I starting writing this while sitting in a little pub in the west end of London, alone. With a British Pale Ale, which was quite lovely. As I sat down at home in Miami to finish writing it, I realized that what I was saying wasn't what I wanted to say at all, and it became a totally different story.
I've been traveling with two of my best friends and their daughter through Iceland, England and Ireland. Their daughter is turning 13 and she's always wanted to go to London, so they surprised her with this trip.
Stef and I were in Karnival in Germany back in February, and she told me about her plans, and told me that I should join them. Most of our travel plans happen after a few glasses of wine in foreign countries...
You can read more about my experiences at Karnival in Germany and also about how I met a guy...of course I did!
Anyway, WOW Air just began a new route of flights, which were pretty inexpensive, and she found flights from Miami to Iceland with a two day layover, then to London, then back to Miami a week later. Even with booking the flight, paying extra for selected seats and checking a bag, I paid only $580 total. London? For $580? With my best friends? SOLD, BRO. SOLD.
Iceland was beautiful, but it has been my least favorite country to visit as of yet. More on that later. Watch out for a post entitled, "Why Iceland is the Most Expensive Place on Earth" or something like that. I paid $18 for a beer, guys. Yes, you read that right. EIGHTEEN DOLLARS FOR ONE BEER.
To be fair, it was a pretty delicious beer, with a super high alcohol content, and changed the way I think about stouts. But that story is for another day.
Was Iceland breathtakingly beautiful? Why, yes, yes it was. Even though I am still paying off the debt from my two days there, I am thinking of going back for a second dose...I just need to save up for the trip, or bring my own wine in my suitcase. I think I will enjoy it more if I am more prepared for the expensive nature of the country, and if I bring a sleeping mask.
So, we said our goodbyes to Iceland and headed to London.
Which brings me to the point of why I'm writing this post. I went out with Rick for a drink at the neighborhood pub and we chatted for hours. It was a great pub, with great prices, and friendly people. We met nice locals and had great conversations, but as often happens when I travel with my friends...I began to feel my alone-ness.
Not loneliness. Just my own sense of isolation, being outside. Being alone.
This is something that I struggle with constantly. When getting ready to join our separate Rabbies Tours in Ireland, I was anxious about doing the small group tour on my own, being afraid that it would be all couples and then just awkward me.
Stef said, "Don't worry, there's always that one random person in the group."
Guess who was that random person in the group?
It was fucking me. It's always me.
There were a few mother-daughter couples, and then regular couples. Then me. It wasn't really that awkward, because everyone was friendly, everyone was interested in the lone travel writer doing a tour by herself in Ireland, and I didn't have anyone to hold me back from doing what I wanted to do.
At one point, one of the daughters (who was my age) said to me, "I wish that I was as brave as you."
I am kind of tired of hearing shit like this, but at the same time, I am happy to be able to inspire people to be comfortable with themselves and do things that they wouldn't ordinarily do - like travel Ireland completely alone.
So yeah, I was alone.
BUT, I also had the freedom to wander into a bar in the middle of Kinsale, strike up a conversation with two beer experts visiting from the states, and then make the acquaintance of a very lovely Irish barman. He was wearing a Budweiser shirt, but I quickly forgave him when he explained that work required it for promotional purposes, and within an hour, he was sitting next to me on the other side of the bar.
We spent hours discussing the politics of Ireland, how the Greyhound and Market Bar was the oldest bare in Kinsale and used to be the secret headquarters of the NRA, he played the Cranberries on repeat for me, poured me several selections of scotch and then ultimately accepted that I only really like Jameson Irish Whiskey. What can I say, I am a creature of habit.
The conversations I have while traveling, while stopping in the local bars and chatting up the regulars, that's what travel is all about for me.
So while I may not have had anyone's hand to hold while touring the lovely Irish countryside, or anyone to take a photo with at their most scenic views, I did have something...total, unadulterated freedom to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and with whomever I wanted.
The freedom to sit at a bar by myself, strike up a conversation with a handsome German who'd recently moved to Dublin for work (I don't know how I keep meeting Germans everywhere I go, but I seem to have a knack for it), and make a date for the following evening. I was nervous and sweaty and having an anxiety attack, it being my first date in months, but a few Irish coffees got me through it. Also? A huge shout out to all of my friends who texted me while I anxiously awaited his arrival, and probably are the only reason I didn't pass out on the floor from sheer terror.
We pub crawled our way through the evening, and he did something so sweet that I will never forget it...I had stored my luggage at the tourism office until it was time to check into my hotel. He literally carried that suitcase all over Dublin that evening because he didn't want me to leave him to drop it off at my hotel. It was not a light suitcase. It was full of beer and ciders I'd collected all over the U.K. for my FakeBoyfriend back home, but I eventually drank them in the Iceland airport on the way home anyway. Oops.
It's been over a month since I came back from Ireland, and we still chat. He's a total sweetheart, and has become a friend. I value these connections so much!
I was talking to a friend yesterday about my lack of interest in finding a romantic partner, and she helped me to understand that there's nothing wrong with me. It's okay to be alone and not to want to find a boyfriend, not to dream of falling in love and getting remarried...because I am in love with me, and my life.
I am a single woman, and while over the past few months, there was a thing that wasn't a thing but was a thing with my FakeBoyfriend, and I thought it would change (yeah, more on that later, because he's officially ended it now), I am happy being single. I am happy to roam the earth on my own, striking up conversations with strangers and kissing handsome men goodnight in alleys in foreign cities and going home, on my own, knowing that I can do that again and again and again...for the rest of my life.
If someone were to come along and change that? I would be receptive. But I am not looking.
I'm having way too much fun on my own. Probably sitting at the bar.