“You’re checked through all the way to Dublin,” said the uniform-clad woman in the Spokane airport, at half-past four in the morning, handing me a trio of tickets. And one, two, three, four, five, the phrase “all the way to Dublin” was lodged melodically in my head for the next 20 hours, until, in fact, I was sitting on a bus staring out the window onto the River Liffey, taking in the pedestrians on the quays and the harp-bowed bridges, my sleep deprivation buzzing in the background and tinging the experience with a level of the surreal. That looks just like the quay I sat on back when I was out that one time with all those Australians and Finns, I thought to myself, a split second before realizing that it probably was, since that one time had been on a ramble back from Temple Bar. The vodka out of teacups night, we had called it, because we had started it back at the hostel kitchen using the only glasses available to us. Part of the curse of traveling so much, especially if you stay somewhere with people of different nationalities, is that the places start to blur together, and occasionally you have trouble remembering where certain events were anchored. I had actually spent the night in the Dublin airport once, and I still, somehow, was picturing the Buenos Aires airport when I tried to remember its layout.
In spite of the vast differences in the climates I’ve been to, there’s a certain way the air hits me when I emerge into a strange place, fresh off the plane, and it jolts me awake and gives me enough energy that I can then find my way to my destination, even if it’s complex and takes hours. In this case, I found my bus to Cork, got dropped off in Cork, discovered a taxi to Barnabrow would be about $70, wandered around, asked an old fellow on the street how I would get a bus to Midelton, found that, waited an hour, got on the bus, told the bus driver where I was going, got his advice on how to get there from Midelton, got out at Midelton, asked a group of kids on the street where I would get a taxi from there, walked down an ally and found a taxi company, commandeered a ride to Barnabrow for $20, and arrived at my destination approximately 26 hours after having been handed the tickets in the Spokane airport.
I think it’s partially the memory of how much worse I used to be at this, but every time I’m getting ready to go on a trip this detailed, I start to worry a bit if it will actually be any fun. But in so doing, I underestimate myself. On the plane, there was an interesting neurological documentary about how habits are regulated by your subconscious, allowing your cerebral cortex to focus on other things. I usually travel in such a way that I have minimal extraneous stuff to worry about. I have a tiny suitcase, I wear my really important stuff under my clothes, and I carry water and Olympic-training-grade power bars with me.
But mostly, I think, I’ve suspended myself in different cultures and places so many times that the unfamiliar is easier to deal with, and rarely does something seem completely unfamiliar. Which, on the one hand, is nice, and on the other means that sometimes place and culture jump around in my head, and world itself becomes my backyard.