Circumstances of work and travel brought me to the dilemma of having an 18 hour layover in Dublin, Ireland. As I saw it, the perfect opportunity to explore this little pocket of the world. A whirlwind adventure later, I can’t say I regretted any moment of it.
My plane landed in Dublin around 6pm. My customs officer seemed a bit surprised to encounter a female traveling solo. Nevertheless, I quickly passed inspection and made my way to the bus stop. I rode a classic red double decker bus down into Dublin proper. Later, I realized the hostel had a complimentary airport shuttle too.
Promptly after disembarking from my cute double decker bus, I crossed into the street and almost got flattened by another one! I forgot that people drive on the opposite side of the road here. Shaken, I rolled my wheely suitcase safely down the sidewalk. I crossed over a few blocks (looking both ways) and headed towards my hostel to check in. Time to scope out where I’d be sleeping that night.
A bit overwhelmed, I entered the little neighborhood my hostel called home. Temple Bar brimmed full of eclectic Irish eateries and pubs, flags, flower boxes — and people. Since this was my first time solo in a new city, my senses were on high alert for potential threats. And yet, the sense of openness and possibility thrilled me. For the next 16 hours, it was completely up to me to make the most of my time. Finally, I stepped inside the narrow door to my hostel.
After getting acquainted with the hostel, I faced the big decision of my trip. I could either go out on a bar crawl with others from my hostel and experience the sights and sounds of Temple Bar neighborhood in the evening… Or, I could go explore the seaside village of Howth and revel in rugged coastal views and tranquil meadows at sunset. What would you have chosen?
Hopping on the first train to Howth, I found an empty seat by the window. To my complete bewilderment, a rowdy group of kids soon planted into the seats immediately surrounding mine. I felt oddly stuck between the window and some Dubliners with a case of beer. Clearly they’d been drinking; unless it’s common for groups of young people to get on the train and start singing off-key Irish top 40 at the top of their lungs. But there was this one girl with them, singing equally as badly, and for some reason they struck me as relatively harmless. Interesting and potential troublemakers, but harmless nonetheless. I talked to them for a while and then they departed for whatever beckoned them that Monday evening.
I made it to Howth around 8pm that evening and began exploring the dreamy coastal village. While it seems late, the sun doesn’t actually set until 10pm during the summer. Plenty of light to work with, to my pleasant surprise. Painted in bright pastels, the row houses reminded me a bit of my home back in South Carolina. The road followed along the sea, weaved up a small hill, yielding eventually to gravel and dirt. A low wooden fence marked the beginning of the Cliff Walk.
I encountered very few people on the trail, since it was so late in the day. The gulls soaring on cliffside thermals far outnumbered us. The cliff path meandered through tall grasses while skirting a sharp dropoff to the sea thousands of feet below. The breeze tasted salty and crisp. In the lulls, I could hear the sea lions laughing and barking far below. Slowly, the light turned my favorite golden color. I came into view of a distant lighthouse as a lone horseback rider clip-clopped up the trail behind me. It was absolutely gorgeous and I knew I’d made the right decision.
I felt extremely skeptical about traveling solo before my trip to Dublin. However, stepping outside my comfort zone and experiencing Dublin was completely worth it. Most of all, I wouldn’t have been able to see Ireland any other way. As a dear friend of mine always says, life is what you make it. Choose to make it an adventure.