Recently, I’ve been thinking about how much things have changed since I was younger, and I’ve realised that, as a teenager, I was much more fearless than I am now. Perhaps ‘fearless’ isn’t the word… perhaps the word should be ‘reckless’, but either way, I sure had a lot more guts than I do these days.
When I was eighteen, my best friend and I decided to go on our very first adventure together. We were in our last year of college, and Hannah was actively pursuing her dream to join the Navy, so we had much to celebrate. We booked a ten day holiday in Ireland, where we would fly out to Cork, then after a few days, take a bus all the way to Dublin. For the remaining few days, we decided to “wing it” and decide what to do when the time came. It’s unbelievable to me now, that I would have been okay with such a risky decision, but at the time, I guess I was very naive. I hadn’t really been anywhere, so knew nothing about the complications that last minute adventures would bring!
In the summer of 2006, Hannah and I set off to Gatwick Airport, carefree and ready to start drinking! We were definitely what you would call “wild children” back in those days, and I guess my only regret about the holiday is that we spent most of our time getting drunk! The airport was a completely new experience for me. I had never flown before, and although I didn’t feel afraid, I didn’t know what to expect. Hannah and I ended up almost missing our flight because we were too busy stuffing our faces in the airport and didn’t know to look at the flight boards! Our names were called over the tannoy and we had to dash, frantically to the gate. I’d never run so fast in my life!
After a short flight, we arrived in Cork Airport. As far as I can remember, we had no troubles getting our luggage, and then we were off to find our B&B. Little did we realise, we had booked a place quite far from the centre of Cork. It turns out, Cork was the name of the county, not just the city! Our naive teenage brains hadn’t managed to work that out! Luckily, when we arrived at Oval Lodge, Rochestown, our host Betty made us feel at home and led us to our rather spacious bedroom, and all of our travel stresses melted away.
We spent the next few days exploring Cork and the area surrounding our B&B. In the nearby town of Douglas, we found an amazing restaurant, Barry’s, which we went to most nights. I still miss the food now, ten years later!
Unfortunately, as I said, we were heavy drinkers in those days, so I really don’t feel we made the most out of our trip. I barely remember anything about Cork or what we did there. My most enduring memories involve bars or drinking in our B&Bs, which is a real shame. Both Hannah and I would like to go back and do the trip again, but sober this time so we can actually appreciate our surroundings more. Essentially, apart from a couple of trips and tours, we lived as we would have done at home!
A few days later, our stay in Cork was over. We waved goodbye to Betty and headed into Cork where we caught a Bus Éireann coach to Dublin, which took about eight hours! It was blazing hot that summer, so our journey was horribly uncomfortable, but I made the most of the views as Hannah slept beside me. I tried to take photographs out of the window on my awful digital camera, but I don’t think I managed to get any good ones!
Eventually, we arrived in Dublin, which has an entirely different feel to Cork. Everything was bolder and more characterful, especially the people! Again, we had booked a B&B quite far from the city, in the port town of Dun Laoghaire. We really liked the place, but we were less than impressed by our room at the B&B. It was essentially a box room, and didn’t even have a TV. Hannah ended up getting sick after swimming in the sea at Dun Laoghaire. It wasn’t until after she’d got out of the water that we realised there were rats everywhere, so I wouldn’t like to imagine how dirty the water was! I ended up being nurse-maid for a day or two, which meant we had less time to explore Dublin properly.
We did, however, give it a good shot! We walked all around the city and even visited the famous Guinness Brewery, which was a lot of fun and very interesting. Of course, we ended up getting drunk, but that’s what we were like in those days!
During our stay in Dublin, Hannah and I had some really unusual, almost film-like experiences. One in particular will stay with me forever. We were in a bar, and Hannah was trying to massage some of the stubborn knots from my back. The pain was so intense that I started crying, which attracted the attention of two men from across the room. They came over and asked if I was okay. These men had only just met each other, and their stories were bizarre and intriguing all at once. One, Cameron, was a holiday maker from America. He had been mugged of all of his money and passport, and was suffering from an abscess in his mouth. He was a lovely man who had fallen into bad luck and Hannah and I both took a bit of a shine to him. The other man was Brendan, a middle aged man from Cork with a very unusual story! He had committed serious fraud that had led to him losing his wife and kids, and he was due in court the very next day. Despite his dodgy dealings, he was interesting to talk to, and Hannah and I felt comfortable spending the afternoon with these two unlikely friends. We agreed to come back the next day to meet them, which Brendan had suggested, hoping that he would be spared jail! We went back, but neither man was there. We later found out, from a news report we heard on the bus, that Brendan had gone on the run! I wish I knew what happened in the end.
For the last leg, we hopped back on the bus and went all the way back to Cork, and this is when we regretted our decision to leave the last few days open – there was nowhere to stay in or around Cork! In a panic, we contacted Betty, who was able to put us up for one day, and she managed to find two other B&Bs for us to stay in on the other nights. Betty was our guardian angel, I think!
Tensions started to show between Hannah and I during the last few days of our trip. We were running out of money, and had started to get cabin fever with each other. Both of us were going through some pretty trying emotional times, and we kept rubbing each other up the wrong way. During a trip to the beautiful town of Kinsale, I had started to worry that our friendship might be in jeopardy.
One fateful day at our final B&B, I went to look for Hannah and she was gone. My anxiety hit me like a tonne of bricks. Had she left for good? Was she okay? What the hell was I going to do? I tried calling her, but she had left her phone in her room. I was in such a state that the B&B owners had to look after me and try to keep me calm. I was genuinely terrified of losing Hannah and being stuck in Ireland all by myself. My lack of travel experience meant I would have been at a complete loss, trying to navigate the airport by myself.
Eventually, Hannah came back. She had gone for a run. She felt so guilty when she realised how upset I had been, and we ended up having a much needed heart to heart. All of the brewing tensions between us were aired and we learned to understand each other a lot better. As much as it was a horrible experience at the time, I will always credit this as the day our friendship became truly strong. We have been best friends for well over ten years now, and we have always managed to sort out any problems since then, by talking things out in the same rational way.
Finally, it was time to head home. There was a slight hiccup paying for our B&B, so we were a bit rushed getting back to the airport, but we managed it. Our holiday was over, and we have missed it every day since. One day, when Hannah’s kids are older, I’d like to think we’ll go back.
Our trip to Ireland was such a spontaneous, unplanned trip, and when I think of it now, I wonder how I was ever so brave! Nowadays, I have to have things planned out to the finest detail, and I get so scared about stepping out of my comfort zone. I wish I could be like eighteen year old me again; full of spirit and eager to explore. I wish I didn’t get scared of airports and getting from A to B… Perhaps it’s just a part of getting older. I just hope that one day, I will be able to book up a trip without hesitation, and step into the airport without that sense of panic, and that I can go off and travel the world without fear. One day… one day, I will be like that again.