So here we are in Edinburgh, Scotland. Almost one month in. That’s a lunar cycle. The days it takes to break a habit or commit to a routine. In other words, we’re 30 days into our current life.
We’re now sleeping in and staying up late. Our alarm is set mainly on travel days and we are productive in our respective means when we want to be. Carpe-ing the diem is how we breathe now and I’ve got to admit: it’s a dream and a nuisance.
If living this way is how I now breathe, then I feel like I’m relearning how to get oxygen to my lungs. I get to see wonderful, beautiful history. Listen to different, intriguing accents and see love, ignorance, and wittiness in completely different forms. But difference is exhaustive. I see road signs that mean nothing to me, people driving on the opposite side of the road, simple questions are seemingly indecipherable.
When on a day trip to the north of Ireland, our tour guide was teasing the way we–Americans–actually pronounced our vowels. “What cler are er crats?” he quickly asked. “Oh, I’m sorry. I mean, “What color are your carrots?” He stated, elongating every vowel. In his gentle tease, he was educating us as to how orange carrots came about. Check this out: in the 1600’s, carrots were white, yellow, and purple. But orange carrots were cultivated and eventually wiped out all other colored carrots in a single generation (due to politics about some rise of independence and a guy named William the Orange). We learned this fascinating tidbit when visiting Carrickfergus Castle just north of Belfast.
Getting teased didn’t bother me in the slightest. Irish jive in the good-natured jesting of others and I’m happy to report I’ve repeatedly was able to be a butt in their cultural jokes. But seeing castles for the first time or 500+ year old neighborhoods or drinking a pint in a bar established sometime in the 18th century is mind boggling. My eyes, brain, and heart are overwhelmed by the differences I see. I’m gasping at the breadth of the world and trying to fill my lungs with newness everyday.
It is, simply, extraordinary. And severely draining.
You say “toilets” instead of “bathroom/restroom”. Most restaurants use a 2-course or 3-course system. Pubs exist for “pints and conversation” so they don’t serve food. At best, you can buy ‘crisps’ (we’d call them ‘potato chips’). Plumbing works a little differently and there is more air in the pipes than we see in America. Most places have a washer but no dryer. You hang everything on a clothesline or a “clothes horse”–that’s a “clothing rack” for the uninitiated. Street signs are attached to buildings, they are not on street corners. Walls made of stone are commonplace–they are seriously everywhere–and make up many buildings, fences, shoreline blockades, medians on highways, or arches. These countries have more arches than I’ve ever seen!
We also cook in different spaces, sleep on different beds, memorize a different city’s directions every few days. We fall asleep as soon as the lights go out!
But my favorite, favorite, part about all of these differences and changes to my life: I get to feel like a kid again!
Sure, it’s exhausting. We’re the new kids at school everywhere we go. Someone’s got a story I haven’t heard before and are eating a lunch I never dreamed possible. It’s awkward and I’m self-conscious about looking the fool, but at least it’s NOT “same-ole-same-ole.”
We went to Adare, Ireland on a whim. And stumbled upon this awesome 14th century Old Augustinian Friary! This gorgeous place was also known as the “Black Abbey”. Lucky for us, we happened to be the only ones around at the time we explored it. I was so excited to go through and check it out I could barely contain myself.
“Danielle, get this picture over here! I want it to include that archway over there!”
Danielle pleasantly endured the absurd amount of photos I asked–ahem–her to take and then I just enjoyed letting my imagination go wild as to what kind of world this place was built for. I touched everything. smelled the air like I was hunting for an escaped history, and listened to the wind echo in the spaces around me. I nervously leered into shadowy corners because, what in the world of Carmen Sandiego could be lurking in the shadows of a 700 year old building? I don’t know but I was curiously, hopefully, scared that nothing and something would happen.
I came to Europe with plenty of expectations neatly packed in my backpack. I even thought that if I knew I should be expecting something, it absolutely meant I was prepared for it. Hogwash. Absolute malarkey. Fiddlesticks. This journey is surprise, confusion, inspiration, exhilaration and taxation all at once. It’s living.
On our day trip to Northern Ireland we visited Giant’s Causeway for two hours. That has been my absolutely favorite place to go since we departed the eastern shores of America. Our tour guide had a wonderful, Irish folk tale as to how the Causeway came into existence. I wouldn’t do it justice at all but it had something to do with a giant Scotsman breaking a bridge up into pieces. The scientific story is roughly: due to volcanic eruption, rapidly cooling basalt rocks created naturally forming interlocking columns forming hexagonal shapes. Now, I don’t really even understand that sentence, but I climbed over every rock and jumped from columns onto other columns. I tried to go to the places no other tourist attempted and I snickered at my own mischievous nature as I peeked over, through and around a crop of rocks. I made Danielle and I take goofy pictures together. I laughingly raced myself across the fissures at an almost dangerous pace. Smart? No. Childish? Ch-yeah!!
So! We’re a month in! We’re currently housesitting a black cat who hisses in our direction every time we happen to be within four feet of the damn thing. Her name is Kittles. Should be Shittles. I’ve got laundry hanging on a clothes horse, I’m using a wacky universal adaptor to plug my laptop in, I have Euros, pounds, and U.S. dollars in my wallet, I’m drinking a wine called Jacob’s Creek from southern Australia, and I’ve got this view from our apartment:
A month in and I can barely believe I took the same bus route to work or cooked the same meals as consistently as I did. It was a different kind of tired. It was a life where so many other things exhausted me. I didn’t feel like I had a choice for another way of living.
But now that I’m here, what will the next month bring? Will I be tired? Will I be nervous? Will I be laughing? Will I be scared? Will I eat something weird and spectacular or delicious yet daunting? Who will tell me something to get my worldview spinning? What brilliant design, architecture, or artist design that will blow my freaking mind? I dunno. Let’s find out!