I took a solo trip to Ireland. Wait, by yourself? Yes. Why?
Short honest answer: I’ve always wanted to.
Slightly longer honest answer: It all started with a blank page…
But Why Ireland?
At the beginning of this year, I didn’t write down a resolution because I wanted to learn to trust more, I wanted to let loose a bit and stop trying so hard to be in control of everything in my life. I decided to see what life had in store for me. So, in January, I asked God (The Universe, your Lucky Rabbit Foot, whatever makes you comfortable, for me it’s God.)
What do you want me to do this year?”
The answer was clear, simple and direct:
Take a trip by yourself somewhere.”
That was it. Not where, not when, not how—all those factors were up to me to decide. So of course I started panicking, over analyzing, worried about whether or not the places I was thinking of going were supposed to be where I was meant to be. I have a running list of countries I want to go to, but Ireland always stuck out so I picked a one week trip to Galway, Cork, Dublin and also ended up visiting about seven other small cities in between.
But even after booking the trip, I continued to doubt and over analyze. It was getting to a point where I almost wanted to hit the reset button and start over. Affirmation is something I’ve always struggled with, and my goodness did I wanted to be right! But no matter how much I asked, God wasn’t going to answer me the same way twice. I had to keep my eyes open.
It was at a concert. Wow. Yeah, I know. And it definitely wasn’t how I had expected. After waiting in line with some friends to get into a SXSW show I clearly didn’t have a wristband for, I surprisingly wasn’t able to get in. Yes, it was actually surprising. So, I made the best of the situation and wandered around by myself, listening to some free concerts instead, thinking this would be good practice for my solo trip to Ireland. I got a Dos XX and waited for the first act to come on. And as I was waiting, my anxious thoughts were telling me:
A trip by yourself? Why? You can’t do that. What if Ireland wasn’t the right choice? What if I’m setting myself back a whole year?
The what if’s continued to spiral, leading me down an all too familiar rabbit hole. The calming voice in me was trying to pull me back up, but the what if’s were very overpowering that night. Until all of a sudden, someone stood right in front of me wearing a T-Shirt that said:
Right Place. Right Time. #WhyIreland
No. Joke. This my friends, is what I like to refer to as a God Wink. My thoughts were like Oh shit! and quickly disappeared. My eyes filled with happy God tears. I knew in that moment that whatever was supposed to happen, no matter the choice I had made, I was going to be in the right place and at the right time.
I signed up with good old Go Ahead. The same company I signed up for to go to Italy with my brother. I loved it so much, I thought it would be a good balance of being around people and having time for myself, and it turned out to be exactly what I had wanted. Everyone in my group was super nice, they all really took care of me. They always checked in, offered to meet somewhere for dinner, walk around together before lunch, and even go out on the town after dinner. I had a room to myself and was able to relax on my own after a long day. It was great! I highly recommend traveling with them, alone, with family or a friend!
Back to Ireland…
So I knew I was going to the right place and was going at the right time, but I didn’t know what I was going to expect. I’m not talking about the sights here. When I travel, I do it with purpose. I try to learn something about myself or observe those around me and see how I can implement their way of life into my own. But continuing with the theme of unexpectedness and the what if’s, I tempted to worry from DAY ONE. A few days before my trip I found out about this Hurricane Ophelia. As a Houston gal, I wasn’t too worried. Wind and rain was already expected but then my flights started getting delayed, and then they ran out of overhead bin space so they had to check my carry on, and then we had to land in Dublin instead of Shannon, then I had to be bused from Dublin to Shannon as Ex-Hurricane Ophelia was hitting Galway (my final destination). But no worries right?!
At the end of the day no matter what Mother Nature threw at me, I made the best of it. Instead of worrying or trying to be in control of the situations that weren’t in my control, I trusted that it would all be okay in the end, and it was. Talk about life lesson!
A lot of people seemed to know exactly what this trip was going to be about. To them, this solo trip was where I was going to meet someone, like in the movies. Queue massive eye roll. I felt like almost everyone I talked to put the pressure of meeting a hot Irish guy or my husband somewhere on this trip. Shocking plot twist—I didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to meet my future husband, but this trip was not about him, this trip was about ME. Some people don’t get that. But, I honestly like myself. I like spending time investing in Me. And investing in Me was exactly what I did.
Needless to say, Team Meet Mon’s Husband (Co-President chairs by Mother and Sister) were disappointed to hear that the only thing I kissed in a castle was an old stone. And legend has it that I’m even more eloquent than I was before. Watch out world!
They say that Ireland is a safe and friendly place and I truly felt it. I embraced it. I loved walking the streets of Galway alone, wandering around the city and stepping into book shops or a museum, and walking around the National University of Ireland Galway. I loved making my way up the sublime Cliffs of Moher and feeling like I was on top of the world. I loved walking around Charles Fort in Kinsale, exploring the grounds and wandering up a staircase that led me to a gorgeous view. I loved learning that 80 years later, I was born on the same day that the Titanic left Cobh, reminiscing about the eeriness of that fact, standing out in the rain by the port. I loved learning how Guinness was made and having my Belle moment in Trinity College in Dublin. I even loved getting soaked in Glendelough.
But most of all, I loved being connected.
I introduced myself to Spaniards and took a picture for an Argentinian. I had a drink and a chat with my Irish coach driver and my British tour director. I shared stories with people from all over the States. I started the week talking to strangers, and I left Ireland with a handful of new friends. In a world this big, we are never alone. We are always surrounded by people, we just have to make the constant decision to reach out and connect with each other.
And when I was alone, I was glad. I needed that time to recharge. I used the time to review what I had learned that day, reflected on thoughts that had come up, asked myself what I could do better the next day—how I could grow from it. I realized I had come to Ireland to grow. If I was meant to meet anyone, it was another layer of myself. I didn’t go to Ireland to meet my husband, to drink my weight in Guinness, to take amazing photos (although I did take some pretty bomb ass photos). I came to Ireland because it was the right time and the right place to get me to focus on what I wanted in life, and where I was supposed to be.
Realizing and feeling the growth I had done internally within one week of unexpected weather and adventure, I honestly felt that I was a completely different person from when I boarded my flight in New York City, to when I landed back in Atlanta. I had exercised the trust and non-control the whole trip. I was tempted on worrying the entire way, but would reflect and recognize how I could do better the next day.
While traveling, I read a quote I really loved:
“If you love yourself enough, you won’t need affirmation from others.”
I thought, that’s it. That’s the secret. So do whatever you need to do to love yourself. Accepting and loving your own life is more important than seeing what others think your life should be.
Lovely Life Lesson:
Sometimes when you travel places, the treasures hidden for you to find are hidden within you. There’s nothing around the corner waiting to unfold, just the peace and quiet you need to listen to what you’ve been ignoring. Traveling alone gives you the time you need to focus.
Do something by yourself. It doesn’t have to be a trip by yourself but it can be if it’s calling out to you. Take a walk, go to a movie, go to a coffee shop and take a journal. Something. Anything. The more you run away from yourself, the further away you’ll always be. You don’t have to go far to hear the voice that’s guiding you inside.
The most important person in your life that’s part of your destiny, is you. Don’t forget about you. Because at the end of the day, a person is not your destiny, you are. How you build yourself to inspire others matters. Meet yourself first. Every layer. Especially the ones you’ve been ignoring. They’ll be there waiting, with arms wide open.