Around 2012 to early 2013, I did quite a bit of traveling – the Philippines in January 2012, then Bhutan in October 2012, and Ireland in March 2013. Needless to say, I was running a bit low on money after Ireland. I vowed to take a year off of traveling to save some money (so I could blow it all on traveling again, of course). Boy, was that ever hard.
So, now, I’m gearing up for Japan, my flight less than a week away. As I prepare, I think back to a year ago, when I was in Ireland. It’s hard to believe it was just a year ago. It feels like forever ago!
Clockwise from top-left: Downtown Dublin, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, St. Patrick’s celebrations in Dublin
It was really my first ever trip I planned (or rather, co-planned) all on my own – no family, no organized tour groups, and not even a travel agent except to book flights and a rental car (which was a bit of a fiasco in and of itself). I don’t know about you, the hypothetical reader, but the experience has made me all the more eager to do more trips like this in the future. There’s something to be said about the satisfaction you feel when you can plan a trip from beginning to end and have it (mostly) go without a hitch.
Plus, there’s the freedom! The joyous freedom! Although Dublin was an amazing city to wander around and tour, I have to say, my favourite part of the trip was throwing our luggage into our rental car and driving around with nothing but printed directions from MapQuest to guide us. We navigated both large motorways and tiny country roads, through mountains and past lakes, cursed at the small and large roundabouts alike, and did our best to match the Gaelic road names with the English names in our directions. We got lost a few times.
One such rural road we passed through, along the Causeway Coastal Route. Beware of sheep crossing!
And that’s pretty much why I travel – to explore different places and perhaps see things I never expected to see. I hope to experience all that all over again when I reach Japan. Some people ask me questions like, “But isn’t it scary being in an unknown place?” Sure, it can be a little worrying when you lose your way and don’t know where you are, but that’s also part of the adventure. Sometimes, you end up in places you’d never think about going to and meeting people you’d otherwise never meet. For example, Alana and I were originally going to drive straight from Dublin to Belfast, but after hearing about a scenic drive through the Mourne Mountains, we decided to do it. We didn’t even have directions to help us. We just drove…and you know what? We saw some very beautiful places along the way, and when we got lost, we simply asked people for directions. Most people in my experience are pretty helpful, after all. Just smile and be polite.
Of course, it’ll be a little bit different in Japan, where most people don’t speak English, like in Ireland. Still, I have sometimes found the best places just by getting lost and wandering around. Everyone who has been to Paris has a picture of the Eiffel Tower or the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, but what about the cute cafe on a tiny street or the artist painting by the River Seine? There is something to be said about the little things in life that often get unnoticed, overshadowed by all the bigger things that tend to draw the eye.
So, as I count down the days to my flight to Japan, I think about all the wonderful experiences that I might have while I’m there. Of course I’ll be visiting a lot of the major tourist sights – Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, Kinkakuji in Kyoto, etc. – but it would certainly be nice to see a little more than that, too.
The Giant’s Causeway! (It was a very windy and rainy day…)