I’ve spent the past 6 days in a small seaside town on Ireland’s west coast. To escape my dear, dirty Dublin, I set out for somewhere remote where I could be alone. This place truly has it all; a beautiful coastline and a mountain a stone’s throw from the hostel. As it turned out, I wasn’t alone though. Aside from myself, there were two other travelers at the hostel, along with 4 staff members from all over the world. I had dreamed of complete solitude, like the time I spent in Miltown Malbay a year ago where I was seemingly the hostel’s only soul. I took walks alone, read at the bar, and talked to the locals and bartender when I felt like being social. This lack of isolation wasn’t unpleasant though. It was quite the opposite.
Meeting other travelers makes me think about a lot of things. It’s almost as if over the years I’ve been conducting a qualitative study of people, mapping out common themes and trends in our conversations. I have much in common with these individuals; the most striking similarity I find is the idea that we’re all running, all searching for something unknown to ourselves but at the same time certain of its existence. I wouldn’t say we’re flawed, as running away carries a negative connotation, but rather looking to fill a deeper well of life within ourselves. The people I meet are multidimensional, thoughtful, introspective. We have full and rich conversations that stimulate my mind and make me feel philosophical, reaching new epiphanies. Because I feel so close to these new friends, it’s always a bittersweet moment when we part, each off to our own new pursuits.
I was supposed to return to Dublin today but decided to stay another day. I can’t bear to leave this place yet. Dublin, for me, represents the bars of a dirty cage, one that prevents me from flying freely. I feel stifled and act recklessly because of it. Facing this reality today was too difficult. But, the group I had spent my Christmas with, eating delicious meals, watching Christmas movies, drinking and laughing with, was disbanding. I lamented this fact with my fellow hostelmate, an older Danish women named Ulla. Rather than agreeing with me, she turned slowly to me as we sat side by side on the couch in the common room.
“Why would you be sad about things being different? Nothing can stay the same. Life is like a river, you can’t step in the same place twice.”
It made me think of the song from Pocahontas which, although featured in children’s movie, holds a lot of wisdom. The river of life is certainly always changing and flowing. But I suppose in this moment, I am content. It’s a feeling I savor when it comes around, as it’s not a frequent state of being. I wanted these people, this still life in time, to stay around for a little bit longer. But Ulla is right, it’s not something to be upset about.
This Christmas has been simple, but in its simplicity it has been everything. There were no elaborate gifts or parties, just good conversations with great people who have added beautiful lines to the story of my life. Experiences such as these give me a renewed sense of hope, of being blessed beyond words; sitting on the soft dunes by the sea, surrounded by mountains, watching a sunset is when I’m reminded of the beauty that exists in this very ugly world.
Heading back to Dublin tomorrow, I feel renewed to face a new year, with new goals, challenges, paths. I will step into that river aware of its changing landscape, and I will not regret what is past.