The next logical step was to begin informing others of my scheme to skip town and head across the pond for a spell. For their part, my friends and family were supportive if not somewhat confused about the motivations.
"Oh, really?" my mother had said to me when told what I was planning. "Isn't that something."
She was nodding her head the way you might nod to a homeless man at the gas station who takes a break from screaming at the light pole to inform you he was once the president of Tarjickistan.
"I think so," I said.
"So, what are you going for?"
"Just to travel around I guess."
"I mean, what do you want to do when you're there?"
"I just want to see things. Experience something different. Just figure it out as I go really."
"Oh, I see. Well, what do you need to figure out? What are you looking for? When was the last time you went to church?"
"No, Just figure out the details of the trip as I go is all. Not me as a person. Well, maybe to figure out something about myself as well I suppose."
"You're haven't been going to church have you?"
Each person I told's initial interest in the trip itself was nearly always bookended with another question. They wanted to know with whom I would be braving this endeavor.
When I said no one, I was met universally with the kind of look a person gives when they have farted at work, but suspect they may have shit their pants a bit.
It was difficult for them understand or possibly imagine themselves striking out in an unknown country where they could not speak the language and did not know where to get their morning coffee without someone alongside to blame the whole jumbled mess on.
I do not pass along their dismay as a point of pride in my own bravery. Quite the opposite. Instead of feeling like Bear Grylls ready to pee on my shirt and wear it as a hat should the situation arise, I began to wonder if I wasn't more like Mr. Bean foolishly floundering in the deep end of natural selection.
Was their worry for me traveling alone just a thoughtful concern or was I in for legitimate danger? I wouldn't really know until I went.
The other avenue this conversation usually traveled was that of suggestion. Everyone had some place in Europe they have planned to journey to since they saw it on the Travel Channel in college while taking a break from assembling their mail-order futon and somehow me stopping over there would help alleviate their own pang of wanderlust.
"What parts?" my friend Dave asked when he learned of my trip.
"I'm going to start in Ireland and then bounce around the U.K. a bit. After that, I'm not so sure," I said.
"But, like, where else?"
"Oh, like I said I don't know really. Paris I'd imagine. Then maybe pull out the map and see what train's headed where and what I feel like."
"Aw man, you know where you should go? Fucking Amsterdam, man. You should go to fucking Amsterdam."
"Yeah I heard the Rijksmuseum is worth the trip itself."
"What's the Rejectsmuseum?"
"The Rijksmuseum. It's the Dutch national museum. It's in Amsterdam. The Night Watch is kept there and also some paintings by Rembrandt and a couple by..."
"No, no, no. That's not why I said you should go to Amsterdam. You should..."
"Yeah Dave, I got it. I know that's not why you suggested it. Somewhere between the Grateful Dead sticker on the back of your van and your love of frisbee, I could venture the intent behind your pitch for Amsterdam was more due to it's looser legal interests."
"Oh. Uh, yeah," Dave responded, apparently studying some point beyond the wall on the far side of the room. "I think that's what I meant."
|A typical "coffee shop" in Amsterdam. A place Dave might never leave |
if he happened ever make it the the Netherlands.
The other thing I would have to consider would be what to bring along. My recent alarm at traveling solo caused me to consider first which weapons I thought could most easily be smuggled through airport security. After I briefly pondered the legal ramifications of mailing myself a machete to retrieve when I arrived in Ireland, I decided to take my chances unarmed.
Because I don't like lists and the people who create them to explain things, I'll be brief but paragraphic.
I settled on taking a mid-sized GoLite hiking pack that weighed just over two pounds, about three days worth of clothes (breathable hiking shirts and pants), a couple of guidebooks, a map, a nifty travel towel that could be wrung dry each day with ease or so the delightful traveler on the packaging made it appear, a camera, flip-flops, three empty composition journals, a passport, a travel wallet that can be looped through a belt and flipped inside your pants to prevent pick-pocketing (something that was apparently a more prevalent danger in Europe than quicksand was in Saturday morning cartoons), sunglasses, a rain jacket, a credit card, and assorted toiletries.
I write that to write this - there was simply no room for the machete.