I am back.
Back in Florida after a whirlwind 3 weeks in Europe and I have never felt so satisfied yet so reluctant to be home. On Wednesday I flew from Paris to Dublin in order to catch my return flight to Orlando the next morning. I was sorely tempted to postpone my flight and stay in Ireland for a few more weeks. While traveling I found peace and happiness during a time of great loss and sadness in my life. I was scared to go home, afraid to find those feelings still lurking below the surface. But common sense kicked in and here I am. The sadness is still there and will probably always be there, but I am totally at peace and in a state of utter calm. Everything is as it should be.
Before this trip I was nervous, hesitant, and not exactly thrilled to go. Both of my grandpas suddenly passed away within a few months of each other and it was a huge shock to my family. My first grandpa passed away on my future wedding anniversary, April 18th, and then my other grandpa passed away on May 24th, the day after I held his hand and fed him his last meal in hospice. It was a really hard time and sadness weighed so heavily on my heart. How could I possibly go on a the trip of a lifetime and enjoy myself through such sorrow?
Despite my extreme reluctance to go, I eventually reasoned that my grandpas would want me to be happy and enjoy my life. Travel was something we connected over so it was only right to embark my life without them with this trip. What I now realized is that this was exactly what I needed to heal and to honor their memories.
Several times I felt their presence and knew that they were watching over me. In Ireland I almost had a really bad accident while biking around an island and was this close to crashing my bicycle into a fence. I miraculously stayed in control of the bike and just barely averted disaster while silently thanking my grandpas for protecting me. Then in Paris we were eating at a little boulangerie when we heard a jolly old man whistling while opening his shop next door. Tasha started laughing and I asked “what’s so funny?” She said, “Do you know what song he’ s whistling?” I said “Uh no, what?” She laughed and said “He’s whistling, ‘If you want my body and you think I’m sexy…‘” I froze, looked at Tasha and said “Oh my god, that’s my grandpa’s song. He used to sing and dance to it all the time. It was our family joke.” It was the weirdest experience ever and still gives me chills just thinking about it. What are the chances? My grandpas were with me and protecting me during my travels, of that I am certain.
Now before I try to piece together my thoughts and massive collection of photographs into blog posts, let me dwell on our Eurotrip as a whole…
Just like our South East Asia Adventure of 2013, Carina and I visited three different places, each providing a unique experience filled with plenty of excitement, beauty and hardships along the way. But this time we were in Europe, not Asia, and it was just so much BETTER. Not to knock on Asia or anything, but I feel like I belong in Europe, it is in my blood. It is me.
As we traveled, I began to settle into the changing landscape and just let things be. Ireland was where it all began. Although booking a tour seemed like a risky idea at the time, it ended up being the absolute best decision for us. I enjoyed the people on the tour (most of the time) and reveled in the long bus rides with nothing to do but blast music, sleep and watch the green hills roll by my window. We learned so much about Irish culture and history and visited the most incredible places from divided cities to breathtaking cliffs at the edge of the earth.
During our time in Ireland I felt deeply connected to the people and the region as a whole, especially since part of my family came to New York from Ireland either before or during the Great Famine. I felt most connected to Ireland when listening to live traditional Irish music which is quick, intricate and strong. I could feel the music deep in my soul and my body would move to the beat involuntarily. It is as if my body hums to that frequency of vibration naturally and before I know it, I am clapping my hands, and stomping my feet with the biggest grin on my face. It is pure ecstasy. Ireland, you will never leave me.
And then there was London. We did the typical touristy things and stayed up way too late at night, having a blast with new friends. However, my body began to break down and walking was tough but I pulled through and still managed to enjoy the sights. Truthfully, I am over big cities and looking at an endless number of old buildings. I feel the soul of each nation more in the small towns and countryside than the big cities. I am a country girl at heart I guess, don’t let my ease with a phone booth fool you.
I was happy to leave London but nervous to visit our next destination, the coastal region of France. I knew absolutely nothing about Brittany, relying solely on Tasha, Carina’s sister who has been living in Brest for a year. The three of us ended up renting a car and driving around for 3 days, visiting different spots along the coastline from jaw-dropping cliffs to small towns full of the nicest people you will ever meet. It was a wonderful way to explore the region and we shoved as much into our trip as possible which was exciting but exhausting at the same time. And having two sisters drive and navigate a foreign country is, well, never dull.
Despite the occasional bickering, we saw some absolutely amazing places and ate some delicious food. Most days we stopped for a typical French picnic on some cliff with a baguette, fresh cheese, pate and some fresh fruit or Nutella thrown in for good measure. Is there anything better than that? Yes, maybe the meals at local creperies with first savory and then sweet crepes. Oh Brittany, you are a lovely region and I will sing your praises from now on. If you are going to France, skip Paris and head on over to Brittany for a truly remarkable experience.
By the end of France I was in the groove of travel but exhausted from over-stimulation. On our last night in France I camped out in a dark corner for a few hours, trying to find the solitude I so desperately craved. It is ironic though because now that I am back home I crave the constant companionship and movement of traveling with my best friend and the people we met along the way.
And that is the absolute joy of travel. It forces you to get out of your head and experience the world with new challenges that push you out of your comfort zone. It is hard and yet so so good. These 3 weeks in Ireland, London and France have helped heal my soul and release my grief. I feel stronger, happier and utterly content. With life there is death and with sorrow there is joy. Life is the longest thing you will ever do so why not get out there and experience it? My grandpas loved to travel and I know that they are looking down on me with joy. This trip was exactly what I needed and I can’t wait to share it on this blog.
Thank you grandpa C and grandpa T, this is for you.