Blue to the front
and green to the back.
Nothing but mountain and sky
for miles above and below.
Sitting in a plastic box, miles
above the surface, life stands
still. It’s just an expanse all around
and nothing else matters.
I don’t feel small or insignificant
or afraid. I just feel a part of it
forever expanding, my lungs
feebly mimicking the experience
in a way the human mind
comprehends. I see the top
where sky meets earth, still
unable to see where one begins
and the other ends. The lines
just bleed and my veins try
to mirror the phenomenon.
But we can’t.
Over a year and a half ago I finally got to visit Ireland, a country I’d been dying to see for as long as I can remember. There’s always been something about the Emerald Isles that called out to me. Maybe it was the myths and folklore. Maybe it was the haunting Celtic music. Maybe it was just the origins of my name. Whatever it may be, I wanted to see it, and so I did.
I went on a 5-day trip through EF College Break (technically 7, but 2 days were travel). We hit the ground running, as we immediately set off to explore Dublin soon after getting off the plane and leaving our luggage at the hotel (we couldn’t check in yet). Our tour guide Fab, who was amazing, helped us get our bearings so that we could wander off solo but still find our way back to our accommodations.
That first day we stuck together, a group of strangers who had just met but needed one another to make sure we didn’t get lost and left behind. Walking the brick alleys and making our way into Temple Bar to warm up with a pint, I soon felt clicking submit on that online trip application was the best decision I’d ever made.
By the next day, we all felt pretty confident in our abilities to navigate this foreign city, and all went our separate ways or in smaller groups. I started out the day with a roommate to explore Dublin Castle, and from there wandered the Irish city on my own, looking for the Writer’s Museum. I got lost along the way a few times, but I felt so sure of myself that I had no problem consulting the map and asking complete strangers which way to go. I definitely wandered into a suspect neighborhood and was quickly told to get out immediately, but no harm came to me.
I finally found the museum and spent a couple of hours there before making my way back to see a popular library as well. Yes, I’m that nerd who goes abroad to look at other countries book spaces. Truthfully though, none of it was about the destinations. Though I had a great time seeing castles, museums, and libraries, I felt more excited by the walking. It was just a city after all, not much different from New York in fact. Dublin also had construction sites blocking the walkways and smelly alleyways.
That’s really my favorite thing about traveling. It’s just walking among the locals, observing the natives of the land, listening to their voices and stories as they walk around me, ignoring my existence. I bask in the normalcy of life when I’m in a completely different country.
During one of my many bouts of getting lost, I realized it was time for lunch and stopped in at the first cafe I found. I didn’t try to act like a local, because I knew how obvious it was that I was American (the accent kind of gives it away). Instead I asked, “What do you recommend?” The woman behind the register named the soup of the day (leek and potato, which I’d never had and thought only existed in Neopets) with brown bread (again, something new to me). It sounded good though, and it was cold outside, so soup wasn’t a bad choice. She served me and I sat down to charge my phone and get Wi-Fi while I ate.
For the record, leek and potato soup is delicious. And with a side of brown bread with Irish butter, absolutely divine. Such simple fare, but so damn good. I took my time with my lunch and happily ate while looking around the restaurant and out the window. Everyone was so normal, and I was enthralled.
I finally started making my way back at the time I figured the sun would be going down. I couldn’t really tell, as it’s always grey in Ireland. But as confident as I was in my newfound ability to travel a foreign country on my own, and as friendly as the people had been thus far, I didn’t want to get stuck on my own at night in the city. When I finally arrived back at the hotel, my feet aching and sore, and my body on the verge of collapse, I consulted my phone to see how much I’d walked that day. Five miles to and five miles from (not including the rerouting that took place from getting lost). So approximately 10 miles total. I’d never walked so much in my life. I was exhausted but it was well worth it.
I’ve decided to break this post up into multiple parts, as I feel I can talk for days about the trip I had over a year ago. Stay tuned for more! In the meantime, have you been to Dublin, Ireland? If so, what was your favorite thing? Let me know in the comments!
Your land is named after & runs through
the halfway point of two hemispheres,
which is only fitting, because I myself
traverse two sides of multiple worlds.
One foot on each side, straddling the line
between Latin anf American, queer and
not. It only makes sense that the equator
runs through my veins. I was never meant
to be part of just one world, always two, like
God saw fit to give me symmetry. Sometimes
it’s worth the trouble, for views like this, and
moments like these.
Winding dirt paths that turn
into rocky roads lead the way to
hidden routes that few tourists find.
We make our way through into
people’s homes, communities, and
lives, and this time, we’re the colonizers.
I like to think we’re benevolent
though, as we mean no harm
and only want to eat their food
and take pictures of what to them
is mundane. I get it. I’m from Miami.
I know the type. But we’re different
because we know the surrounding
culture outside the edges of these towns.
Hidden roads only to us. Known
and already discovered by the natives
of the land. Isn’t that always how the story goes?
You sit scrawling across
The pages of a spiral notebook
With a mysterious hard cover
By your side. Your eyes dart
Side to side on the occasion
When you stop writing to look up.
Your mouth forms silent words
In what I assume is your method
Of deciphering the text that comes
Next. Two teenage girls sit in front
Of you, giggling at their phones.
I can see their Instagram feeds.
You cannot. They catch sight
Of your momentary soundless muttering
And exchange looks with one another
Setting off another bout of giggles, never
For a second noticing your own lowered grin as you caught them in their own
Catch. I’m writing about you wondering
If in your observations are you
Writing about me?
It’s a muffled call over the speaker
But everyone gathers their luggage
And snacks and pillows
A migration over dirty blue carpets.
One by one, trudge by trudge
We march staccato, weighed down
And imbalanced by heavy bags in varied
States of wear. Start with the back
Of the plane and fill it up to the front.
Just another waiting room until the next one. It almost feels like there is no
I’m not entirely sure why I chose Spain as the first European country I visited, but that’s where my parents and I went in the summer of 2015. It was more of a whim really, or maybe my brain though it’d be best to start somewhere where at least I speak the language (other than English, of course).
This trip was a truly spectacular adventure, as for the first time, instead of depending on friends or family to help us out, we traversed the land all on our own, renting a car and everything. In Madrid, we used public transportation to get around the city, visiting museums, gardens, and castles. We got to spend one day hitting up Barrio de las Letras, which is a neighborhood where famous writers of the past, like Miguel de Cervantes and Lope de Vega, resided when they lived. The storyteller in me couldn’t resist the call of those narrow alleys and old apartments, seeing how my ancestors once lived.
Night 2 in Madrid was spent being sent to a speak easy performance of a flamenco show. We didn’t know it was a speak easy/secret until we got there. We’d been sent tickets by a local restaurant owner who’d taken a liking to us as we patroned his place the first 2 nights in the country because it was right around the corner from our hotel. Going up to the hidden vendor inside the venue to be shown a secret entrance made me feel like I’d gone back in time to the prohibition era. The show was spectacular, as we all sat together in the dark, the only light coming from the halo around the dancer.
On day 3 we packed up our suitcases and took our rental out to the Spain highways, where we couldn’t quite read all the signs and made a bit of an error getting off our exit. Thankfully traffic in the area was nothing like it is here in Miami, and my dad had the chance to hit reverse and go the right way.
The next stop was Segovia, where we marveled at the aqueducts the people living there had made so long ago still holding up. We didn’t do anything to touristy here, as it was a pause on our way to visit an old friend of my dad’s who lived in Jaen. But that didn’t stop us from taking in the scenery and just walking the city’s streets, playing the part of the local even though we were foreigners.
We then doubled back to Toledo, where my alma mater followed me, as there were knights galore. Suits of armor decorated almost every establishment we entered. My favorite though was the cobbled streets and box alleys. Everything about Spain’s architecture and infrastructure was narrow and confined, but we never felt imprisoned (though we did nearly crash with a local driver later on). My dad and I took a ghost tour of the streets of Toledo, hearing the legends and lore that are the lifeblood of any town.
I can’t even count how many times we got lost on our adventures in Spain, but each wrong turn took us to new wonders. We found an old monastery up a hill that looked like we’d drop over the edge at any moment before finally leveling out. I picked grapes from the building’s vines, hoping no one was around to see my minor sin of theft.
In need of a place to stay the night during one of our lost moments, we found a beautiful hideaway, called La Casa de los Siete Cielos (The House of 7 Skies). Set inside a mountain cavern system and with a rooftop pool and garden, we truly couldn’t have asked for a better place to get lost.
In our search for the famous windmills of Campo de Criptana we accidentally wandered into La Mancha instead, a land best known from Cervante’s work of Don Quixote. We visited the Don’s windmills and then wound our way through the tiny streets of the town below to spend the night among the author’s people. Winding down on our last days, we found a museum dedicated to Dulcinea, Don Quixote’s love interest in the story.
Truth be told, it’s hard to remember every single thing that happened, because Spain was not a followed itinerary adventure. It was truly a trip filled with unexpected findings and wandering an unknown land, discovering it without constraints.
Where have you all traveled unplanned? Let me know in the comments!