I have never been a very good tourist. I often don’t know what important landmarks a city boasts. I rarely do any research before a trip. I don’t like tour busses. I hate lines. And I don’t like other tourists.
So when everyone told me that I absolutely had to visited the Vatican, I took their advice with a grain of salt. Wanting to make my own decision, I did some basic research. I read about long lines, hordes of visitors taking photos of priceless paintings and strictly controlled access to see the most famous pieces. But I was so intrigued by the complex history, the breathtaking art and the stunning architecture that, against my natural inclination, I decided to visit the Vatican. I should have known better.
Over the years, I have travelled with my parents, with boyfriends, with my sister, with my friends, with coworkers, with follow students and with strangers. I have travelled on ferries, busses, planes, trains and cars. I have travelled to budget hostels, 5-star resorts, gites, pensiones, rental apartments, downtown hotels and I’ve even slept under the stars. My first international trip was to Spain when I was 18 months old and since then I’ve taken more flights than I can count. But at age 27 I had never travelled to a non-English speaking country alone.
There I was all alone in a dim, draughty airport realizing that if I was lucky I would be spending the night on a plastic bench. Gone were my visions of Starbucks’ comfy couches and wifi, gone were my dreams of restaurants with hot food and glasses of wine, gone was my hope of checking my bags. So why was I at an empty Liverpool airport at 11pm when my flight to Naples didn’t leave until 6am the next day? Because I was trying to be a savvy budget traveller.
This will be my last week as a resident of Northern Ireland. Come this Saturday, I am moving out of my rental house and on to my next adventure. After almost exactly six months here, I feel like it is definitely time to move on. But before I do so, I think it is worth reflecting on my time here, both the good and the bad, and all things I have learned.
What: Magners Original Cider
Where: Boucher Road Fields, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Who: Two Belfast friends and a sea of locals.