s more to travelling than just seeing cities.
For the better part of my life, I’ve been a staunch advocate of vacationing in cities. I’ve never been the super-outdoorsy type, and I like the excitement of being surrounded by skyscrapers and a million other people. After seeing Dublin — and then seeing Howth — I have to concede that my priorities could use adjusting. Somewhere in the middle of my second day in Dublin, it struck me that although it was interesting to see the city’s different landmarks, in the end, the city felt much like any other major city. I was missing the spark of experiencing something totally new.
On my last day, my friend suggested that I visit Howth, which was just a cheap half-hour train ride away. Eager to do something different, I took the advice, and it was the best thing I did the entire trip. Howth is a picturesque maritime town on Ireland’s East Coast, and it encapsulates perfectly what I’d imagine when thinking of Ireland: lush greenery, fishing boats lining the harbour, and stunning cliffs. Its ace in the hole as a destination, though, is the extensive network of trails it offers that follow around the peninsula.
Before I left for Europe, my Mom had one word of advice: “let the moments seize you.” (She can’t take all the credit; in truth, the line comes from the movie Boyhood.) Although I knew what she meant, I couldn’t fully appreciate what it felt like until I got over my fear of heights and took the coastal trail. After an hour and a half of walking along the cliff’s edge, the trail came to a small clearing that looked out onto one of the most beautiful views I had ever seen. In that instant, all I could do was let the moment seize me. I was an ocean away from home, alone on the edge of a cliff, but I felt more connected to the world than ever before.
3. Things have a way of working themselves out.
One thing about my student house in Cardiff: it’s perpetually cold — so much so that my fleece hoodie has become like a second skin since I’ve arrived here. In the interest of saving money when I got here, I bought bed sheets but no quilt or duvet. My fortunes looked to change when I took the ferry from Wales to Ireland. Because of how late the ferry was, the crew offered us complimentary rooms for the trip — no name needed, just ask and you were given a room key. Suddenly I had a chance: the room had not one, but two duvets. A voice in the back of my head whispered, “take them.” After all, the chances that I’d get caught were slim to none. I was tempted, but ultimately my moral compass won that battle.
The day I returned from Dublin, I logged online and — lo and behold — a generous supporter of exchange students had posted that he had four free double duvets available to whoever replied first. I replied, and sure enough, I got the last one left. You can decide for yourself whether there was a connection between the two events, but in conversations with John River and Junia-T, I’ve come to believe less and less in coincidence.
My three favourite photographs of the past week or so (and the stories behind them):
1. River Liffey, Dublin.
Dublin is full of bridges. In the rear of the shot, you can see the city’s most famous one of all, Ha’penny Bridge. It dates all the way back to 1816. It gets its name from the toll that its builder, William Walsh, was allowed to charge to anyone crossing the bridge. The toll lasted for over a century — and was even increased to a penny and a half — before being dropped in 1919.
2. Cliffs of Howth Head.
The aforementioned cliffs were unquestionably the highlight of my time in Ireland. The lighthouse in the distance is Baily Lighthouse. Fun fact: there has been a lighthouse on this site ever since the late 1660s.
3. Temple Bar, Dublin.
The lights on this building are mesmerizing. This happened on my first night in Dublin, and it was raining pretty hard at the time. Interestingly, the whole surrounding area is known as Temple Bar — not just the bar itself.
Until next time.