I have now been in Northern Ireland for almost 6 weeks, but in someways it feels like I have been here for much, much longer. I have been wanting to write about my experience since arriving but I was hesitant to put down in black and white how I really felt. I felt like I should be excited about my adventure and only write about happy things, life-changing things, inspiring things. But I couldn’t find those words. Then I remembered why I started this blog. I started it for me. I wanted it to be a way to express my feelings, to work through my emotions, to reflect on the moment I was experiencing. Both the fantastic and the mundane, the happy and the heartbreaking, the personal and the public. I didn’t create this blog to satisfy an audience, to seek approved or to get attention. I wanted it to reflect me; my truth. And the truth is that when I first arrived in Northern Ireland I wasn’t having a happy, shiny adventure.
When I left home, I did so with a single intent – to rediscover myself. I had been feeling so disconnected, so unhappy, so lifeless and I wanted something that would shake me from my funk. I wanted an adventure filled with so much newness that I would simply forget my heartbreak and wake up from my haze. I wanted to be stunned by the beauty of my surroundings and be filled with a desire to explore. What I found was a grey, rainy, small town. What I filled my time with was errands – bank accounts, utility bills, internet connections. I wasn’t inspired, I wasn’t in awe, I wasn’t excited. I was just sad all the time. I was lonely and desperately missed the one person with whom I wanted to share my adventure. I was so detached I couldn’t even get excited about exploring my new environment. I lived every experience filled with the regret that I’d never share my stories with the person I longed for.
There were so many small things that simply drove me crazy and as much as I tried to see them as funny, interesting or unique I just really wanted to scream! My aggravations were banal and yet irritated me daily. Some of the most trying were:
- no recycling. just throw your cans, bottles and cardboard in the garbage. because that’s sustainable…
- no thermostats. basically you’re either freezing or boiling. and the irish choose freezing!
- washing machines that take forever & destroy your clothes, with no dryers! in a cold, wet country…
- pay as you go electricity. seriously? i have to walk to the corner store to buy power for the week!
- toilets that don’t flush completely. yup. it is gross. really, really gross.
- people who spit, drop cigarettes and let their dogs poop everywhere then wear their shoes in the house! again gross.
- taps that are separate so you either get freezing water or boiling water, never warm. try showering in that!
- doors that open the opposite way as you would expect. not a big deal except you look like a fool every time you entre a room.
In spite of these things I have to remember that I came here for a change. I wanted to leave myself behind. I wanted to be distracted out of my sadness. I can’t expect change to always be easy, or new to always be pleasant. I don’t regret my decision to move to Northern Ireland. I don’t regret quitting my soul-sucking job. I don’t regret leaving a city filled with ghosts. I don’t regret ditching my boring routine. But I do sometimes wonder if I made the right decision – the right place at the right time for the right reasons.
And yet since I first wrote down these thoughts in my initial weeks I have experienced moments of happiness. I have seen beauty. And I have been filled with wonder. I’m lucky to have laughed with new friends; sipped Guinness in 300 year old local bars; visited beautiful, historic building; escaped to the stunning coastal country-side; cozied up next to a fire in a remote B&B; stood on a vast, wind-blown beach and felt my thoughts be swept from my mind; stood in a 900 year old castle and imagined the lives of the inhabitants; flown to London for the start of a new job; tried driving a standard car on a deserted road; kissed a sexy, accented man; seen the rains pour, the sun shine and the clouds roll in; and most importantly I have smiled, danced, sung, skipped, and felt a little bit like my former self.
I have not yet shaken my funk, I am not yet truly happy, I am not yet fully awake, but I can feel myself slowly starting to recover. One step at a time. One experience at a time. One day at a time. Life goes on.
So today I say yes to moments of happiness, clarity and awe. Yes to not giving up. And yes to today, in all its imperfect glory.
Certainly travel is more than the seeing of sights, it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, into the ideas of living.