Ten Lessons From Travelling Alone In Dublin

Wednesday 6th February, Southampton Airport.

I was sat in Costa with a cup of tea clamped between my shaky hands, staring out at 6am darkness, and one word flooding my sleep deprived brain.

Alone.

I had never done it before. Never travelled solo, never left the UK without family or friends. Without safety in numbers. Without backup. Without someone to talk to, to confide in, to hold my hand during turbulence, to take the piss out of my imminent-death-fearing tears. (Defying gravity is just asking for trouble, right?)

But there I was. All alone.

And I was about to learn some things.

*

My first lesson: I can fly without crying. There and back my stomach was filled with butterflies, but my eyes were empty of death-fearing tears. Which is a positive development. (Side note: I did almost have a panic attack in the toilets after arriving at Dublin Airport, but I managed to rein it in. Which I guess is positive?)

Second lesson: the Irish are super friendly. I was never far from a conversation, whether it was about rugby, the right way to make a cup of tea, books, Irish history, Dorset, doughnut unicorns, the new Mary Poppins film, Brexit *sobs*, or even just the weather. It was very rare that I actually felt alone alone.

TheSpireDublin
The Spire in Dublin

Third lesson: if in doubt, go on a guided walking tour. There was a part of me that really didn’t want to look like a tourist – despite absolutely, definitely, completely-and-utterly being a tourist – but the walking tour was one of the best things I did. Not only did I learn a lot about Dublin, I also met another solo traveller and we spent the afternoon charity shopping, chatting, and photographing our way around the city. I went on this tour and can highly recommend it if you’re ever in Dublin.

Fourth lesson: I don’t like Guinness. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t, but I just wanted to make sure. (I did finish the whole pint though.)

Fifth lesson: things are expensive in Dublin. A teeny tiny hot chocolate will set you back over €3; a packet of Cadbury mini eggs is €1.99 *throws hands into the air in disgusted disbelief*; or you can buy two creme eggs for the bargain price of €1.70. (All the important things, obviously.) I suffered severe Dairy Milk withdrawal symptoms over the three days I was there.

Sixth lesson: the middle of a superking bed is the bestest, cosiest, snug-as-a-bug-in-a-ruggliest place ever to read a book. It’s just a shame I ended up hating the book I read (The Queen of Bloody Everything by Joanna Nadin. I was more than happy to leave it behind at the hotel).

Seventh lesson: keeping track of key cards/passports/tickets/money is stressful. I can’t even count the number of times I thought I’d lost my bus pass and all the mini heart attacks that followed that thought.

Hotel mirror selfie, Dublin, February 2019.
Now you see me, now you don’t

Eighth lesson: when you’re travelling alone, there’s no-one to judge your questionable dietary choices. My breakfast on Thursday was a hazelnut praline doughnut and my breakfast on Friday was a massive chocolate muffin, just because I could. You can judge me all you want, but I’ve eaten them now. So there. *sticks out tongue*

Ninth lesson: (seeing as we’re on the subject of unhealthy food) ice cream in February is totally a good idea. A friend recommended a visit to Murphys Ice Cream, so I stopped off there on Friday afternoon, even though my core body temperature was roughly -40°C. The ice cream was amazing and all the staff were so lovely (see lesson number two).

Tenth and most important lesson: 99.99% of people are inherently kind and awesome. My flight home got cancelled because of Storm Erik. After having a little cry at the Flybe desk and trying to figure out where the hell Southend was in relation to Dorset (I used to think I was good at geography, but I officially take that thought back), I joined a painfully long and completely stationary queue to rearrange my flight and ended up chatting to a few of my fellow flight cancellees. It turned out that one of them – an amazing lady/guardian angel called Sue – lived near my home town, and after figuring out we could catch a flight to Exeter, she offered me a lift home with her. I know the general consensus is that you should never get in a car with strangers, but not only was I 100% sure Sue wouldn’t kidnap me, I’d reached a point of tiredness where I was 100% willing to be kidnapped so long as I was vaguely near my house. Sue didn’t kidnap me, and I will always be grateful to her for keeping me calm and looking after me (and the non-kidnapping). Thank you, Sue!

ViewThroughDublinAirportWindow
Storm Erik through an airport window

I can’t wait to go back and explore more of the city, and more of Ireland too.

Just maybe when there’s less stormy flying weather.

Reads – The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

FYI for those who don’t like swearing: there are lots of ‘f’s and ‘u’s and ‘c’s and ‘k’s ahead.

So I have a confession: until last week, I had never ever read a self-help book. Not because I thought I was perfect (trust me when I say that is absolutely the opposite of what I think), but because I was (and am) wary of anything that claims it can change/fix your life. Snake meet oil, oil meet snake.

But 2018 has thrown quite the collection of existential crises at me, and I figured that maybe now was as good a time as any to see what the self-help genre had to offer.

I feel like The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson was the best book with which to dip my literary toe into the murky self-help waters.

the subtle art of not giving a fuck by Mark Manson book review.

Unsurprisingly, I chose this book because there really are some things in my life I hope one day to give much less of a fuck about so I can spend that giving-a-fuck-time on things that are actually beneficial for me to give a fuck about. (Woops, sorry about all the fucks. Aaand sorry again.)

These are some of my main impressions of the book:

  • I love the way it’s written. It’s blunt and eloquent. No matter how hard my mum tried to raise me otherwise, I absolutely love love love swearing. Granted, not pointless, inappropriately timed and/or set swearing. But when it’s used to emphasize meaning or if it’s used creatively or just portrays how people talk in everyday life, then I’m all for it. I don’t accept the argument that swearing always lowers the tone. This book inevitably has a lot of fucks in it, but it didn’t feel like too many. It just felt converstaional.
  • I don’t agree with everything in it. There were some conclusions the author drew that felt a little simplistic and some arguments that seemed to double back on themselves. But I enjoyed going over the ideas and questions that were raised by these points all the same.
  • I love the way it embraces failure. Maybe that’s just because I fail at a lot of things a lot of the time and it’s good to know I’m not alone in my general life failings. But I think it’s mostly because I’ve actually seen how failing “well” – in my own life and in my friends’ and families’ lives – has been the greatest teacher. Phew, sorry if that all sounds a bit new-agey.

Basically, the book is full of common sense and hope – as well as many linguistical fucks – and there are plenty of lessons to be learned from it. I will certainly be keeping my copy of it near to hand, ready and waiting to wave frantically at any other existential crises that threaten to rear their ugly heads.

*walks away from keyboard to wash mouth out with soap*

Unrosy

Unrosy. That’s the only word that seems to fit the last few months.

I’ve had plenty of sparkly happy shiny moments with my friends and family – so so many, and I couldn’t count them if I tried. Moments I have loved and will never forget. But I’ve also had plenty of moments with myself that have scared me. Moments where I’ve felt my whole life slipping away and been unsure if I can even catch it, unsure if I even want it. I’ve had panic attacks in public toilets, in my car, sat at the kitchen table, whilst folding the washing – the list could go on and on and on. I’ve had whole evenings of crying for no reason, just sat stupidly, pathetically, snottily trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with me and why I can’t pull myself together. I’ve felt my whole body turn to lead, like it’s been switched off at the mains and my mind with it. I(‘ve) hate(d) myself through and through – more than I can find a way to say – then hate(d) myself for hating myself because isn’t that just the most stupid thing to do? Isn’t it illogical and embarrassingly self-centred? Isn’t it a ridiculous, pointless waste of time to obsess about how ugly and disgusting and hideous (I believe) I am? Only an idiot would waste that much time. *facepalm*

It’s basically felt like being run over by a ginormous and really rather emotional lorry. And now I’m at the side of the road, a little (lottle) bit dazed and confused, trying to keep myself in a vaguely normalesque shape, with some pieces of me feeling a little (lottle) bit mushier than before.

I know the pieces will get less mushy. I know things will feel more rosy. Quickly would be nice, but I have a feeling it’s going to be a little more complicated than that because this has all been a long time in the making.

Friends and family are the answer; reading and writing and creating are the answer. Talking sometimes, listening sometimes, silence sometimes – all of them are the answer.

And even, sometimes, just taking a blurry photo of roses is the answer.

Roses in the garden
Rosy roses

Morning Rain

The sound of rain outisde my window early this morning made me happy.

The drips and drops and thousand tiny splashes humming on paving slabs and freshly unfurled leaves made me want to run outside and stay there until my skin became only a half-skin, the rest of it made up of water and sky.

Once I’d got up, once I’d made a cup of tea, once I’d cuddled one cat, two cats, three cats, I stood at the doorway in my pyjamas and listened to the garden echo with rain and birdsong. My toes got wet as they gripped the doorstep. My lungs got clean as they filtered soggy air. My heart got heavy as it realised I wasn’t brave enough to step out into this soaking, squelchy, drowning world because my head had decided it was a silly thing to do.

It was silly. Totally silly. Silly through and through.

It’s natural to want to bask in sunshine, but to want to bask in rain?

Not. Sensible.

That, though, had been the point.

I’ve spent the rest of the day trying to make up for my lack of bravery, but being kitted out with boots and a raincoat kind of takes the magic away.

So tomorrow, I hope it’s raining when I wake up.

If it is, you’ll find me in the garden in my pj’s, clutching a cup of overflowing-diluted-rainy tea, being completely and utterly ridiculous.

Come join me!

Autumn

Autumn is both a relief and a kind of heartbreak.

It’s fresh and crisp and full of cosy comforts. I love the smell of apples, berries, spices and sugar that wraps itself sweetly round every room in the house, promising deliciousness. I love the glossy, metallic sunlight that shimmers through dying leaves. I love the bloom of condensation on windows in the morning. I love wrapping up warm, snug as a bug in a rug.

But it’s painful to say goodbye to summer and long, lazy days. It’s disconcerting that night starts earlier and earlier, then leaves later. It’s a shock to the system and a wake up call.

Heart made with shadows on an evening walk in the sunshine. Autumn walk in the sunshine, Badbury Rings, Dorset.

Autumn is the perfect time to reflect, take stock, make plans and – crucially, but too often the part I skip – set those plans in motion. That’s my goal for the coming days and weeks.

It’s also the perfect time to curl up with a good book.

And I’ll certainly be doing that too.

A Life Lesson From a Little Girl

There’s something calming about going for a walk – heading off down lanes and paths and tracks, just letting your feet lead the way. It always makes my head clearer and my heart lighter.

A few weeks ago, after Sunday lunch, my mum and I headed out for a walk along the banks of our local river. It’s a good place to natter/confide/joke/argue/not say anything at all, and I’ve walked the paths there so many times for so long I’m sure they’ve actually moulded the shape of my feet.

It wasn’t very busy – the clouds were very grey and the ground was still sticky from weeks of rain – but there were a few other families out for a Sunday afternoon stroll.

At one point we passed a little family. The parents were timidly picking out a route as far from the mud as possible (which wasn’t that possible) while their little girl was striding ahead through the puddles and marshy ground.

The mum said she thought they should go back, and the dad didn’t look too keen to go any further either. But the little girl wanted to carry on and refused to budge.

The mum said it was too muddy, the little girl said she wanted to get muddier.

*high-five for little girl*

Me and my mum carried on our way. When we snuck a glance over our shoulders further along the path the little family were nowhere to be seen.

Obviously there was no more getting muddier for the girl.

But it got me thinking – isn’t it funny how children can be braver than grown ups? They look at a muddy field and want to keep walking, keep striding forwards, keep getting muddier.

Because who cares about a bit of mud?

I want to be more like that little girl in my everyday life. I want to be more adventurous and less worried/nervous/afraid. Even if it’s just in small ways that seem insignificant. Small things add up.

If I fail, at least I tried. If I fall flat on my face, I can get back up. If I make a mistake, I can learn. If people point at me and laugh at me, I can get over it and move on even though it might (will) hurt.

So thank you, little girl. You’ve inspired this bigger girl.

It’s time to get muddier.