Really a lot has happened since my last blog post. But a very quick recap we left the beautiful island of Kaua’i and had many sweet neighbors give us their aloha as we left.
Originally, my plan was to go to Costa Rica and hang out with my cousin. When that plan fell through, Delilah suggested I go to Ireland instead. She was planning to move in with her mom for a while, and who needs me to take up space? I thought I wouldn’t like staying at my mother-in-law’s house as well, but when I got there, she handed me a plate of quesadillas. I turned to Delilah and said, “I could get used to this.”
This zen-like feeling that I had in Kaua’i had carried over to Texas.
My good friend and former coworker, Israel, asked me to go to lunch. While at lunch, asked if I wanted to go to the office. Then I went almost every day for two weeks. First being picked up by Israel, then Miguel took a few turns, and finally Matthew let me borrow a car.
It was heaven. Previously, I carried low-level anxiety that I didn’t even realize I had, but that had evaporated. I was able to do some cool projects and had a blast. The owner asked, “are we paying you?” I said, “Maybe?”
Matthew likened it to the old retired guy coming back to the construction site and picking up a hammer, muttering how no one knows how to do their jobs.
But the idea of Ireland never left my mind. I started a spreadsheet mapping out all the places that interested me. Castles to see, landmarks, and natural features. Sea Cave Kayaking and other tours. Then I had the idea since I was going that way anyway, why not hit up Iceland and see the Northern Lights? So I bought a plane ticket and the first night’s hotel stay and headed out.
When I got to Iceland, I looked up all the places the tour buses hit, made a list, and drove myself to all those places. At night I would make an efficient route to sites I wanted to see and book a hotel where I thought I would end up the next day. Eventually, I started booking the hotel on the same day because I would spend so long at this or that waterfall, beach, or rock formation. I would go to the cheapest places I found. I even slept at my first hostel!
This brings me to Ireland. I had a pretty hefty list of things to do, and originally I wanted to take buses and stay in cheap hostels. But my spreadsheet and map showed I would be at it for more than a month. So I decided to do what worked in Iceland; rent a car and knock it out quickly.
People would tell me how they were worried I was traveling alone or that it was sad, but I doubt anyone else would keep up. I ate from grocery stores, rarely eating from restaurants. I figured if it wasn’t Tex Mex what was the point? I would drive for hours a day, jump out of the car, explore, and do that over, and over before I fell asleep. I tried to hit multiple sites a day. It wasn’t a vacation as much as a job. One that I pay. But it feels good.
Driving around was nice after having not driven much in the last 8 months. In Hawai’i, we took the bus or walked pretty much everywhere. The hours on the road gave me time to think about my life and what should I be doing, what AM I doing?
My old boss once said one of the saddest things is the man who reaches his goal. It’s true in a way. I only had a goal to not work for a while. Live someplace where I liked the weather. There should have been more. Before I quit my job, I would think about what I wanted to do, my idea was to putter around. Maybe read some. Draw some. Nothing beyond that.
I always thought I would figure it out later. Later is here and I’m a little lost.
When I wasn’t overly concerned with driving on the wrong side of the teeny tiny Ireland roads, I would often think about people that had meant the most to me at some point in my life, but I just haven’t seen them in a decade or more. Why was that? I became a little bummed out that I had let important people slip from my life. Really though, I’ve always been bad at keeping in touch, even with people that mean so much to me. Sometimes my mom and I go six months without talking to each other.
Mostly I imagine people have better things to do than hear from me. But I love hearing from people. I would love it if someone called and asked for help moving so long as I liked being around them and we were spending time together.
While I was in Ireland looking at flights back to Texas, I noticed flights within Europe were stupid cheap. Seeing all the places I could go and being a little cold from Iceland and Ireland, I decided to hit up Greece. Searching the web, I saw a beautiful beach online called Balos Lagoon on the Island of Crete, and it was decided for me.
There wasn’t a direct flight to Crete, so I stayed the night in Milan. I had Italian pizza and Italian gelato and it was amazing. Really different. The pizza came uncut and the gelato had an elasticity to it. And unique flavors and toppings… I’m sorry where was I?
Landing in Greece, I once again took to the roads and this time resolved to hit up old buddies while at the hotel at night. Which I am happy to say went really well. So far everyone seemed like they wanted to hang out and would love to catch up.
About the hotels here, staying in places that are around $20 a night, in rinky-dink little towns, you find some hotels are not really set up for tourism. Zero customer service, rigged-up bathrooms, and everything that looks like it needs repairs. You just have to manage your expectations. You can travel cheap, there is just a trade-off you have to be aware of. Some nights you know you will be clutching your belongings in a lice-ridden haystack (joking) wondering if the person in “reception” was a cannibal (kind of serious). Flushing a toilet upstairs and coming downstairs to water dripping on you and realizing, “Oh. I guess that was my room. Ugh.”
Some experiences, even mortifying, can be embraced and you can find the humor in them. You always have the choice to laugh at the absurdity of your circumstances.
Also the language barrier. It is there, but not there. You can do a lot with a smile, pointing, and pantomime. This lady and I had a legit conversation about her son having a toothache and that was why he was cranky the day before and still asleep when I checked out that day. I don’t understand a lick of Greek and she didn’t seem to know any English and kept thinking I was Italian.
When English seems like it’s needed, someone seems to come out of the woodwork though. My cell service is non-existent so I rely on the hotel’s spotty Wi-Fi. I didn’t realize this at first so took off and what do you know my GPS wasn’t working for two days (a reboot of the phone fixed it. Duh). I kind of knew Zackros was to the South and finally found a sign. When I went the wrong way and hit the ocean, I went back to the nearest town and asked a lady for help. She pointed that way and I asked if I could jump on her Wi-Fi and she told me to ask the butcher. As the butcher stared at me, mouth open and blinking, letting me ramble on about my need for Wi-Fi to get to Zackros, a guy that spoke English, bounded out of a backroom, pointed, and told me to stay to the left at the road can’t miss it.
This happened again in another town. Having downloaded offline maps, I was able to find the town, but not the hotel. However, now I had only confidence that enough smiles I put out would find me where I needed to go. I’m a strong believer that you can figure out anything. Just be patient and have some faith in yourself.
I would love to test this theory in other countries as well. Beyond Europe and South America.
That is enough of a recap for now. If anything, I would like everyone to know the world isn’t as crazy as the media portrays it to be. It is still turning. We can’t be myopic and shut ourselves in.
Get out there and shake things up.