Wanderlust and the Delayed Flight Response.

 

It’s no secret that I have some serious unrequited Wanderlust.  I’ve been quite the escapist for most of my life and although I like to think this comes from a general thirst for knowledge and experience, and a strong desire to see the world, the cold, hard truth is..sometimes I am just running away to find refuge from my problems.

In my teenage years I sought the same refuge at the bottom of a bottle and no matter how many times I reached the bottom and didn’t find it, I kept looking.  I smoked furiously for inner peace and never found it down that path either.

But travelling helped in a healthier way and enabled me to set up some road blocks to those earlier less healthy paths.  There is something about that physical distance that really makes a difference.  It doesn’t just make the problems feel far away, it makes them actually be far away and in that place of relief and space you can think things through clearly.  I have a lot to think through.

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The problem is I find it almost impossible to talk about the tough stuff.  Which for me is the ‘how I really feel’ stuff.  I like to be the stoic, reliable, count-on-me type, the agony aunt and the voice of logic and reason.  If someone is having a hysterical fit or a dramatic emotional outburst, the chances are – it’s sure as hell not me.  I’m the calm bystander saying ‘don’t worry, everything will be fine, I’ve got you’.

And I do, but it takes its toll.  I don’t express myself in that overtly obvious emotional way in a crisis or in any situation really.  I’d rather keep myself together no matter what is happening or how I’m feeling.  I bottle my emotions up until they eat me alive and then I have to leave the country to piece myself back together again after a completely private inner combustion.  It’s like or quite literally is a delayed flight response.

I’m trying to learn to express myself better, to be open about my worries and fears and deal with my problems head on, but it’s not always easy.  I’m naturally very shy and introverted, guarded around people I don’t know well.  There are some things that I still can’t seem to wrap my head around or find a way to talk about but I know the important thing is to keep trying.

We all run sometimes and that’s okay.  We run away to remember what it is that keeps us where we are in the first place, or run away to clear our heads and see the big picture from a safe distance.

 

 

 

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Going It Alone: Solitary Journeys

Some of the best journeys I’ve had have been alone.  I’m a very independent person, sometimes to my own detriment perhaps but also sometimes in my favour.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had fun on trips away with friends and I’m sure it’s really nice to travel with your other half, but it’s not imperative.  One of the benefits of being single is you don’t have to wait for anyone so you can go on a holiday and you don’t have to compromise on where you want to go.  Other than the desk job, I have nothing really holding me down just yet.  Recently I have a cat but he’s a pretty independent little guy himself now and we live with other cat owners who are happy to take care of him while I roam.  As long as he has regular meals, plenty of cuddles and his general well-being is looked out for I’m happy (for a while).  And do the same for my fellow cat owners when it’s their turn to take a break.

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I used to grumble that I never went anywhere.  I never had much money, I worked on minimum wage for many years and my time off was generally taken up with studying, or kicking about close to home.  I wasn’t really feeling very fulfilled.  My friends and I would talk about going away and seeing new places but it just never seemed to materialize.  I would wait on other people to have money or get time off or share my enthusiasm, but then I got tired of waiting or of all talk and no action.  So I started to flight trawl for cheap deals and just go.

I tested the water to begin with, going to places in the UK where I could meet people I knew when I got there, but then braved further afield with no security blankets.  I did have to save up for a month or two before a trip.  I still do.  It sounds like a horrible idea at first but the not going out drinking, budgeting the food bill and not allowing myself to shop for nice clothes and shoes was worth it once I got away.

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There is an initial fear of the unknown, the what if something happens thoughts.  But you plan well and get over it.  I think on my first journeys I was a real control freak.  I planned out my routes, I used Google maps to satellite view the city to get my bearings virtually and I planned almost every day out like a step-by-step itinerary.  I checked everything before I left from train prices to food prices to recommendations on public transport and safety in certain districts.

I made a decision not to go to Brussels, the last stop on my first solo European trip, because I was arriving into the station late evening and a backpacker I met a few days before in Amsterdam told me it scared the hell out of him.  He had arrived there but got off the train and felt swarmed by beggars and surrounded by people who he thought looked intimidating, so he just got back on the train and left.  I felt a similar discomfort in Antwerp.  The train station was beautiful but stepping outside it the atmosphere was tense and uninviting.  I sat on the windowsill in the train station with my backpack to the wall and moved only to switch window sills when someone sat too close to me and worried they’re intentions weren’t kind.  It didn’t help to be told by the train station adviser that there was a train at 3pm and when no train showed up at 3pm and I asked about it he said ‘oh it doesn’t go from this station…’  Helpful guy.   Luckily it wasn’t long before another train to Bruges showed up.

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Antwerp – beautiful but…scary

I wondered if maybe it was just a paranoia that everyone experienced after leaving the safe and chilled vibes of Amsterdam.  Leaving Amsterdam was like stepping out of a safe warm house full of happy people, onto a cold, dark, empty street.  At the end of the day though, I tend to go with my gut feeling and if you want to enjoy your time away and not feel on edge, sometimes it’s better to just cancel a stop, retreat to the sanctuary, go back to Amsterdam.

Sometimes people have looked at me like I’m not all there when I tell them about my solo adventures.  They are clearly under the impression that if I don’t have someone to see the world with that I shouldn’t see it at all.  I disagree entirely.  It’s liberating to do things alone.  You’re able to get out of your shell and you aren’t confined by other people’s expectations or opinions of you.  Sometimes with a crowd I know I feel like I just fade into the background and let the louder more confident ones do the talking or I just stick with them and enjoy their company.   But when you travel alone you have to get out of the comfort zone and mix, you don’t have a familiar friend to hide behind.  And having people around who don’t know you so it can be refreshing.  For example, say one time you went over on your ankle while dancing and you told your friends you don’t like dancing.  They’re attentive and they listened to you which is great in a way, but say then they never ask again if you want to dance.  And it’s been a while since the incident so when you go away on your own, out on a hostel organised drinking tour of the local pubs and you meet nice people, no-one knows about that old aversion you had to dancing so they do ask, and you say yes, and you have a great time.  That’s the joy of making new friends.  You learn things about who you are now and aren’t treated based on who you were once.

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You meet a diverse range of people when you travel alone, especially staying in backpacker hostels.  I met people I never would have had the chance to otherwise, people from all over the world in places I would never have imagined going and hearing about what their cultures are actually like, and not what my media constructed view of it is.  You can do the same for your own culture too.  I remember in Montreal meeting a tattoo artist whose boyfriend really wanted to go to Ireland to the Guinness factory.  She was agreeing to go under duress and was really worried about the violence here.  Her media informed view of Ireland was of a dangerous country with many terrorist groups and dangerous areas.  I guess it’s down to the fact that generally speaking in global news the only time you hear about a small place is when there’s something wrong.

The skewed view can happen easily.  When my friend and I visiting Krakow, shortly after the spell of unrest and armed conflict in the Ukraine, we met an American girl who had been teaching there in Kiev on her year out.  She had left Kiev under pressure from her family who were hearing about the trouble there on the news and were worried for her safety.  She left to calm them but when we asked her about the atmosphere there and what her experience had been there she described a very positive atmosphere, really nice people and good times.  She said what you see on the news doesn’t represent the city and the trouble there was confined to certain areas while the rest trundled along about their business.   If you don’t go you don’t really know!  Remember propaganda can go a long way.

Top Tips for Travelling Solo:

 

  • Plan ahead!  I can’t stress this enough.  Plan it out.  Check out the climate, the transport system, the language spoken, the hostel reviews, anything you can find.
  • Travel light but don’t forget the essentials!  What I consider essentials are mini toiletries, a phone and charger for it (remember the travel plug!), currency, a change of clothes or two (don’t go overkill, you might need room for shopping and you don’t need to change everything every day!), a book or music player, a raincoat/ jumper/ layers (just in case), comfortable shoes, one nice shirt/ top for a night or meal out.
  • Look after your things.  Use the hostel lockers if they have them, most do, look for it on their website to be sure but don’t take any chances.  Usually hostels are safe enough, most people travelling just want to have a trouble-free trip and look out for each other more than anything else, but if you have valuables it’s your responsibility to mind them.  I tend to keep valuable items to a minimal when travelling anyway but things I can’t afford to lose I keep close to me at all times.
  • Don’t drink too much.  I’m not saying stay sober entirely, but keep your wits about you.  You are in a new place so if you go out with hostel pals on a pub crawl and you get blind drunk, they will not necessarily look after you like your friends at home would.  They could ditch you and leave you in a bar you don’t know how to get back from.  Or you could just be having too good a time and forget about them, chatting to anyone and then you get split up – you’re in a city you don’t know, drunk late at night, no numbers to call anyone, no idea how to get to the hostel again, throw in a language barrier and you are on the road to a bad time.
  • Have fun!  Talk to people that look like they’re travelling alone too.  Just say hi.  More than likely they will be glad of the company and friendliness and are off travelling to meet new people and see new places too so don’t be shy.  You can stay as little or as long in their company as you like.  It’s ok to say after a while, ‘I better go, maybe see you again’.  You don’t have to get stuck, you don’t have to make friends for life with everyone you meet, just mix and then use your own good judgement.

Most importantly stay safe and enjoy yourself!  Life is short.

 

 

 

Seeing The World While Chained To A Desk.

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I have a serious thirst for life and adventure that has distracted me as long as I can remember.  I like to work, I wanted an education and a career and the security of a home and a routine I could rely on but the force towards adventure has always remained strong.

So I work full-time, needs must, but every time I have time off now I get the hell out of Ireland.  I work, I save up and I make short trips on a budget.  If I have to go alone that’s just what I do.  It’s easy once you get started.

I want to visit every European capital at some stage.  Ideally every world capital but I tend to smart small with reasonably manageable goals and then progress when the time is right.  Berlin (above) was a wonderful concrete playground of adventure.  It was amazing.

So was Amsterdam.  I can’t wait to go back there.  It had a really lighthearted atmosphere, full of students and tourists and people gleefully exploring the streets on foot or on their bikes.  There were literally bikes EVERYWHERE!  And funky houses and coffee shops.

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Circa 2013

 

And right on our door step.  It cost me €50 return to get there and back on a flight.  It was really easy to get around and get to grips with the layout.  Tourists are really well catered for in Amsterdam.  I have never been so impressed by an airport either.  It’s possibly  the only airport so far that I would be happy to be delayed in.  Maybe London Gatwick but it’s not the same.

One airport I definitely didn’t like to be delayed in was Krakow’s.  Being crammed into an over-crowded miniature departure lounge with a terrible hangover was not ideal.  However, the city itself was more fun than I ever could have imagined.  The food and drink was extremely reasonably priced, the nightlife was tons of fun and the bars stay open well into the wee hours.

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March 2014

Here’s me and my friend drinking shots of lemon vodka to help us to recover from our sadness after a day trip to Auschwitz and Birkenau.

Which reminds me, in name only, of Birkenhead,  which brings me to Liverpool, another treasure on our doorstep.  Below is a picture of what they do in their churches so you can only imagine what they do in their nightclubs.   Think Suicide Girls dancing to Marilyn Manson.  Yes, the one and only Jessica Lou hails from there.

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From Ireland you can get there and back in no time at all and it is really cheap as chips.  Speaking of chips…

The furthest I have ventured is to Canada/ North America where they make a really fantastic gravy chip.

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Poutine in Montreal = superb.

But that’s not all -they have a free outdoor punk festival in May, numerous rock bars, art installations on the street and the weather there in the summer months…wow.

It’s a little bit of a drive from there to New York but totally worth the journey, especially for the Bloody Mary’s and the food in Brooklyn, Peaches calamari was the highlight.

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Oh 

YUM  !!

Oh 

Yeah  !!

 

 

We did the naturally touristy things too, Times Square and Central Park and The Empire State building, but it rained and we ran out of time so eating and drinking became the focus.  And really the touristy  things didn’t do it for me as much as the places like Williamsburg did, where I discovered Aaron Cometbus, and Lower East Side where I found punk so loud I had to wear ear plugs to protect myself from going deaf.  I mean that was ideal.

As was Madrid.  Which I can credit with the best sunset I ever saw.

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I can’t wait to adventure again.  The next trip is London, a regular destination of mine.  I mainly go for the Krispy Kreme donuts, but also to see friends and family there.  Camden and Brighton are among my favourite places ever.  Here’s why Brighton is:

 

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July 2014

 

And on that note, inspired by this guy, I will front flip out of here for now and leave you to ponder your own previous or future holiday destinations.

The point of this piece is really just to say – don’t let work and life commitments hold you back.  You can do a lot on a low budget and a minimum work holiday allowance.  Go see the world.  It’s great.

 

Post 1: Starting Somewhere

I decided to start a blog to get myself back into writing again.  The truth is I miss the school tasks I once had – 2,000 words on the inside life of an empty cardboard box now seems like an interesting request and I may have grumbled about these seemingly mundane assignments at the time but deep down I loved it and the creativity it demanded of me.

Often I find recently that people don’t expect, demand or challenge enough of each other at all and it bores me.  Throughout my life I’ve watched people become prone to having defeatist attitudes, towards themselves and toward others.  I’ve had the attitude myself, I’m not immune, but sometimes the only way to overcome this is to take steps to prove others wrong and to say ‘I can do this, and I will do this’, without having to be asked or prompted or permitted.

I always loved to write but haven’t known where to start since nobody pushes me to now and I don’t HAVE to, I just want to. As with many things, if you want to move forward you have to start somewhere and if you don’t know where you just pick somewhere, just start somewhere, anywhere, and go from there.  So, as this is my first blog piece I wanted to start from the start, to introduce myself as if I never have before.  In the interests of transparency I think it’s important that you know your author.

Here I am – I’m a human!  I fit into lots of boxes that people create to enable themselves to classify each other. I go in the boxes that say female, white, Irish, agnostic, single, middle-child of divorced parents and two other siblings; the boxes are stored to the right on the Kinsey scale, left on the political scale, probably around the middle on the IQ scales and an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs scale.  Good luck finding me in the warehouse.

And that is only the tip of the iceberg, really some days I feel like an 1800lb cow that has been sliced up into tiny pieces and distributed quite unevenly into HUNDREDS of little boxes with the  labels waiting to be scribbled in.  It causes me a lot of anxiety and confusion.  There’s one for the musician in me, one for the artist, one for the budding psychologist, one for the reader, the writer, the friend, the introvert, the wanderer, the photographer, the worker, the weirdo, the cleaner, the cat parent, the failure, the stranger, the activist, the athlete, the klutz.  You get the idea, the list goes on.  I have many parts and none of them define me in isolation.  There are endless opportunities for definitions which are only part of a bigger picture that makes up a portrait of me.

I suppose you’re thinking I have some issues with identity. I do, in general, I have issues with stereotyping and forced labeling and concrete definitions because in the human condition there is always fragility, fluidity and changeability.  I may be a puzzle of many pieces but so are we all and I hate to be boxed.  It’s likely this will come up throughout my blog pieces.

And then, just to emphasize the changeability aspect, sometimes it won’t at all.

If you have read this far then I thank you and welcome you to my blog!

Premonitory:

Some of the parts of me seem to contradict each other.  Be warned.  Fraught I am.  This has been a struggle for me and I’m certain I’m not the only one.  Some people just seem to hate it when they can’t put you into ONE clearly defined box.  They get stressed out and just dismiss you entirely to go back to sorting out other more simple things.  I let them.

On a personal taste level for example, I like listening to dirty, sexy, grungy punk music  and heavy metal.  It makes me very happy.  But so does Taylor Swift, god help me I think she’s adorable.  See the conflict here, but what’s a girl to do?

And for all the grunge and dirty metal that I love I’m also a very clean and neat person.  I like to blast Marilyn Manson really loud, and do my ironing, or crank up some anarchistic, anti-establishment Sex Pistols and think about tomorrow’s pivot tables for my work.  It’s therapeutic.

And what’s wrong with this?  Not that I care to be judged on it.  Everything I am or was, I believe you can handle it.  It will never affect you unless you want it to or allow it to.  I reserve my right to not to lock the lids on these boxes and jump between them as I wish. And the same applies to you, whoever you are, be who you want to be and let everyone else handle it how they need to.  There really is no pleasing everyone.

In a simple world we would all just grow up knowing who we were meant to be and everyone would be equally happy with that, but this is not a simple world and often the people we look to for guidance and direction have opposing viewpoints, the signs we have to follow are then pointing in conflicting directions.  It doesn’t make for an easy journey.  So you have to take Fleetwood Mac’s advice and go your own way.

Just be honest about it as far as you can be, and if you have to make drastic changes consider the impact they could have and prepare for it, prepare those it will impact too.  Basically, if you’ve boxed yourself in tightly and need a change- break out, but gently.

So these main boxes I’m affiliated with, I’ll break down the basics- female, white, Irish, agnostic, single, middle-child of divorced parents; leaning to the right on the Kinsey scale, left on the political scale, probably around the middle on the IQ scales and an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs scale.  Let me explain how I am all and none of the things.
  • Female yes.  However, when I worked looking after young children they weren’t so sure about that definition.  I don’t and won’t fit the stereotype.  In fact, this is the case for many women, thankfully.  I enjoy sports, I’m good at d.i.y (I try!), I like wearing sneakers and have absolutely no fear of spiders, dirt or breaking a nail.  How radical of me.  (Sigh)
  • White, yes, I guess, but I have quite a few freckles, a birth mark on my back, lots of bluish marks from when I bump into things, some pink bits…(mind out of the gutter- scars are pink too!) some black hairs, some grey and a few multi-coloured tattoos, so really there’s lot of colour here and very little of me is actually paper white so I don’t understand this definition people need to perpetuate.  Move on.
  • Irish.  I was born in Ireland, this is where I’m from.  As I was born in the North of Ireland I automatically have dual citizenship but I’m saying no more to avoid a fiery debate already.  Nobody chooses where they’re born.  Moving on.
  • Agnostic.  Yes, went from altar girl to atheist to ‘for goodness sake I don’t care’.  Can’t we just get real and work towards a common good- is that too much to ask?
  • Middle-child.  Two brothers, one older, one younger, both excellent, very fond of them!
  • Divorced Parents –  In 2003 my dad left my mum for a woman he’d been having an affair with.  There was a bit of back and forth, some reconciliations followed by break-ups all over again and eventually a very messy divorce.
  • To the right on the Kinsey scale – honestly, I don’t date that much recently but I’ve dated men, I’ve dated more women,  I’ll date whoever the hell I want to and it’s nobody else’s damn business unless I say it is.  When I settle down for life, then maybe we can close the lid on the box.
  • Left politically – often described as a socialist, once a member of socialist youth.  Really I just want equality and fairness and sharing and for everybody to be ok.  Life is too short and the world too great for all of the misery, injustice and discrimination it currently holds.  There’s no need.
  • Middle on the IQ scales.  I think I’m pretty smart, I test well, I can pull it out of the bag now and again.  At the same time, some days I’d forget my head if it wasn’t screwed on and when I’m over-tired I’m dumb as a brick.  That’s just how it is.
  • Myers -Briggs scale -INFJ – that’s just what the test said, and I don’t know how far I’d buy in to personality testing.  That’s another day’s discussion.

Then there are the other labels – the definitions based on what I do, what I work as, what I study.  All of these things that could change tomorrow but somehow tell you who I am.  They don’t.  I flit, I explore, I’m trying new things all the time.  It’s fluid.

My first part-time jobs were in shops and bars.  I had a long stint in a nursery and day care facility, did some free lancing in events, and did some volunteering before I joined an outsourcing group and started to make my way around the telecoms sector.  I’m currently contracted out to a corporation  looking after their telecoms account.  A year from now I could be somewhere else entirely.  I hope that I am.

I studied Psychology for a subject change and a learning curve, but mostly because I wanted to understand humans better.  They/ we baffled me.  Still do.  I graduated with a 2:2 which is apparently worthless if you actually want to practice as a psychologist.  I would have considered it otherwise but I accept the implications of the choices I made.  I worked full-time during my degree, sometimes had more than one job and I felt I did the best I could under my circumstances at the time.  I can look back and say I should have worked harder and focused better but it won’t help.  Next time I will, if there’s a next time in my studies, which I hope there is.

For now, I work, I blog, I travel, I hang out with my friends and my family, my books and my cat and I’ll leave this here for now.  On a hopeful note.  Hopeful that you have enough to go on to understand a little of who I am and where I come from and hopeful that you’ll enjoy the blog.