Not all those who wander are lost.
Unless, of course, you’re me.
My Dublin-host and close friend, Grace, booked a bus tour for me around the outskirts of the city so I could see the Irish countryside while she was at work.
The tour was scheduled to stop in Glendalough, Wicklow National Park (where segments of Vikings and P.S. I Love You were filmed!) and Kilkenny Castle.
All I had to do was make my way to downtown Dublin by 9 a.m., get off the city bus at the Spire — a notorious landmark looming over the city at 120 metres (393 feet) — and wait for one of those big obnoxious red tour buses to pick me up and babysit myself and a load of picture-snapping tourists for the day.
Grace even drew out a detailed itinerary since she knows how absent-minded I can be with directions.
After almost two years I still get lost in Parksville Qualicum Beach so my chances abroad are slim. In my early days I was lost in Coombs on my way to Nanoose Bay after being told “just follow the highway and turn left at the Petro-Can, can’t miss it.”
Anyhow, overwhelming Irish hospitality the night before didn’t feel great the next morning — in other words, I had my first hangover in the Guinness capital of the world and it didn’t feel half as pleasant as getting there.
But despite feeling like rubbish, I couldn’t cancel. This tour was a gift and I’m far too Canadian to not accept it, even if I could have slept for another three lifetimes.
So, I pulled myself out of bed the next morning after my persistent alarm clock rang three times; like the opposite of a pick-up bar this alarm clock would stop at nothing to get me out of bed.
I packed a surprisingly responsible day bag including bottled water, my camera, leather bound journal, two gala apples and my wallet literally bursting with European coins. I was starting to think I was getting the hang of traveling around a foreign country.
I left the Victorian-style apartment and the second the front door closed it started pouring rain. Of course, I was completely ill-dressed for the weather wearing Birkenstocks and a summer dress.
Easy enough, just go back and change?
Well, Grace and I were sharing one key to the apartment which I didn’t have. Call?
Can’t because my phone isn’t connected to European cell phone towers.
So, my only choice was to push on and make this dreaded bus tour. In the rain. In sandals. Hungover.
By the time I walked to the city bus, my hair was saturated and I was covered in a thick, cold film of rain.
In my defence, Dublin weather is known for being incredibly unpredictable and subject to change every ten minutes. Getting dressed in the morning may be one of the toughest decisions a person faces all day.
Preoccupied with self consciousness and physical discomfort I must have missed my stop. I asked the man behind me where the general downtown of Dublin was located.
“Are you going to a party?” he asked.
Am I going to a party? It’s not even 9 a.m. What kind of a question is that? And even if I was going to a party, I wouldn’t show up looking like a wet mop with a backpack and a camera strapped around my neck.
After realizing my vacuous blank stare was my response, he told me it was two stops back.
Immediately, I jumped off the bus and found myself standing in a derelict neighbourhood. Suddenly, all the quaint brick buildings and cobblestone walkways didn’t seem as charming as they did before.
I was about to start running to my stop when suddenly I froze. I didn’t even know which direction I was supposed to run.
Various profanities ran through my head and I asked three passers-by where Cornell Street was but nobody seemed to know.
I looked at my watch and it was 9 a.m., so I knew I’d already missed it. It was almost a moment of relief and then it dawned on me, the main street is called O’Connell Street, not Cornell Street. Where did I even get that?
At half nine I arrived — drenched, breathless and very late — at the right location. I had to go into a tourist shop glowing with green Irish paraphernalia and blaring aggressively whimsical Ceilidh music and explain my situation.
The two guys working there played up their Irish accents and for a moment I felt like Alice in Wonderland, in Ireland, being attacked by all-things-green. I wanted to puke, and not because of my hangover. However, apparently it’s not uncommon for tourists to get lost and I was able to exchange my ticket for the next day.
After that was figured out, I hit the first Starbucks I could find for a taste of North America. And free WiFi.
But in the end, the bus tour was incredible. We visited Glendalough’s Monastic City founded in the sixth century, toured through the vast Wicklow National Park and adventured in Kilkenny Castle majestically located on the banks of the River Nore.
And en route back to Dublin, as I gazed out the window lost in the rolling green hills and fluffy white sheep grazing in the countryside, I realized sometimes you have to lose yourself to find yourself.
— Candace Wu is on leave from her position as a reporter with The NEWS. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.