You know that super cheesy cliché, “you should do one thing every day that scares you,” that is attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt? Well I’m terrified of heights. I have been for pretty much as long as I can remember. Not in a way that’s debilitating: I’m generally able to push through but it’s always with a feeling of impending doom in my stomach that makes me want to vomit and go crying to my mommy. I remember almost pissing myself the first time I flew in a plane (which was when I was 15, flying from Atlanta to Frankfurt) because I was so scared of being that high up. While I’m not that scared of heights anymore, I still get a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach every time I’m higher than a few stories without a solid wall in front of me. The Cliffs of Moher is a really solid location to face that fear and today I did just that.
Now, facing a fear of heights may seem like a very cliché, silly thing and maybe this is nothing more than a big metaphorical stretch, but every time I face my fear of heights I’m reminded of the power I have within me, making me feel like I can do anything. It reminds me that just because I’m scared doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do something. If I run towards what scares me (okay not literally run towards, particularly in the case of the Cliffs of Moher) instead of running away, that fear loses its power while I gain my own strength, courage, and confidence. Today reminded me of that and reminded me that I need to apply that not only to physical fears such as heights, but also fears that are intangible such as failure, rejection, intimacy, being out and proud, and everything else that hinders my life.
Anyway, enough of my metaphorical musings.
I went to the cliffs with Tori and her friend John, who lives in Dublin, and upon arrival we decided to head up to the little castle first. The viewing platform on which the castle stands probably gives you the best bird’s-eye view of the magnificent beauty of the Cliffs of Moher. You can pay €2 to go up to the top of the castle which might give you a slightly better view, but we didn’t think it was worth it. (Frugality is key on a backpacking trip: save when you’re indifferent about something so you can splurge when you’re excited about something.)
Shortly after the castle is the end of the official pathway, but everyone ignores this attempt at intimidation and keeps on trekking.
The three of us enjoyed the views a bit more before John and Tori decided to head back to the main visitor centre for lunch. On the bus ride there, I grabbed food to go at the rest stop (which, by the way, was called Barack Obama Plaza), so I kept hiking.
The path heading north which I was on came to massive drop off. It’s absolutely doable for a hike, but I hadn’t come prepared for a hike quite that intense (though I would have loved to do it) and I wanted to back track to check out some of the southern path. Like the northern path, you get to a point where the official complex ends and it turns to rough, uneven pathways with frequent signs telling you to say away from the unstable edge. Here, there were two parallel paths you could take, one of which had a makeshift barrier of rocks, protecting you from falling to a potential death. The other was right on the edge. Can you guess which I took?
Being that close to the edge was definitely a bit petrifying but also exhilarating. The strong gusts of winds coming in from the coast took me back to the memories of studying abroad in South Africa when we went to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point and crawling on all fours because we were afraid we were literally going to be blown off a mountain.
Upon reaching the point I decided would be the farthest I would go, I sat in the soft, tall grass for a while, taking in the views and watching the seagulls fly in the wind, which appeared more like floating than flying. Suspended in mid-air. They weren’t flapping their wings at all and simply seemed moved wherever the wind took them without a care in the world about where they were going. I’m learning to adopt that sort of mentality with traveling: go wherever the experience takes me without worrying about whether that’s my plan or expectation.
On my way back to the visitor centre, I learned that there’s actually an entire coastal hiking path, connecting Liscannor in the south and Doolin in the north which I totally would have loved to do (along with watching the sunset over the cliffs) if I had more time in Ireland so now I have yet another dream hike added to my list and will just have to come back some day. Tori told me she was half expecting to get a message from me telling her I was at some random pub in some random village drinking with locals and would find my own way back to Dublin. I should have done that but alas I made my way back in time to relax a bit with Tori and John at one of the main viewing sites.
Soon it was time to head back to the parking lot to meet the bus, which was over half an hour late. I was about ready to hitch-hike back to Dublin, but Tori and John didn't seem to excited about that idea. Regardless, the drive was beautiful – though much more tame than the last time I did a long bus journey across a foreign country. Like on the way there, I switched between reading on my Kindle, crafting and editing term paper outlines (oh how I look forward to my adventures when I’m no longer a full-time student), and simply enjoying the scenery. I loved watching the sunset as we drove through the countryside, passing miles and miles of lush green grass, smooth rolling hills, fluffy white clouds, and the occasional cow urinating.
Upon arrival back in Dublin, I had to go to the hostel I stayed at last night to gather my things to move to a different hostel to check-in. I was originally going to do Couchsurfing for my last two nights here, but the very gracious and well-reviewed host I had found fell through at the last minute due to things out of his control. And I didn’t want to stay another night at a hostel without working wifi and a very squeaky, uncomfortable bed in a completely filled 16 person dorm with only 2 outlets for the half of the room I was on. It had good reviews despite it being the cheapest hostel I found in Dublin, and any of those minor gripes individually I would have been fine with, but everything combined made it a no go for 2 more nights. But I managed to find a hostel for only €2 more per night that had better reviews and I’m in a 4 person dorm with an ensuite bathroom. The bed is comfy, the wifi works incredibly well, every bed has 2 outlets and a bedside light, and the lockers are big enough for a standard backpack. As Melissa once said about our hostel in Irkutsk, you can tell when a hostel is designed by someone who travels and this is definitely one of those hostels. Unfortunately though, apparently when I was scrambling to book a hostel last night after finding out my Couchsurfing fell through, I only booked one night and currently they are completely booked for tomorrow night. So stay tuned as I annoy them about possible cancelations.