I made a very important decision when the ball dropped this January: 2016 is going to be my year. It took 26 years to allocate one just to me, so I figured I’d better take the offer while I was still feeling generous. I was 2 weeks into my first year at college when the relationship I was in ended suddenly and mysteriously. My college work and diet/fitness really suffered for quite some time after that. The predictable ‘drink, die, repeat’ lifestyle took over and I soon grew tired of that craic. Hindsight has shown me that being hungover and broke all the time doesn’t really lay a great foundation to build yourself back up on.
This was the first time in 5 years that I had nothing holding me back from doing what I wanted and i was going to take full advantage. I was fresh out of another toxic relationship, had very flexible work hours and an eagerness to seek happiness.
My first adventure took me to Edinburgh on New Years Eve to see Biffy Clyro with my very good friend Conor. 24hrs of pure divilment was the only item on our itinerary. I’d never had New Years off before and I couldn’t think of a more perfect way to spend it. We didn’t even bother booking a place to stay. Figured no great stories ever came from planning things. We were right, obviously! We acted like teenagers the entire time we were there and had a fucking great time! Managed to even sneak in to the pit and got situated 10 feet away from the stage without being caught. Got invited back to a creepy ass house party but opted to sleep in the airport instead. Stab wounds don’t really make great souvenirs.
Soon after getting home, I’d started chatting with Michelle. Tinder’s finest! I decided to check out Ryanair’s site just to see if there were any cheap flights for the craic while we were chatting one evening. I was itching to get away again. To cut a long story short, I would be meeting Michelle for the very first time in 10 days. At the airport; bound for Berlin. Sounds pretty crazy, but the idea of it alone was just so bonkers that it had to work, right? And besides, who wants to go to the cinema on a Tinder date anyways?! Turned out to be such a great trip! She’s such a gorgeous, fun,bubbly person; got on even better than I’d expected! My friends Kevin and Megan just so happened to be on the same flight, so we met up with them for a few drinks after a day of sightseeing and acting the eejit. It was a hard place to leave!
March would introduce me to Belgium. Dundalk’s very own beautiful Canadian vagabond, Bri, had been planning a trip and with very little persuasion, my flight was booked. Bri would be starting in Amsterdam while I would be meeting her in Brussels. Fate would have it that she would miss her bus to Brussels which left me with an entire day to kill on my own. This would be my first taste of the food for the soul that is: solo travel. After wandering aimlessly through that gorgeous maze, I eventually joined a tour group, sampling all the best sights and beers that the city had to offer. Such a fun way to meet people! Later that evening, Bri somehow managed to track down a very drunk Gabe and the adventure continued once again. We even saw a man baby. Baby man? I’m not sure. Picture an angry toddler with a beard.
It was on the flight home that I had realised that I had been to 3 new countries within the first 3 months of 2016. A pattern which I had grown to love. That was it. I had decided. Over the 12 short months of this year, I will see 12 countries I’ve never seen before. The goal that i needed to set myself and stick to was set.
One could easily read this little story and see a romanticised view of travel and adventure, when in reality I was medicating. I never thought depression would be a part of my life, but that bastard kicked my door down and stuck the kettle on. Fucker didn’t even bring biscuits! It didn’t even dawn on me until I had to do an assignment for our Personal Development module. I basically just had to take a personality test and talk shite about myself for a few paragraphs, but I just opened up. Told my life story to a lecturer I hadn’t seen in 3 months. Things I hadn’t told anyone. It really helped. Maybe that stupid class wasn’t so pointless after all…I won’t bore you with the details, but it mainly broke down to financial issues and a betrayal of trust. It had gotten to the point where I just stopped caring about anything and lost all motivation. I stopped going to class, stopped exercising, stopped looking after myself, stopped eating healthily, stopped seeing friends and barely left my room. But whenever I stepped off a plane into the unknown, all of that went away. I was outgoing again. Eager to get up in the morning. Eager to meet new people. Eager to be me. All for the price of skipping two shit nights out in the local. No brainer. In saying all that, my parents are fantastic. They wouldn’t think twice about helping me out financially or supportively if my pride didn’t bite my tongue for me.
My trip to Rome last week was my first major learning curve. My first fully solo adventure. It was on a party bus that I met Jacquelyne. A beautiful American girl who is probably one of the most driven people I’ve ever met. She served in the military, earned a masters degree, runs her own company and there she was, out seeing the world. Reading her blog on her experience there was what inspired me to write this pile of words. As well as a suggestion from my aunt, Theresa. I’ll link it below somewhere when I figure out what blogging is. She basically said to ignore the norms of society in terms of when the right time is to put your life on standby. Not to be pressured into starting a family or sacrificing your happiness for the sake of others. It really resonated with me. The goal I set myself no longer seemed to bear as much weight. I’m still going to travel as often as I can. Not for another notch on this international (metaphorical) bedpost, but for the wonderful experiences they bring. For there will be no prize at the end of this adventure when 2017 pokes it’s head in the door, because each trip is in itself it’s own reward. I haven’t really kept in touch with the brilliant people I’ve befriended on my travels, but that’s ok, because I know I’ll never forget them. It is their involvement alone that have turned my story from a drama into a comedy. Maybe even a lighthearted coming of age story at a push. Like if Stand By Me had a happy ending. Can’t really remember, haven’t seen it in years.
You’re probably thinking “this bollocks just said he was skint, how the fuck is away on holidays every 5 minutes, then?!”. Understandable. But rest assured, I’m still broke as shit. I stopped going out for the mostpart. Put an end to the cycle of drunken happiness to miserably hungover. By not drinking here with the same faces in the same bars with their same stories, I can afford to do my drinking elsewhere. Simple as. A flight to Berlin costs less than a taxi to Dundalk. Now who’s the bollocks?! As well as that, I think I’d rather be skint in a café overlooking the Brandenburg Gate than sat here listening to two aul lads fart and argue over the price of cattle.
If you can take anything from this story, I hope it is this: sometimes happiness comes with a pricetag. Stop paying for temporary happiness and invest in experiences that will stay with you forever. Walk into the unknown and don’t be afraid to do it alone. Don’t wait for your friends to have a week off. Don’t get high on alcopops on some fenced off holiday resort in skin cancerville. Go. See things. Do things. Come back a richer person. A healthy mind is a wealthy mind. Fuck your bank account. There are 6 billion other people on this blue dot of ours. Only takes one of them to leave a positive mark. A notch on your international bedpost.
Link to Jacqulyne’s post: http://www.thediybridalnetwork.com/diy-wedding-planning-tips-advice-and-inspiration/2016/5/20/italy-time-travel-and-marriage