As our tour bus pulls into the Galway station one last time, sorrow emerges into the front of my mind. It was only forty minutes before our bus back to Dublin arrives did Michael make the decision to accompany us there. The three of us decided to use our last moments in Galway to do some reminiscing, because we all had the feels. A burst of deep orange exploded in the western part of the periwinkle sky, the sun was giving us quite a farewell as we approached our charming hostel one last time. As I walked past the receptionist desk, I exchanged a glance between the empty seat and my spot on the staircase. I smiled fondly at the ghosts that would forever exist there, harboring warm memories of perfect strangers and life changing experiences.
The last sunset I saw in Galway, from the hostel window
After Michael was done packing up his things, the three of us decided to do what felt best in that moment, as I think we all needed comfort to heal our post Galway sorrows. We cuddled. I was tucked into Michael’s left arm and Miranda was comfortably snuggled into his right, our bodies sprawled out on the floor of the hostel. We laid there in silence, staring at the ceiling, surrounded by sterile white bunks. There was no need to speak, because I think we understood each other’s thoughts and feelings in that moment. In a strange way, it was one of the most beautiful moments in my life. It was pure human connection, it almost felt instinctual. We simply enjoyed each other’s company, which prolonged the post travel blues successfully. I appreciated the affection tremendously, even with someone who was a stranger only 24 hours ago. After traveling, for almost a month, I had forgotten this comfort and how reassuring it was.
I was overwhelmed with appreciation in this unexpected moment, thankful for my best friend who doubled as my free-spirited travel sidekick. Thankful for the magic we had experienced. Thankful for the outstanding people I had met: Matt and Stephen, Sean, Sam and Jenny, Michael, and of course, Zach. Lastly, thankful for my new outlook on life. The expanded horizons. The understanding I had of going to the edge, looking at a sea of chaos and beauty. Understanding that fear is necessary, it’s a driver as much as it is a weight. Thankful to be alive, in more than one way. As our time of departure out of Galway approached, we hoisted our backpacks on, hugged each other, and snapped a photo in the mirror. We were just a few rolling stones, living with uncertainty, but flooded with passion.
Post cuddles, three backpackers ready to hit the road one more time, our hearts boasting of love and adventure.
Miranda and I leaned our heads back against the uncomfortable seats of our Aer Lingus flight as the engines fired up. Eyes bloodshot and hair frazzled, we stared quietly out of the window. I felt tears welling up in my eyes as the plane started to move forward. I looked at Miranda, she understood without me having to say much. I admired her ability to detach so easily from things but I envied it all the same, wishing I was better at it. Despite her powers of separation, I think even she was overcome by a feeling of sorrow as the plane lifted off. “I’ve been to 25 countries, I’ve seen and done amazing things, but there’s been nothing like Ireland” she spoke softly. I continued to let my tears fall as a response. I thought about dancing the night away at The Front Door, biking freely through the Aran Islands, peeking my nose over the edges of the Cliffs of Moher, and I thought about Zach and our brief yet beautiful encounter. The plane began to lift into the air, but I felt my heart sink. I watched through blurry eyes as the landscape disappeared beneath the silver clouds, taking a piece of me with it.
Life involves inevitable sacrifice. Sometimes, we’re unaware of it. It’s in the form of a trade-off, a bargain, a compromise. We sacrifice our happiness, our dreams, our passions, often for our roles in reality. I didn’t realize that post travel depression was actually a thing until I was in the car on the way home from the airport. I was hit with a wave of sorrow as I looked out the window at traffic, litter and stagnant suburbia. It was only a few hours later I found out that the break my boyfriend wanted to take was over, permanently, as he broke up with me over Facebook and I never heard from him again. I went back to being a cashier the next day, trying to remember the codes for carrots and collard greens but my mind was consumed by wanderlust. Thoughts of Zach lingered for quite some time after my return. I wondered what he was up too, if he thought about me, but mostly, I wondered why I met him. Why does life tease us like this?
Although it took me some time to understand, I learned one of lifes greatest lessons after my return. Don’t be sad it’s over, be happy it happened. My sorrow blossomed into cherishment, my anxiousness to appreciation. The sweet overcame the bitter. My heart felt warm at the thought of my time in Galway, the souls I met becoming significant pieces that I needed for my complicated jigsaw puzzle. I realized each person had a particular role in my life. Zach and I had such a brief encounter that it seemed unfair, and we may never see each other again. But, at least we met. I wouldn’t trade a moment of it in for the world. He was a teacher in life’s classroom, he opened my eyes when I had been in a slumber of settling for less than what I deserve. He reminded me that passion exists somewhere in the world, and I will forever be thankful for that.I’m so happy it happened. I’ve realized it’s okay to turn your head every now and then to look behind you and give a sweet smile at a memory, to admire a setting sun, to acknowledge an ending that deserves appreciation. It’s important to say thank you to the things that serve as building blocks in the foundations of our lives. These are the memories that I want to take with me to the grave. The pain, the sadness that I felt upon my return was worth it for the bliss that I experienced within 72 hours with a few strangers. Being that this was the theme of my trip, it’s only appropriate to conclude my story with a question we should all ask ourselves: Would you rather…have felt, than feel nothing at all?
There will forever be a piece of my heart in Galway, Ireland. I have endless thanks for the life changing moments.