“Yet as he walked up the familiar ways, the streets remembered themselves in his mind.” – Sebastian Faulks, Birdsong
As much as I truly do love travelling alone, every single time I have fallen in love with somewhere on one of my solo trips, I have almost immediately felt an intense desire to share it with not any one person in particular but with every person in my life. This is different from the feeling I have when dreaming up a new trip – usually these visions involve a specific person or set of people (ex: I would love to visit the South of France with my Mom and Sister – Mum was an au pair there at one time). But once I have gone past the dream and really fallen for a place, I just want everyone and their dog to see it, experience it, and (hopefully) love it… as I did.
I could go on and on about the many (and I mean an absurd amount) of places I think everyone should see, and perhaps this blog will get to all those places eventually. But for now, in keeping with the narrative already established, I’ll settle with talking about one little village that has found a distinctly dear place in my heart.
Nestled at the base of the famous (infamous?) Cliffs of Moher on Ireland’s rough western coast is a teeny tiny village called Doolin. And it is one of the most heartwarmingly lovely places I have ever visited.
“This pause in time, within time…When did I first experience the exquisite sense of surrender that is possible only with another person? The peace of mind one experiences on one’s own, one’s certainty of self in the serenity of solitude, are nothing in comparison to the release and openness and fluency one shares with another in close companionship. – Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog
There really is nothing sweeter while traveling than taking a day to relax near the end of a long trip. I know what you’re thinking: but that doesn’t make any sense, Erin! At the end of a trip you only have a finite number of days to see everything before heading back to comfortable, familiar (and, by extension, apparently less exciting) home. Right?
Well, bear with me here. In my experience, choosing to take a day’s rest in the final week of a trip is extraordinarily beneficial. Now, by a day of rest, I do not mean that you stay in your pajamas in bed curled up with a good book and bottomless tea (although, if that is your main definition of rest – by all means, indulge). For me, a restful day means one during which we do not write anything at all on the agenda. We choose instead to mosey around the village we have alighted on at a completely unhurried pace and simply enjoy each other’s company and the delightful fresh air.
Note: I can confirm that this method of relaxing works just as well if you’re travelling alone – who says you can’t enjoy your own company in the fresh air?
“To be a historian is to be questioning, to have a vivid imagination and an insatiable curiosity.” – Anna Whitelock
I realize this might seem like I am trying to define who I have always been using the benefit of hindsight – you know, the way every autobiography ever written makes some kind of broad statement about how so-and-so has always been a natural leader or something of the sort? However, I believe my parents would back me up in this statement: ever since I was a very small child, I have delighted in learning about the past. I went through many phases: Egyptian Pharaohs, Celtic Druids, English Monarchy, Irish Revolutions, etc… but the bedrock of my interest was always the same – I wanted to learn everything I could about how people lived before I existed. How did they go about their days? What could have occupied their minds as much as their very existence occupied mine? Did they think about the future? Or struggle to make it to another sunrise? The study of recorded and analysed history could only take me so far – my imagination always carried me further.
“But Three Pines itself was a village forgotten. Time eddied and swirled around and sometimes bumped into it, but never strayed long and never left much of an impression.” – Louise Penny, The Cruellest Month
One of the most incredible things about travelling, in my humble opinion, is arriving in a place that seems completed unhurried and unconcerned b the passage of time. You do not even have to go far to discover such a place – even in a country like Canada where 1000 year old ruins may not exist around every corner. Simply walk into the center of your nearest forest, or down to the banks of a local river outside the city center and take a careful look around.
Chances are that while much has changed in the intervening centuries between when Europeans first inserted themselves on this already lived-in landscape, you are looking up at the same, or at the very least a similar, sight as the First Nations people once did before their world was turned upside-down. Many lives have come and gone but the land was here before and will be here long after mankind meets its fate, whenever that may be.
“The light was a comfort; pitiful as was the sight it revealed, at least it banished the lurking shadows that threatened at any moment to turn into new danger.”
– Diana Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber
When I sit down to write my (albeit infrequent) blog posts, I always start by going through my book of Beautiful Words, in which I have written out quotations from the books I read. Wrenched from their original context, the phrases that make up this notebook are in no way coherent as a whole, but I am usually able to find inspiration in the jumble of wonderful wordsmithing I have collected over the years.
This post’s inspiration comes from the incredibly talented Diana Gabaldon. Though these words as seen in the second book of the Outlander series described the omnipresent danger encountered by her heroine in a much younger and rougher Scotland than the one Kristen and I visited, they struck me as oddly appropriate for how I felt on our first and only night in the bustling city of 21st century Glasgow.
“It was drizzling slightly, and all the joyous spring flowers were lying down, like young soldiers slaughtered on a battlefield.” – Louise Penny, The Cruelest Month
I have always been fascinated by graveyards. Perhaps I have mentioned this before?
A firm believer in the innate goodness of humanity, I have nonetheless often found myself both intrigued and repulsed by the same species’ capacity for extreme violence. Especially today, in the midst of the 24-hour-non-stop news cycle, it can sometimes seem that for every kind act being committed on this earth at any given time, there are simultaneously 2 or 3 acts of cruelty.
“There will be no lovely luxurious time while the fizzing drink cures the head and the coffee sends out soothing noises and smells from the percolator.” – Maeve Binchy, Whitehorn Woods
I am now about halfway through the telling of this particular adventure and I thought I would take this post to pause for a moment – a luxury one does not often have on a backpacking trip, no matter how conscious one attempts to be to the need to rest and recover.
“The tale is the map that is the territory. You must remember this.” – Neil Gaiman, American Gods
I’m not sure why I continue to work slowly at this telling of my trip to the UK with my sister so many years ago now. Perhaps it is because a few of my acquaintances like to read it, perhaps it is simply to keep the writing muscles limber as I work on my first novel. Whatever it is, I hope this tale is at the very least entertaining…and at the most an inspiration from which to map out your own adventures.
“It’s possible that a hidden symmetry is often at work as we stumble our way through life.” – Elizabeth Hay, Alone in the Classroom
There are so many things about life that never cease to amaze. It feels like only yesterday I was last here, stumbling my way through a maze of past feelings and thoughts to try and convey them intelligibly to those who choose to read my words. And yet, here we are more than a year later and I am finally returning to the written word. What a year it has been.
“Time devours everything, but each mortal believes that his own memory can enshrine immortality.”
– Angela Thirkell
There’s always a certain apprehension when returning to somewhere you previously loved. Sure, the first time you visited, it was beautiful and magical and you promised out loud to the chagrin and slight embarrassment of your companions “I’ll be back” in your worst-possible Schwarzenegger voice.
But then the years pass, life goes on, and that city, town, village or dilapidated old ruin gains this sort of unreal aura. It’s forever perfect. It stands in your mind as the most ideal locale on the planet.
And then, miraculously, you have a chance to go back. Your heart starts to pound at the thought, you feel dizzy. You will be going back to a place that truly makes you feel at peace. How brilliant is that?
But what if that fabulous little pub you and your friends found is now a blaring nightclub? What if that darling little hole-in-the-wall book store has gone the way of so many others and finally shut its doors? What if the ruin you so loved has finally lost its centuries-old battle with gravity?