A couple summers ago I took an impulse trip to Ireland for a couple weeks with a group of complete strangers.
From the start – actually even before the trip formally started – to finish, I learned more than I ever could have guessed I would going into this trip – even though there wasn’t an actual class period. Imagine that, right? A student learned more getting his fingers dirty in the real world rather than in a classroom learning about the real world. I digress.
Perhaps the most valuable and profound thing that I learned on this trip is something that I will take with me the rest of my life.
Prior to the trip, I was very comfortable in my home, Lincoln. I became married to the idea of staying in Lincoln and staying comfortable. In hindsight, that’s a real tragic place to be in. You find the most out about yourself, you grow the most out of your comfort zone. In terms of your life, comfortable is synonymous with stagnant.
As a kid, I always wanted to live in Denver or elsewhere in the world, but as life got more realistic and as I got older and more comfortable, my dream dissipated. I owe it to this trip for mixing up the ingredients of my life; shaken, not stirred.
Rocky Waters in the Mile High City
I ran into some troubles with my passport just a week before the trip and was ready to call the entire trip a wash and stay home. With some proverbial face slapping to wake me up from thinking so irrationally, my mom sent me to Denver to retrieve my golden ticket (passport), with a confidence that this trip would, in fact, work out. After a 24 hour adventure, I came home with a quiver of stories and my ticket to Ireland in the form of a tiny blue booklet, waiting to be stamped.
So It Begins
It’s real now. I’m off to a foreign land, far away from the home I was so comfortable in. I spent a little over two weeks from home with a stubborn, over-excited, yet charmingly endearing tour guide talking my ear off about anything and everything related to Ireland (who knows what was fact or fiction). I got to know a group of 25 people – Sue being one of them whether you like it or not, Frank – who became some of my best friends and I still communicate with after the trip. The best souvenir from Guinness country was a burning passion for making myself uncomfortable.
When the trip began to come to a close I dreaded heading home but looked forward to getting filled in by my friends with all the things I missed out on. I hoped some new building got built while I was gone or that Nebraska would pass a bill to legalize gay marriage or something (oh wait that happened in Ireland!) I got home to quickly realize, Lincoln is always going to be Lincoln. I was taken aback when I realized that I missed out on nothing more than a two week pay period and a few drunken stories.
My comfortability in Lincoln was quickly shaken and flipped completely on its head. I became antsy to get out. Don’t get me wrong, I love and will always love this town that I call home; it will always be home to me. This trip just opened my eyes to everything that is out waiting to be experienced. People I need to meet, stories to hear, stories to create.
Ireland is generally pretty similar to the States – minus a few small cultural differences – but it still took time to get used to the way of life there. It got me thinking what it would be like to experience Zambia or Dubai – somewhere so vastly different than the place I’d grown so comfortable with. If a place like Ireland, even in its similarity, took me time to get used to, how would a place so different challenge me and what stories are just waiting to be told, heard and made?
My professional career could very well be in Lincoln for the rest of my life, but I’m open to going elsewhere and will try to make that happen. If it doesn’t work out and I stay here forever, I can rest in the fact that it’s cheap to live here, which allows you to save up for trips and new adventures. So yes. I learned more valuable and profound lessons about myself and about life than any textbook could ever teach me. I owe it to this trip for flipping my perspective completely on its head and shifting my paradigm in a very dramatic and positive way.
Tl;dr (Too long; didn't read)
Going to Ireland wasn’t easy. I had to work hard to even get there in the first place, not to mention I’m still bearing the financial burden. (Good thing I don’t mind Ramen Noodles, right?) The trip challenged me in ways that I didn’t think I could be challenged, things no one could have planned to purposefully challenge me. What I learned on this trip can’t be taught. It has to be experienced.
I now have a small fire in me, ignited by a trip to Ireland. I plan to continue to feed this fire and watch it grow into a full-fledged flame of passion for traveling the world.