Despite being a checklist type of person, I am not a check-list traveler.
I came to Ireland expecting to spend my weekends visiting countries all over Europe. That’s what one allegedly does when studying abroad. You try and see as much as you can in the all too short time that you are living in a country that is not your own. After all, it’s never going to be this inexpensive and convenient again.
For some people, that is a fun and fulfilling way to spend time. I have several friends who have done exactly that and loved every single minute. However, I quickly discovered that I am not a person who enjoys that kind of travel.
Over the last few months, I have limited my adventures to Ireland and the United Kingdom. I realize that almost all of Europe is an easy plane ride away and that I could have easily expanded my travels to include more countries. However, I don’t think I’ve missed out or that I have wasted this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by staying relatively local in my escapades.
I don’t like seeing a place. I like being in a place.
Instead of rushing from place to place due to a self-made travel schedule, I prefer to slow-down (or speed-up) based on the pace of the place I am visiting. I like wandering, not running, between must-see destinations. I never want to be too busy on a holiday to not be able to amble through to quaint park with ancient ruins or follow my nose to the hidden coffee shop down the easily missed side street.
Most Sundays I was at my Dublin church. Most Wednesdays I was at my small group. I know how to get to all my usual haunts in Dublin by walking, by bus, and by LUAS. I actually have usual haunts and know the weekly soup schedule of my favorite cafes. Coordinating plane and/or train tickets for travel is no longer a big deal or a reason to sweat. It’s just part of life. My fear of riding in buses is almost gone. I miss driving, but I love being in a place where walking is the norm, not the exception.
When traveling in the UK, I visited places that I have dreamed about going since I was small. However, I didn’t see all the places on my bucket-list. Instead, I remained open to the possibility of my plans being upset, which turned out to be a really good thing.
A few weeks ago I was in London with my bosses for business. One asked what was the best thing I had done since being on this side of the Atlantic. My answer was immediate and completely unexpected to the listeners—Churchill’s grave. Even now, over a month after my visit to the almost forgotten, easily overlooked graveyard, I struggle to articulate why visiting his grave impacted me so greatly.
Visiting Churchill’s grave is something that I would have completely missed if I hadn’t made the decision to focus on the adventure, not the destination. If I had been too focused on getting to the next must-see item, I wouldn’t have turned right instead of left upon leaving Blenheim. Nor would I have spent way too long getting lost down one-way streets trying to find the church, which is not clearly marked.
J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
There is a time and place to keep your feet, to follow the check-list, to keep on the well-maintained road. I would not suggest winging a Disney vacation or a holiday to a non-English speaking country. However, there is also a time to get swept off into the unknown, to ignore the GPS, to enjoy, not control, the chaos.
This holds true both while on holiday and in our normal life. It’s one of the lessons that I hope to bring home and incorporate into my regular, everyday routine.
Because no life is ordinary. No day is simply routine. Yes, we have work and school. Yes, we have bills to pay and commitments to meet. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t adventures to be had or roads to wander down in our own backyard.
It’s good to have routines. I’m ready to be back in my own kitchen where I can bake and meal prep. I’m ready to be back where I feel safe and able to run at 5:30am. I’m ready (believe it or not) to have more than 6 hours of class per week. However, I am no longer going to be so quick to overload my schedule. Every minute and every weekend doesn’t have to be planned in advance. Furthermore, I’m no longer going to view vacations as an escape from the craziness and stress of my day-to-day life.
Instead, I’m going to try and be grateful for each and every day, even the stressful ones. I’m going to be grateful for the work and the rest, for the routines and the holidays. I’m going to enjoy being where I am, even if it’s somewhere I’ve been a hundred times. I’m going to keep my feet, but not be afraid to get swept off them every once and awhile.
“Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet: You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself.” ―