It was the last week of May, 2012. The plans were made months in advance, but it wasn’t until I was packing too much into a too small suitcase that I realized I was really getting to go to Ireland. I’d gotten my passport only just before we were set to leave, and I was paranoid of losing it before my first international flight.
I was going to join a couple of friends at a month long youth retreat in Ireland. At the time I was so excited to be going overseas that I couldn’t anticipate the impact the retreat itself would have on me, but even that is a story for another time.
My travel plans had been engineered to be the ultimate cost effective trip… which basically meant it took about 5 times as long as it should have and was as uncomfortable as could be. It began by barely catching the city bus from Ypsilanti to Ann Arbor. From Ann Arbor I got on an Amtrak charter bus to Toledo. There I attempted to sleep during a six hour layover before catching an early morning train that would take 22 hours and several connections to get me to Boston.
From the Boston train station I bused and walked across the city to get to the airport, where I again tried to sleep the night through, sitting upright in a solid plastic chair. Morning brought my friend Ethan’s connecting flight from Atlanta, and a couple more hours finally saw us boarding for our first connecting flight, to Toronto. From Toronto we flew to London, where we missed our flight due to the first flight being late. After crossing the airport several times and being redirected between airlines, we were finally on a flight to Dublin.
By the time we landed in Dublin and got through customs, we were bleary eyed and turned around. After half an hour of walking around and attempting to exchange our money, Bobby found us and took us for Starbucks breakfast. We were expecting to be picked up by our mutual friend, but were instead greeted by her brother, mother, and a family friend. Eventually we were all piled in the back of the car, and on the highway headed up the twisty hilly countryside towards Bailieborough.
Ethan slept through most of the ride, leaving me to make small talk with these folks I’d just met, which I didn’t much mind, but I was struggling not to pass out as well.
The green bluffs rolled out like waves in both directions. The sun was out, which we were assured wasn’t the norm. The air smelled crisp and warm, like when sun first touches the rain on the grass. I couldn’t believe where I was. My whole childhood was spent dreaming of venturing abroad, especially to Ireland. And I’d finally made it.
After meeting a barrage of people upon entering the Nonvent, Ethan went for a nap, and Annie and I went for a walk down to the lake. We talked about how strange it was for two of her worlds to be intersecting this way. It must have been surreal for her, but I think it was even more so for me. I was in the most beautiful place I’d ever been. The jetlag numbed my experience of the whole first evening if I’m being honest, though. I soon shuffled off to a shower and bed with the warning that we would have to be up at 6am the next morning.
I wasn’t allowed the luxury, however. The bright light of sunshine barged its way through the cloud cover and through my curtains and through my heavy eyelids at about 4am.
This was my introduction – my first international flight – my first steps on foreign soil – my first day and night in Ireland.
There wasn’t anything about the inconveniences of the long travel or the difficulties of navigating jetlag for the first time that made me hesitate – nothing that made me second guess where I was or what I was doing – nothing that made me less than eager to have the same and similar experiences as often as time would allow.
This was only the beginning of my first trip, but it was the beginning of so much more. The thrill and energy which emerged even through the exhaustion were all it took and I was hooked.
Perhaps we’ll wander down memory lane again sometime soon – this has been an enjoyable diversion.