Traveling Abroad (Four) — May, 2013

There’s something inherently sad about the demise of a dream, whether it blows up or just fizzles into nothingness.

We Americans tend to think we corner the market on dreams.

That anything is possible, if we’ll just buckle down, persevere, hang tough.

There are reams of quotes to that effect.

But sometimes, things happen that are unplanned. Unforeseen.

And dreams, once held so tightly, shatter.

Not necessarily becoming nightmares, but close.

Our trip abroad was like that for me.

Hindsight is always twenty-twenty, but perhaps we should have done a better job pre-planning. Securing visitor brochures, booking hotels, familiarizing ourselves with transportation and food and the monetary system.

Perhaps Domer and I are too cheap to be world travelers. Or too solidly ingrained in home and routine.

Perhaps this was the wrong time for a trip. Too soon on the heels of commencement.

Perhaps we should have signed up for a group tour.

(Nah, we’re too independent for that!)

If it’d been me by myself, I’d have stuck it out. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.

No way would I readily admit failure. Defeat.

But this was Domer’s trip, and he was miserable. So I did what any parent would have done — whatever it took to make him un-miserable.

That meant swallowing my pride, shelling out a small fortune in cancellations and penalties, and accepting responsibility for the mistake.

But I can’t think of it as a mistake.

After all, we did see some beautiful countryside, we passed interesting-looking museums, and — short though it was — I was actually on Irish soil!

Nor did it rain all the time; in fact, we only got the briefest of mists our first day.

I haven’t lost a deep kinship with Ireland, the country of some of my forbears, either. And one day I hope to return — wiser and more organized.

Domer looks at me like I sprouted a pineapple on my head when I say that. Fine, let him grumble that our trip sucked, big time.

I disagree.

We came back with a new appreciation for our homeland. For Wal Mart, green beans, fruit salads, hamburgers, ice in drinks.

We understood what Dorothy did in The Wizard of Oz — “There’s no place like home.”

And we realized it’s a whole lot different being Irish-American than being Irish.

That, despite our our disparities, our aggravations and frustrations, the people of the USA — with their core beliefs in Freedom, Equality, Dignity, and Liberty — are strong and independent.

That our competitive spirit, free enterprise system, and a persistent belief in the goodness of mankind are valuable and honorable things.

That dreams — and the possibility of making one’s dreams come true — are worth holding onto.

And those are lessons every American needs to learn!

22 thoughts on “Traveling Abroad (Four) — May, 2013

  1. Debbie, you expressed yourself so beautifully in this post!

    “But I can’t think of it as a mistake.”

    Good for you! Because I personally don’t believe in mistakes. Sure, things might not turn out the way we planned or thought it would, but if we learned something…then they are not mistakes. They’re just an experience that we can look back on; knowing there was value in it.

    I haven’t traveled out of the States much, but like you, whenever I’ve returned I’ve learned that the US is not such a bad place. We tend to think it’s better somewhere else, but we find out that it’s not.

    ” ice in drinks.”

    OMG…yes! When I lived in Amsterdam for a summer (which I LOVED), I was so glad to get back to the States and have a coke with ICE in it!

    I’ve so enjoyed reading these posts of your trip. And I’m so glad to hear that you turned this experience around and found the valuable lessons.

    “We understood what Dorothy did in The Wizard of Oz — “There’s no place like home.”


    Have a super Saturday, dear lady!

  2. Isn’t it funny how we fixate on the least important things — like no ice in drinks?! That’s probably our logical brain trying to come up with rational excuses for the crybaby in us, the one who pouts that things aren’t to its liking so it’s going to pack up its toys and go home!

    Thanks for reading along on our trip, Ron. You’ve traveled w-a-a-y more than I have (and to such interesting places — Amsterdam?!!), so next time, I’ll shoot you an e-mail for suggestions BEFORE we depart!!

    I’ve cataloged these posts onto one page (, by the way, and the next time the Travel Bug bites, I plan on rereading them. You’re so right — “mistakes” is a harsh word, while “learning experiences” sounds more positive!

    Happy, Happy Weekend!!

  3. It wasn’t a mistake, you learned so much. It was a learning curve or learning experience. I am sorry it was such a costly one. My number one suggestion is to sign up for day tours–especially your first day. The leaders are generally very good, can answer your questions, and you see so much more than you would on your own. Another added plus is you avoid lines (as in the Sistine chapel can easily be a 4 hour wait if you go on your own) Pay the price for a good one. It’s worth it. Once you know the ropes, you can branch out for 1/2 day on your own with an afternoon or morning tour and soon you will be flying mostly solo. Bumming around a foreign city sounds far more fun than it ever is. I let our tour guides take care of us..and they did it beautifully–as in a bad bites in Italy all over my leg–our guide found me a pharmacy and told them what I needed. Tip your tour guide very generously.
    It’s always more expensive than your think it will be…always. In Ireland we thought the food was awful and very expensive. We grocery shopped (directed to a store by our tour guide) In Italy the food was expensive, but the markets were fabulous and we ate many a picnic dinner sitting by a fountain. Take some (I always take 100.00) in the currency of the place you are going.
    And finally go with a least of 3 things you won’t leave without seeing, and realize that for the most part Europe loves us –yes, even in Paris (my experience) Ching! Ching!
    Next time!! There is always next time! Oh, and the United States is one of my favorite places to travel… 😀 No place like home ♥

    • I knew I was forgetting something! In my haste (and pride!) I neglected to ASK those who’d been before me what lessons they’d learned, what things they’d recommend. Now I know! I’ve learned my lesson the hard way. It’s always prudent to prevail upon the knowledge of my friends.

      Thanks so much for your advice — I know you’d have been willing to give it beforehand, if I’d only asked. Sigh. Live and learn, huh?

      But golly, you’ve been to Paris? And the Sistine Chapel? Next time I get wanderlust, I’m just going to hole up in one of your suitcases and go along for the ride!!

  4. Love your attitude! When we feel like we’ve encountered failure and think it through and learn a lesson we turn it into a success. And if nothing else you and Domer had a few days of togetherness post graduation along with some lovely scenery! 🙂

    • Thanks, Suzi — yes, a few days of togetherness was definitely called for, after the hectic-ness of graduation! I just wish I’d had a window seat on the plane so I could’ve seen the beauty from the sky!

  5. I just can’t get past the vision of you with a pineapple on your head!

    I’ve been thinking about your trip a lot, and in a funny kind of way it reminds me of so many of the honeymoon horror stories I’ve heard. I’m not really plugged into the wedding set these days, but there clearly has been a trend down here for honeymoons to be delayed a bit. All of the chaos and emotion of the wedding leaves everyone drained – better to either go somewhere and just relax if you’re going right away, or put off real traveling until everyone is rested and recovered.

    I think you might be right that it was a little close to graduation. Both of you were pretty deeply involved in that – and you may have been more tired than you realized. That can make it tough to cope – I even have trouble coping with the cat when I’m really tired, let alone a foreign country!

    You’ll go again and it will be fine. And yes – there are all kinds of travel tips that others have to offer. I have a few myself. 😉

    And I NEVER will forget the day I was at a hotel beach in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and tried to get some iced tea. They really tried to figure it out – finally I got a pot of hot tea and a glass of ice. The Brits may be gone, but they’re not gone at all!

    • I take comfort in the fact that others understand, Linda. Yes, looking back, we shouldn’t have planned a big trip right on the heels of graduation; however, we had what we thought was the shortest of time between graduation and back-to-work (turns out, that time’s been extended a bit, but it won’t help salvage our trip now!).

      A pot of hot tea and a glass of ice?? Seriously? Oh, my golly, that’s too funny (though I can’t imagine seeing it so at the time!)

      You’re right — having never really experienced jet lag, I didn’t know what it would feel like. Probably should’ve just taken to bed and caught up before making major decisions!

  6. Lack of ice in drinks is something I can totally relate to! Even when I’d ask them to fill the cup with ice, I was lucky to get two ice cubes to rub together in the hopes of creating baby ice cubes. But please don’t discount the idea of taking a tour. It’s better than you think and the one I took gave us quite a bit of down time, time on our own to go exploring. It really is best of both worlds.

    When we traveled last summer it was on our own, but we did tons of research and I went through a travel agency to help me plan our four-city tour. It was fine (though we too had problems as mentioned in an earlier comment), but I did miss the comfort of the tour, in which they took care of everything.

    What you say about Americans and America is true. Trust me, I had many of the same feelings you had when I was there last summer, missing some of the simple things we have here. But also remember when you go to another country, it’s like being a guest at a friend or relative’s home. They do things differently and as guests, we need to adjust to their way. And I agree, there’s no place like home. There’s something to be said for the “Stay-cation.” Or at least, going some place closer to home.

    • Thanks for empathizing, Monica. A tour — with a schedule of activities and some down time — is sounding better and better. I thought we were ready to be guests, to embrace all things Irish for a few days — but the jet lag is something you just can’t plan for (and sadly, we didn’t take it into consideration). If we’d been able to check into the first hotel, perhaps things wouldn’t have gone downhill so fast. After all, the location was perfect, right in the heart of the city, and catching up on some zzzz’s would have made a big difference. Then, too, I really wanted to see the countryside, yet we had no clue how to do that. I should’ve ordered more brochures and tourism items. Live and learn, huh?!

  7. Good for you being willing to find some valuable lessons and silver linings in the dark cloud of your trip. I guess it’s human nature for us to face every new experience with expectations of success and happiness. But the inevitable reality is that things WILL go wrong. It proves your strength of spirit that you are willing to accept it for what it was and not seeing the experience as a defeat. I hope you do someday get to go again, better prepared, and enjoy Ireland like you’ve imagined you would.

    • Oh, Terri, yes, I do want to go back! Poor Domer says his traveling days are over, but I think that’s just exasperation talking. He’s young, and I imagine he’ll find friends who want him to join them — and he’ll go and have a blast! Me? I think a tour sounds like the way to travel abroad. Something where they’ve already pre-booked accommodations and meals and attractions, leaving some free time to explore on one’s own or in small groups.

  8. I admire you for being about to not let the experience ruin your dream. I’m afraid I would’ve chucked the dream before hopping on the plane back home and I’d vow to never, ever go there again! I do hope you are able to go back again and find the travel much more enjoyable 🙂

    • Domer’s with you, Janna. He says his traveling days — abroad, at least — are over. I guess I’m just a hopeless optimist (or maybe simply thick-headed!) in believing there will be a next time, and it will be wonderful!

  9. Debbie, this is such a great post! I love how you’ve chosen to see the positive side of this trip and turned the negative aspects of it into a wonderful learning lesson! Good for you! I think you should return to Ireland some day, if only to apply all that you’ve learned! Besides, I don’t know of anyone who got everything right the first time! On a side note, it’s funny but I don’t think I haven’t been served ice while living in Europe! I wonder why that happens to some and not to others. My point is that it’s different for everyone and I’m sure next time will be a whole new kind of wonderful for you! Chin up, lady! 🙂 Oh, and for the record, think of this trip as your way of providing Domer with a story he’ll be telling his grandkids some day! 🙂

    • To hear Domer tell it, you’d think we both were nuts to go in the first place! I think our biggest problem was that neither of us planned much of anything — we didn’t really have time, with the trip coming so close on the heels of graduation.

      But I fully intend to go back to Ireland. There are so many things I want to see and do, so many pictures I want to take, so much of its beauty I want to absorb. I think a tour might be the best solution, though. Something that will make the arrangements ahead of time, but allow sufficient time for interesting side trips.

      You got ice? All the time? Hmm, now I’m starting to wonder if we had to request that, too!

      • Debbie, I think a tour would be the safest and easiest way to travel if you are alone. It might also be a good way to meet interesting people. Although you might also find some to be irritating and annoying! (It’s happened to the Significant Other and me! hee hee!). But no worries because think of the blog fodder! Yay! 🙂

        • We ALWAYS think of blog fodder, don’t we, my friend?! Whether good things happen to us, or not-so-good, seems that writers just naturally feel a need to process them and then share!!

  10. I enjoyed reading your travel saga. It’s quite different from my married daughter and her husband who just came back from Ireland and loved it. Insist my husband and I should go. It looks lovely and green and they stayed in Marriott castles using her husband’s kazillion Marriott points after flying using his oodles of frequent flyer miles. Thanks to his job where he travels almost constantly. Back to Ireland. No wonder they enjoyed it. Their only costs were the rental car they drove everywhere so no need for buses or taxis, and food. Or attractions, souvenirs, and such. I’m thinking they had no excuse not to enjoy it. Oh to be so lucky. Glad ya’ll appreciate the homeland more. I like it too.

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