Travel is a strange thing.
I am writing this while on a bus from Barcelona city in Catalonia to a small municipality called Sant Feliu de Guixóls, on the Mediterranean.
I, like many other Irish of my age, have traveled plenty in my time. I spent a month and a half travelling all around Europe by the Interrail train lines with friends one summer many years past. I even traveled with my school to Northern Italy and France during my time in secondary school. I think the desire to travel is part of every Irish person’s blood and soul, it is part of our history and part of who we are as a nation. I had read somewhere that although there are only 4.6 million Irish people in Ireland, there are 100 million people of Irish descent around the world. How true this is, I do not know, but I think it’s a fitting statement that appeals to my sense of national pride nonetheless.
This time around I will travel throughout South America for a year, or maybe even longer. Starting in Peru (with a jump-start from Barcelona), this trip will take me to each of fifteen countries across an entire continent, and possibly even further.
It occurred to me while we drove to Dublin Airport, watching yellow lights flash by in the dark, that there is something different this time, something strange; there is no set date for the end of this trip and there is no return ticket. It’s not just touching the surface of a culture or a country, like some kind of human exhibition, delving into a culture for for pre-appointed amount of time, but a complete submersion in a sea of people and customs and language.
I think that this will affect me in ways that I cannot yet conceive of, I know that I will without a doubt be changed, though how I cannot say. Abandoning the life and comforts I knew to see what else is out there, to see and know for myself what I had only ever seen and known by proxy, through secondhand information experienced by people other than myself.
So, travel is strange, in that I never realized before the odd sense of gravity to this trip, simply because I have never done something like this before. It is not short vacation or tour, but living a different life in a different land, and it was with a heavy heart that I bade farewell to my parents and friends for the duration of my absence, and maybe I even shed an errant tear on takeoff.
But this is something that will be done, that needs to be done, and I hope you enjoy this trip as much as I will.