Familiar Ways

“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.

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A view of the main road in Doolin from the path to the Cliffs of Moher.

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A Pause Within Time

“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 BarberyThe 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?

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Reflecting on Resolutions

“I don’t know what to think until I write about it”Joan Didion

It’s a New Year and so a new me… or apparently that’s how we are supposed to see the stroke of midnight on the 1st of January when all the people in the same time zone as you (who haven’t dozed off already) wish each other all the health and happiness for the coming year. In the past, during the first week of the year, I simply spent half of each day impatiently scratching through yet another wrongly written date and the other half wiggling out of my over-ambitious Resolutions with the help of lame excuses. By the time the middle of January had come and gone, I had already shrugged my shoulders,  pronounced my hopeful resolutions as “next year projects” and gone on with my life as usual.

After all, is it not just an arbitrary decision that every time we successfully travel fully around a big ball of fire on our floating rock, we should celebrate as if being given a new life, a fresh start in which to accomplish all the things we always said we would?

Perhaps.

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Folklore and Quasi-Historical Facts

“…throwing open their windows for the cool breeze the storm had left as an apology.”    – Louise Penny, The Murder Stone

Sometimes the sentences I rediscover in my quote book are not particularly profound, or insightful, or perspective-changing. Sometimes they are merely sentence fragments, sometimes only a few little words. But every piece of literature in my modest collection has one thing in common – it’s all great writing.

The quote that began this post spoke to me today for a particular reason, which I’m sure will become clear by the end of my musings. But, for now, let’s pick up where we left off.

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The Haze of Fatigue

“The haze of fatigue seemed to act as a magnifying glass, exaggerating tiny details and sensations.”

-Diana Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber

The ebbs and flows of any vacation are a fascinating concept. You spend weeks struggling to sleep for all the excitement you feel about your upcoming trip and yet, about halfway through, there seems to occur an inevitable lull in energy where all you want to do is curl up and relax – two things you could have easily done back at home. Continue reading “The Haze of Fatigue”

A Light in the Shadows

“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.

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Footpath to a Burial Ground

“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.

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Eternity and Time

“I have stood at the brink of the falls, that thin line that separates eternity from time”

– Cathy Marie Buchanan, The Day the Falls Stood Still

As you may know, the quote above describes the feeling of awe and humility that washes over you when standing on the brink of Niagara Falls, with the sheer crush of water rushing its way over the ancient cliff face to the churning bowels below – it is a glorious and chilling sight – completely unique the world over.

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Niagara Falls, taken not from the brink but from a safe distance

Unique as the Falls may be, the description of that thin line separating eternity from time…that, I have felt elsewhere. On the edge of the Cliff of Moher in Ireland for example, or sitting on the cliffs of the Cape Breton coast, staring out at the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean seemingly without end.

What these places all have in common is that they are viewed from a great height, which is what I figured Ms. Buchanan was referring to in her description. When I went through my quote book today to come up with the perfect way to start this post, however, suddenly this quote spoke to me differently.

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Nature is Talking

“One day you’ll hear them. In the quiet, some whisper you’d mistaken for the wind all your life. But it’ll be the trees. Nature is talking to us all the time, it’s just hearing it that’s the problem.”

-Louise Penny, The Cruelest Month

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A Lovely, Luxurious Lull

“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.

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