It’s coming down to the last few weeks of our semester abroad, meaning we’re all frantically trying to squeeze in as much traveling as we can and check a few more things off our bucket lists before finals hit. It’s an interesting time because by now we’ve all gotten pretty close and are accustomed to always having someone around. At the same time, with funds and time running out, we all have certain ‘Must Do’s in mind for ourselves- and those goals don’t always align with our friend’s. That is how I found myself booking a weekend on my own to the Dingle peninsula, the most western point in Ireland.
My roommates had all planned to go to Barcelona together, but I found myself less than eager to join them. I’m not a fan of hot weather- I call Burlington and Dublin home, after all!- I don’t speak Spanish, and I can’t spend more than five minutes in the sun without being burnt to a crisp. On the other hand, Dingle seemed to be calling my name, having grown up on the stories of the time my dad had spent there when he was my age. It was really hard to decide to go on my own rather than sticking with my friends, but I only had the money for about one more trip and I knew I had to see Dingle if I wanted to leave Ireland with no regrets.
So in true American fashion I set off for the West early on Friday morning, my roommates having already flown out to Barcelona the night before. It’s no easy task getting to Dingle: it took two trains and a bus, totaling about five hours travel, and I was worried about navigating so much transportation on my own. I booked my hostel before I started figuring out how to actually get there, and thank goodness I did or I might’ve backed out. It can be intimidating, navigating train stations and bus routes on your own, especially with no phone to easily look up any information needed on the spot. But the hostel was booked so I had to get there no matter what, and with some careful planning and navigation, I did.
I had stayed in hostels before on the Western Ireland trip which I was really thankful for, but even so, this was a new experience. I was in a mixed gender room with six beds, and I had been trying to reassure myself that just because it was labeled mixed and had six beds didn’t necessarily mean that six men and women would be there during my stay. However, when I walked into the room, it became quickly obvious that I was indeed getting the last bunk in a room full of men and women. That made me pretty nervous at first, and to make myself feel a little better, I ended up keeping my bag up on my bed with me when I slept at night. My hostel was definitely plenty secure, and I never felt that I was in any danger or a sketchy situation, but even so I was on my own and had to look out for myself. Little things like not leaving your phone out charging somewhere unattended or counting your money out in the open are just little actions that can help you feel more secure and guarded when you’re on your own.
Staying in the crowded room actually ended up being the best part of my stay, because I made so many friends! Four of the beds were occupied by a traveling folk music group from England, an extremely quirky and friendly group of individuals touting instruments I’d never even heard of and comparing me to their own kids, who were my age. Upon learning I was a singer they insisted I roll with them for the evening, and that’s how I ended up crashing a wedding rehearsal dinner- the band was in town to play for a wedding- as well as meeting the famous Irish singer Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh of Danú, who was performing in a local pub and eager to chat with the fellow musicians.
The next night I got to know the fifth member of our room, a quiet American my age from Oregon who was backpacking around Ireland and had only been here a week so far. We went together to check out all the quirky pubs around Dingle, and I was able to tell him all the things he had to do while here in Ireland. We’re from different corners of the United States and it was interesting to hear all about the west coast, while also lamenting together some of the truly American things we both know and miss- like root beer and Dunkin Donuts!
Overall, I couldn’t believe how comfortable I felt on my weekend in the West and how quickly I made friends. I’m so proud of myself for going out on my own; for navigating all the way there, keeping my things secure, and truly learning to go with the flow and see where the day brings me. I struck out on my own, but I wasn’t alone after all; and now I have plenty of friends in England, Oregon, and Dingle if ever my travels bring me that way!
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