We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures! Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!
-Bilbo, The Hobbit
Chris and I had our first date on July 14, 2006. We went to a tiny Italian restaurant- the kind with twinkle lights and paper place mats with maps of Italy on them. It didn’t take long before we discovered our mutual interest in geography and the way other people lived and the amazing world out there. We each talked about our life goal of traveling. Absolutely everywhere sounded good but we both really wanted to see Italy and England.
(A little over a year later we were back at that little Italian place for a wedding dinner.)
Eight years of adventures and new jobs and lost jobs, moving, dinners with friends, Christmas with family and at home, beach anniversaries, multiple dreams and plans of trips – we still didn’t have passports. I had it in my head that the year I was 35 I would somehow make a trip out of the country happen. I kept saying it as a little prayer in my heart. I was certain that at least we’d make it to Canada- Chris’ family live in upstate New York and we truly love it there in August. Maybe we’d make it there for a visit then and hop up to Canada. And then one day after a stroke of luck or divine intervention or just the generosity of family we were given a gift and I knew that gift would fulfill my lifelong dream. My first thought was “England”.
The weeks leading up to our departure felt completely surreal. It didn’t seem possible that something we had dreamed of for so long could really be happening and I think we both weren’t really sure it would happen. Something would come up; something would prevent us from going. At any moment we would get a phone call and someone would be sick or a flight would be delayed and we would miss crucial days. As we packed and got as ready as we could I felt like I was floating along through the days. Suddenly six months of planning seemed way too little (it was) and the mixture of anxiety and excitement was overwhelming. We kept taking turns reminding the other of our philosophy for the trip: we make it there. The rest is the icing on top. We would go with the flow, adapt to what was happening and if all we got to do was sit and have lunch and watch the people and listen to their accents and smell the air we would be happy. We would slow down as much as we could to enjoy each moment.
On Tuesday, June 14th I took my last shower in my own bathroom and finished the last bits of packing. I gave myself a little pep talk on the comforts of home and that they would be here when we got back. I’m a true homebody. My friends tease me about being a bit of a hermit and it is true – I love my home and my cats and my books (and my own bathroom). But I knew I was willing to be uncomfortable to experience what was coming.
My mom and her boyfriend Gene came to take us to the airport. We were planning on driving ourselves but discovered last minute that parking at the airport would be about $300 for the time we would be gone. Thank you Mom!! We kissed the cats goodbye and left for the airport very early. It was hot outside in mid-June. So hot that putting on my hiking pants and carrying a scarf and rain jacket felt absurd. But I knew I would be chilly on the plane later and it just wasn’t worth carrying around a separate outfit for the plane days.
I had begun dreaming about this part of the world many years ago. I spent my hours between work printing out blank maps and plotting various courses we could take; making imaginary routes across towns whose names were like tongue twisters in my mouth. The one pictured here is surprisingly close to what we ended up booking. I believe I drew this out summer of 2014. (I even impulsively cut my head out of a picture and pasted it on top of an image of Kiera Knightley in the Peak District of England- taping it to a glass jar and collecting all my change in it. My “England” fund.)
However, once we had a date we started the true beginning stages of planning for this trip in fall of 2015 and booked our plane tickets over Christmas break. We spent several days researching the best time to buy tickets and trying out different plane routes. Chris did searches on his iPad and called out times to me and I jotted them down on paper. Eventually we decided to go with a more expensive direct route. We figured for our first trip it might be best to make the flights as simple as possible. We opened a Chase card sometime in the beginning of 2015 with the intent of using the points to help pay for a future trip and they definitely came in handy when paying for our plane tickets. We ended up being very happy we went for a direct route this time – it seemed that every few weeks Delta changed our plane times and if we had booked four flights to keep up with it would have been very stressful.
Our flight to Atlanta was scheduled for 3:45pm and we arrived at the airport at 1:00pm. We would get to Atlanta and fly to Dublin at 7:28pm landing at 8:15am the next day- a little more than a 7 hour flight. We got some rocking chair seats and sat talking and laughing in disbelief at what was about to happen. We ended up having plenty of time to do this – our flight to Atlanta was delayed due to thunderstorms. No planes in or out. We were a bit nervous that we might miss our flight from Atlanta to Dublin but hoped that since they were all grounded our next one would be delayed as well.
Finally we got on board to Atlanta and in a short hour we were in the Atlanta airport. We weren’t sure what it would be like flying internationally – do you go through a special security? But there was no big obstacle; we just walked to the international terminal and knew we were somewhere different when stores like Michael Kors and Duty Free started popping up. We made it to the largest gate I’d ever been to and settled in. We had decided not to check our baggage. We would just take it on the plane and not have to worry about spending the time in Dublin to pick it up. We took turns going to the food area to get something to eat- one of us needed to stay with the bags. As we waited for our flight two huge high school tour groups came into the gate – We were surrounded by teenagers. We ended up sitting right smack in the middle of all of them on our flight too.
We decided to switch to Dublin time right away. We had read about it but had no real idea of what jet lag might feel like for us and were landing in Dublin at 8am. We needed to sleep so we could spend the whole day awake and exploring Dublin. The plane was pretty awesome. It had been storming in Atlanta and she was beautiful in the golden afternoon light. We found our seats and marveled at the cool screens on the backs of the seats in front of us. Each of our seats had pillows and a blanket and they came around shortly after take-off to give out headsets and eye masks, hot wet napkins to wipe our hands and then food. We were not hungry – We had that snack in Atlanta and we were too full of excitement. We watched take off and explored our little screens – lots of movies and then an awesome map that showed our route and where we were – it also had a button that told us how high up we were, our speed and the outside temperature. Seeing -72 as an outside temperature is pretty cool.
Our flight was just around seven hours long and we slept on and off for most of it. It was not very comfortable – Chris was a true gentlemen and let me put my legs on top of him so I could sort of sleep sideways in my chair. I attempted to use the neck pillow my physical therapist recommended but could never really get it situated right and ended up folding it into a ball to try and prop my head/neck up in as neutral of a position as possible.
I heard the attendants come around with dinner and then it was mostly dark and quiet – all the kids around us watching movies they probably aren’t allowed to see at home and then later, sleeping with their heads laid down on their tables like kids do at school when they fall asleep at their desk. We took a last look at the sunset and put our window shade down to wait for Dublin!