By Kalina Davis
For years I dreamed of gracefully skipping through the rolling green hills of Ireland that I saw in movies and photographs. Unfortunately, things don’t always turn out the way you imagine them. There I was in those rolling green hills, but instead of majestically frolicking, I was running. And not just a pleasant jog. I was in a mad dash, arms flailing in the air, hair whipping around in my face and sticking to my lipstick, purse bouncing off my hip. Not exactly the picture perfect moment I had been hoping for…
My roommate, Alli, and I had less than 48 hours to spend in the beautiful country of Ireland. Wanting to make the most of our time there, we booked a day tour that would take us to various destinations around Ireland, including the picturesque Cliffs of Moher. Our tour guide and bus driver for the trip strongly reminded me of what I imagined a leprechaun to be like, a cheerful, ginger man, singing and telling stories during the entire journey. It was a cloudy day, and rain drizzled down from time to time. To our disappointment, when we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher, a thick fog had settled down, making it impossible to see the cliffs and the water below. Not wanting the weather to ruin our experience, our tour guide gave us an alternative. He told us that if the fog cleared up, we would stay at the cliffs for the whole hour. But if it didn’t clear up, we would only stay for a half-hour, and then he would take us to some other cliffs that would not be affected by the fog. He warned everyone to be back at the bus on time. After this decision was agreed upon, Alli and I set off to explore the area.
I was pretty disappointed that we had come all that way to see these famous cliffs only to have the weather ruin our plans. Alli and I walked around, hoping that the fog would clear up just long enough to get a couple of good pictures. To our amazement and joy, the fog began to lift. We were ecstatic, going into instant photo shoot mode and taking 50 pictures a minute. The scene before us was truly breathtaking. We followed the edge of the cliffs, singing and laughing and enjoying the experience. Because the fog had cleared up a little, we figured we had the full hour to explore. After checking the time, we decided to head back a little early just to make sure we got to the bus in good time. When we could see the parking lot, we noticed a bus with its headlights on.
“Is that our bus?” Alli asked.
“I don’t think so,” I said. “And even if it is, I bet people are just starting to come back now.”
“Wouldn’t it be funny if they left us behind?” she asked, and we laughed at the thought.
Even so, we picked up our pace a little, and continued towards the parking lot. When we got a little closer, we could tell that it was indeed our bus that was running. Again, we started walking a little faster. But to our horror, while we were still a distance away, the bus honked twice, and started to slowly pull away. We looked at each other in shock, and without saying a word, began to run as fast as we could down the hill and towards the parking lot.
“Wait for us!”
Screaming and waving our arms like madmen, we tried to get the tour guide’s attention as we ran. I did not even want to consider the real possibility of us being left behind there, with no resources and hours away from our hostel in Dublin. Fortunately, the bus was still moving slowly in the parking lot, and we finally caught up with it. However, it kept driving. We ran alongside the bus, shouting and waving our arms in the air, trying to desperately get the bus to stop. Finally, our tour guide stopped the bus to let us on. When we got inside, the rest of the tour group started clapping for us in an exaggerated applause.
“There they are!” one man said from the back of the bus with a chuckle.
“I told you we would leave with or without everyone on the bus,” our tour guide said with a gleam in his eye.
Apparently, even though the fog had cleared up a little, it had not been enough to stay for the whole hour. And apparently everyone had known that except for Alli and me, and the rest of the group had been waiting for us for quite some time. To further our embarrassment, we found out that while we were running madly alongside the bus, our tour guide had been narrating the scene like it was a horse race.
“The blonde is taking the lead! Oh wait! Now the brunette is coming along the left side!”
Everyone gave us a hard time for the rest of the day, and every time we would be ready to leave somewhere, at least one person would ask, “Do we have the American girls?”
We had made fools of ourselves that day. I had not been the classy and sophisticated Irish queen I had imagined myself to be. It would have been easy to let the humiliation of the situation affect our enjoyment of the day. But the humorous and lighthearted reaction of our tour guide and the rest of the group reminded us that it’s okay to make mistakes and look stupid sometimes. Because of their gracious response, we were able to laugh at ourselves, and that day has become one of my favorite memories.
When you travel, you are bound to make mistakes and look foolish at some point. Traveling puts you in a situation where everything is foreign and new, so it is expected that you’re not always going to have it all together or know what you’re doing. So it’s okay to look like a fool sometimes. A few days before going to Ireland, someone casually said the phrase “take it easy” to me. I know this is just a common phrase, but it stood out to me and stuck with me for the rest of my travels. It reminded me to not always take life so seriously; to loosen up a little, and enjoy life and the experiences it brings you. It was this phrase that was going through my mind the day after the Cliffs of Moher incident when Alli and I were again running like maniacs. This time we were running through the Dublin airport, desperately trying to make it to our gate before it closed. Luggage was hanging off every part of me, and I was holding my pants up with one hand because I did not have time to put my belt back on after going through security. Again we looked like complete fools because we had pushed our time too close. After we had miraculously got onto the plane and into our seats, I took a deep breath, and reminded myself to take it easy.
When you travel, don’t expect yourself to always have it together. When you make mistakes, don’t take it too seriously. Keep it lighthearted and learn to laugh at yourself. It’s okay if you accidentally get on the wrong bus. It’s okay if you are desperately lost and look completely out of place. It’s okay if you didn’t know that piccante means spicy in Italian, and you find yourself with a whole plate to struggle through with watery eyes and a flaming tongue. It’s these moments that add spice to your travel experience and make the best memories.
So the next time you find yourself in an embarrassing or frustrating situation while you’re traveling, take a deep breath and relax. Just go with the flow and enjoy the memories that come out of it. Take it easy.
Go Travel, and Travel Fearless.
Andi Brown, Once in a Lifetime Travel
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