At 19, I made my first trip across the Atlantic. Destination–England. Nowhere particularly exotic, but for my first trip out of the country, just the right amount of exoticness. At that point I hadn’t even been in 10 US states, so I was EX.CIT.ED.
Original plans had me traveling with a dude now referred to as He Who Must Not Be Named. In retrospect, I’m glad I traveled alone. Now, my memories aren’t tainted and contaminated. I’m almost positive that this experience was the catalyst for all the other solo trips I’ve had in my life. Without knowing much about anything related to where I was, how one should ‘travel’, I had an absolute blast.
That English summer I did the following:
- climbed the highest peak in Wales.
- swam with fairies on the Isle of Skye in Scotland
- hiked along parts of the Wales Coastal Path before it was fully completed
- learned how to throw darts in a pub
- read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in hardback whilst traveling by train [gah, I’m so old and if I still had that book…]
- kissed the Blarney Stone and searched for the “Cliffs of Insanity” in Ireland
- went to my first [and still only] EPL match in Manchester, England.
- looked for Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest–Nottingham, England
- walked along Hadrian’s wall
- explored centuries’ old castles and church
- found hairy coos and lambs galore
- explored the not so ancient history of the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland
- ‘eloped’ to Gretna Green, Scotland
I often think back to that summer–19 and clueless about traveling [and safety]–and wonder if I hadn’t had the courage to go through with this trip solo, would have ever done any of the others. 90 days exploring England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and Northern Ireland set the stage for my 18 months in Mexico and Central America, my six weeks in Italy, 16 months exploring South America, a different month in Europe and perhaps even gave me the courage to apply and actually join the Peace Corps.
Shout out to John Dever’s classic travel ballad for this post’s title