Posts and related media in this series:
Aviator Jeans Travel Story (External Link)
With the trip over, the write-ups of each section of our journey completed for posterity, and the passage of a little bit of time, it seems appropriate to engage in more the type of post I most enjoy writing: free-flowing/freestyle reflection and thoughts about the trip and the experiences.
One of the most interesting things for me was the validation of a long-running feeling that I was never entirely sure would play out as I imagined: Ireland (and to an extent Scotland) felt like home. I’ve long held to the statement that I feel Ireland calls to me in an entirely inexplicable way. As cliched as it will seem, take the traditional blessing and images below and consider the feelings/thoughts that they invoke; follow that exercise up with a simple set of questions: is there a place that seems to call to you (whether spending as much time as possible there or just wanting desperately to be there for some period of time), and why?
Influencing Thoughts for Another Trip
Thanks to the experiences of this trip, I already have some ideas on how I would prefer to experience a future trip. Importantly, I truly believe the way this trip went was absolutely perfect for trying to get a sense of the region in the time we had available, and would not change any aspects of a “first trip” as a result. Being exposed to a wide variety of environments and sights, however, make me want to have a follow-up trip with the idea of spending a few days based in Glasgow (with excursions in and out of the city, but returning to the same place each night) with a few days based in Belfast in a similar fashion, before winding down with a couple of nights back in London. While it is uncertain whether or not that trip will materialize, it is definitely something to consider if we make our way back to the British Isles.
Over the course of this series I’ve hit the highlights on what made this an important trip, provided the high-level overview of what we did along the way and some of the thoughts that went into making those decisions, and generally captured things in a manner that allows me to go back and reflect on the journey. I also touched on some of the emotional aspects and memories that are now a part of who I am. Something I have yet to be able to adequately capture, however (except in imagery, which is my medium of choice for many things anyway these days), is what overarching impact the experience has had on me in as broad a sense as possible. Those familiar with my past writings will find the following, in essence, a “return to form.”
Anxiously I make my way through the underground labyrinth to the designated train that will carry me onward, to my first glimpses of the city, marking the beginning of this adventure. I don't try to make sense of the names or places, or how to know where I'm going, and instead I simply follow Emily's lead.
Images of the city flash by as the train takes us away from the airport, many of which are reminiscent of any large city anywhere in the United States. I begin to wonder why London is such an attractive place for so many given the scenes flashing by, though I know better than to judge any location by the first things I see. After all, imagine driving through Ensley and using that to form an opinion of Birmingham as a whole.
The unusually warm air feels like a weight against me as I feel my shirt slowly being soaked through. Certainly the backpack full of photography gear isn't helping matters any, but the lack of cooling on the train amidst a sea of bodies is compoinded by much warmer than usual weather. I hope the forecast is correct and that temperatures will be more friendly for the rest of our trip.
We arrive at our stop and exit into the midday sun, navigating across the River Thames and finding the hotel that would be our refuge for the night. After a brief respite we embark upon our initial exploration of London, and I quickly begin to realize why so many desire to be a part of the city.
The contrasting views of ancient architecture and modern buildings set within a modern society elicits a certain amount of cognitive dissonance; the mind attempts to create an image of what could have been overlaid by what actually exists. Everything becomes instantly etched in my mind as I lose myself in the marvels of the city. From the seemingly mundane to the extraordinary, I revel in the experience of the city.
Suddenly I feel as though I am transported through time as I walk into our bedchamber suite, though there are reminders of our lack of time travel interspersed throughout. Cool air flows in through the open windows as I slide my fingers across the cool stone walls. Surely this must be the peak of our journey; to play and sleep in a place where the infamous Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn also slept seems surreal., only to be topped by the views of the formidable Castle of Edinburgh.
Nothing prepared me for the sheer joy of looking out over Edinburgh from atop an ancient volcano, however. The wind repeatedly assaults me, threatening to send me tumbling over and over. I choose my hand and foot placement carefully as I climb around the summit.
In the blink of an eye I find myself staring out at the beauty of the Wicklow Mountains, marveling at the vibrant richness of every visible color. Water trickles through a nearby stream, bringing the perfect sensory experience of peace and meditation in a way that could never be imagined or expressed before.
The Cliffs loom in front of me as the wind pushes me back slightly from the edge. Waves crash against the coastline as seagulls squawk. The tranquility of the sunrise sends me into a trance…
Everything has happened so quickly that I have yet to process it all. For a short, fleeting moment, I’m home.