Friday, July 24, 2015

Sine metu

So, if you're a whiskey drinker, you might recognize this phrase from your bottle of Jameson. (If you're me, you learned it during a tour of the Old Jameson Distillery in Dublin a few weeks ago, and have adopted it as your mantra of the trip.) "Sine Metu," you see, is Gaelic for "Without Fear"... and to be on the roads in the Emerald Isle -- and, let's be honest here, on the Black Isle as well -- this must be your motto.

Even as a passenger on a bus or in a car I probably gasped during near collisions at least 3 or 4 times daily as vehicles careened at top speed around blind curves on one-lane, shoulderless roads during my first two weeks kicking around Ireland. And yet, for my third week around Ireland, I was on a bicycle. (Shhh, don't tell Ollie!) Luckily, I had a fabulous guide and great company on my first ever group/supported bike tour, so I wasn't riding with my heart in my mouth the whole time. It was actually really nice to have someone else map out the routes and book places to stay and schlep my bags. In fact, I found myself offering thanks rather than pleas to the heavens as 16 of us chatted and cycled through the beautiful Connemara hills and later along the Inishmore waterfront, stopping frequently to snap photos and scarf twix bars. (Shh, don't tell my students!) I hardly minded most of the time that my gears didn't work properly, so good was the company and the scenery. (Many thanks to my friend, Ronn, for suggesting Cycling Safaris!)

Admittedly, ours was a slower, more scenic route, which meant less vehicles than on the bigger roads, but there were still periodic cars, occasional tour buses, and (the bane of my biking existence since my ride down the Pacific Coast Highway five years ago) camper vans. I was only almost hit once, thankfully, and have since continued my travels safely on through Scotland. But my new motto has stuck with me beyond the biking.

I've been thinking about it a lot this trip. So many of the kind folks I've encountered along the way, especially the women, have marveled at "the courage it must take to travel alone." I don't find traveling alone scary most of the time. In fact, except for the awkwardness of dinner dining solo, it's quite exciting and liberating, and I said as much. What's much, much harder is sharing your life adventure with another person. Opening your heart up to someone else, allowing yourself to love and possibly lose them. Maybe things fall apart. Maybe you find each other again, maybe you don't. Maybe everything's changed, but maybe it hasn't. There's only one way to find out....

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