"You must do the thing which you think you cannot do." - Eleanor Roosevelt
These frist three weeks have been amazing! Life lessons galore, and I can only expect more to come for the rest of my time abroad. I feel like I've learned so much, simple things, but still important when you're travelling alone:
#1- Be assertive at all times. Which goes hand-in-hand with...
#2- Sellf-confidence = survival!
#3- Listen more, learn more; meeting amazing people has been a huge part of my experience so far, and it's always great to walk away with a sense that I've really learned something new.
#4- Solo, young, female traveller= people magnet; sometimes this is not so good, but 99% of the time it's great. A smile works wonders to smooth things over and make language barriers easier.
#5- (Something I like to think I knew all along that's just been reinforced) People are people no matter what nationality they are, and everyone has a unique point of view. That to me is facisnating, and the whole reason I am travelling... besides seeing the world!
~London was a bit of a blur, the biggest thing I discovered was a tour company that operates all over Europe's major cities called "New Europe Tours." They're great and the best part about them, they're free! The guides operate on a tips only basis so you get a great, enthusiastic walking tour.
~Liverpool was more of a cultural experience. Coping with strong accents I managed to hear some amazing stories and meet cool people, including a man who had seen the Beatles in Liverpool before they were big, only becuase his frind was playing in a band that was playing ahead of them at teh open mic night! It was a little difficult to figure out how to leave (ferry to Dublin), and spent the better part of a day wandering around in circles from various different directions. In the end the confusion was explaned by the fact that everyone was sending me in search of a pier that had recently sunk... oops! Eventually found my way and met plenty of great people along the way. Liverpuddlians (as they are called) are extremely friendly, I would ask for directions and someone would walk me to where I needed to go. Everyone was so kind that it really left an impression on me and I know that I will be back someday.
~Ireland (for the sake of people readfing this I will attempt to condense it a bit). Saw a few places in teh Republic and then Belfast in the North. Everywhere I went I found the most amazing landscape, welcoming people and a taste of culture. I took a couple of day tours, into the Wicklow mountains and then to the Aran Islands, both were great and the views were spectacular. In the cities I learned about Irish culture, past and present, but there was one moment that really stuck out for me. I was in Galway (pop. 90 000) and walking down a posh street when I came across this line of people stretching down the sidwalk for blocks. Inside the building it was packed, so I stopped to ask what it was. The mad replied, "The Dole office." With a little shock and embarassment I thanked him. These were the people from the city that were currently unemployed and living off what we in Canada would call welfare. This was no special day, it was like this every day. For me it was a bit of a shock, I knew the recession had hit Ireland hard, but with little in the way of primary or secondary industries to offer a buffer, the economy had hit rock bottom. This was the first of I'm sure what will be many perspective shaping moments on this trip.
Belfast in the north provided a great history/culture lesson which was apparent when I walked out into the city. Stepping out of the bus station was a huge mural with a masked paramilitary gunman and union jack with the words, "Welcome to the Loyalist heartland of Sandy Row..." Wow, reality check, that conflict is not ancient history! Other than the murals dotting teh city, there was little evidence that this was a hotbed of conflict the people's demeanor, everyone I met was kind and just as friendly as their southern Irish counterparts.
~Edinburgh was another great city, it was what I had imagined London to be like-twisty back alleyways, beautiful centuries old buildings and cobblestone streets. It had a friendly atmosphere and everything a traveller could want to do, shopping hiking culture, day trips, you name it they did it. I liked it so much I decided to stay longer than anticipated, but why not?! That is the beauty of not having to stick to someone else's schedule.
So far I've had many great experiences, met new people, discovered new cultures and foods, even built up enough muscles to hoist my heavy backpack! What a great start to this adventure, and I can only hope that I learn as much in the rest of my trip as I feel that I have already in these first few weeks.
P.S. If you'd like to see photos check out my facebook page, I haven't figured out how to post them to my blog yet!