Posts Tagged With: travel

Jehovah Jireh

Sputter, sputter, bleh. 

My mom’s 2013 Subaru Forester said no at the red light leaving Hot springs national park. We stared at the dash, trying to restart the vehicle, but nothing. Traffic flowed haltingly around us

The ride to Asheville, NC was uneventful. As we exited the interstate to our home for the night, an enormous motorcycle brigade passed before us. After about 600 bikes (no joke) roared by, it was our turn to go right. We came upon a Harley Davidson dealership filled with all the biker people. It looked like a military/veteran bike rally. Driving 5 more minutes put us climbing into a beautiful neighborhood with large forested yards. Our friends of friends for our first night of our adventure were incredibly gracious.  We unpacked what we needed for the evening, joined our hosts for some leftovers, cooked chicken alfredo, and sorted through the vast movie collection. Travis hasn’t seen The Sound of Music and I haven’t seen Les Miserables. I put it to Facebook but didn’t come to a consensus quickly so we went with Tangled. 

Up early, we continued our voyage down I-40. The rain came down in sheets at times and then periods of bright sun. I was super glad I wasn’t driving because I’d be the driver that slowed to 20mph in the rain. We crossed the Mississippi River, ogling at the fact that it was way flooded. The next few hours gave way to much of the same, flooded out farms, with tree tops as bushes. The phones gps routed us away from a backup which brought out both of our cheerleader sides. GPS said our first site was only 2 miles off the interstate. It was my first find in our country’s free camping land and I was anxious to see if what the internet had said was true. We declined the first grass/dirt road but found an alternate road that was fully paved and voila! A designated campsite sign! There were gravel pullouts big enough for trailers to circle on both sides of the road with a water spigot. We set up our tents in the grass, ate our leftover chicken alfredo with garlic Ritz crackers and relaxed on our buckets. We laughed, God is so good! This site turned out perfect. It was setting the standard high though I knew we would come across much less savory sleeping places. The rain had brought the temperature down, way down so I got a little chilly overnight. A van pulled in just before nightfall, parking on the other side of the road. 

The sun rose, illuminating the rising steam from the field across the way. I had a no sugar added chocolate breakfast essentials drink and a chocolate banana bread oatmeal square. Travis had French vanilla breakfast essentials with chocolate chip oatmeal bars. In less than 5minutes in the car, we were cruising to Hot Springs National Park. I’d been been to it before with my family and enjoyed the architecture and history. We found free parking and free restrooms (high priority there) and meandered along bathhouse row. We decided hiking first before it got too hot would be our best plan of action. We followed an assortment of trails to the Watchtower which unfortunately, cost $8/person to go up. My attitude turned sassy because the guy at the visitor center that we’d asked about all the trails and sights hadn’t mentioned that fact after suggesting this trail. Travis turned my attention to finding our first patch, what we’d decided on collecting from all the national parks on our trip. We purchased a cute bear in a bathtub patch and found the free pagoda with a view. After taking pictures, we skipped back to bathhouse row and took the free self guided tour or the main bathhouse. It was neat seeing the immense amount of marble they used for their baths. By this time we were hungry and we walked out the front doors which was conveniently right in front of a sweets shop. Never go in a candy store when you’re hungry…just…don’t. After salivating over every baked good, we settled on a cookie sandwich. There was a hideaway space to eat our treasure, tucked among the shops that had plenty of benches and a small waterfall. We hurried back to the car, not wanting to depart with any more of our money in this town, especially because we had lunch in the car. We plugged in my friend’s address in Plano (yay!) and left the park. 

Sputter, sputter, bleh. 

A cop showed up to help us get our car safely out of the road and into a gas station parking lot. Cue the process of calling my mom (car owner) and the insurance company to figure out what to do. My parents and I discussed car part, car parts, car parted. I don’t know what thise words are. After Travis spent some time on the phone with insurance, we had a wait time of 40minutes for a local company to tow us to the Subaru dealership as the car is still under warranty. I wasn’t too stressed, even as we were sitting in front of a sketchy gas station. Sketchy people offered help in way of a jump, but we didn’t think that was the issue. Slowly, our tiny piece of shade disappeared, leaving us to stand in the 80degree sun. I was trying not to get frustrated that we were stranded at a sketchy place with a bathroom with no toilet paper and poo splash on the toilet seat. The tow truck finally arrives, almost an hour past our wait estimate of 40minutes. The guy is affable and him and Travis chat about life as we very bouncily return to Little Rock. Subaru doesn’t quite know where to put our car because they are backed up, but they make me and Travis feel confident in their ability to help us. We’ve both been to less than helpful dealerships and this place was fantastic. They immediately offered us a loaner car and assure us they will look at it first thing in the morning. We start loading what we think we need for the night into a 2017 Subaru Forester. I’m stressing, trying not to be sad that I’m not with my dallas friends and not wanting to find a place to spend the night. We debate about going back to the place we slept last night which was great but an hour away. I text a friend from home that’s from Arkansas that might know somebody. This might be tmi, but I was on my period. Long car rides, hiking and camping aren’t the best experience. I wanted to sleep in air conditioning and I wanted a shower. I was practically in tears as Travis suggested we cool off with some ice cream. As we drove off to Sonic, we discovered the loaner had an excellent sound system. We were the thump thump car sitting at Sonic eating our milkshakes. Our friend had success finding friends that could offer us a couch or floor space. 5minutes away! My jaw dropped, Travis laughed, my eyes moistened, God is so good! He was providing a way when I thought we were heading into a stressful and unfun situation. We cranked up the music and felt the beat in our chests. I put my toes on my door speaker and they bounced. 

“Oh no, you never let go, through the calm and through the storm. oh no, You never let go, every high and every low!” 

Our hosts were amazingly hospitable. They were inviting a couple of their friends over to learn how to cook pot stickers. We set our tents out to dry and sat and mostly watched this process. There’s no way I would ever put that much time into making a food. They ground up carrots and spinach to add to the flour for coloring. Next was rolling out the dough into miniature circles to put a dollup in of pork, cabbage, shrimp or mushrooms. Soup was simmering on the stove as I tried not to fall asleep at the kitchen table. At 9pm, dinner was set spectacularly on the table, the colorful pot stickers arranged in patterns on their serving platters. Such amazing flavors! Then shower and bed. As I stretched out across the bed, clean and refreshed, I recounted the day’s events. 

Jehovah Jireh! God will provide, God has provided. God is good y’all. He cares for me! The simplest of details, a shower complete with soap and shampoo! A soft bed with soft sheets and a memory foam pillow. (I really like really soft things). A car with a sound system to belt out His praises. Wonderful people to encourage us on our journey. These aren’t coincidences or lucky right place in the right time happenings. This is God, caring for us. 

Our hosts departed for work, Subaru called and said everything would be done by noon. Travis found an adorable little park, Old Mill Park, to explore. It was charming, something I’ve only seen in all the puzzles I’ve put together. At noon, we completed paperwork and got back on he road to Dallas by one! 

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So, Why?

So why did I come to Europe? Why is my blog name kraezfernweh? Why am I not liking it or having as much fun as I thought? Why is traveling and all these new amazing experiences so difficult for me?Well, let’s start with the easy question. My blog name is two different words. Kraez is a nickname I got in college after I got a little crazy on a sugar high from eating a chocolate treat and a chocolate shake. It’s a play on my first and middle names, Kelly Rae. Fernweh is a German word for homesick, a longing for a place you’ve never been, at least according to Pinterest. I thought the two sounded good together and WordPress said all my other ideas were taken already. 

I came to Europe to try to get rid of anxiety. I had hiked the Appalachian trail and through hiking, God had healed me of depression. I wanted the same thing for anxiety. I struggled with depression for much of my high school, college and adult life, at times pretty severe. I resisted getting professional help, thinking that counseling was silly and refusing to experiment with antidepressants which could have all sorts of side effects, most of which I didn’t want to mess around with. I do not think antidepressants are wrong to take; I just knew that they weren’t for me. 

Then, some bad stuff happened to me in college in Texas, parts of it from within the Christian community I’d become a part of. I remained calm, determined, and fearless, enough to finish my degree. I still struggled with my health and a cough that wouldn’t go away. I went to the ER when I couldn’t breathe and was dismissed with a diagnosis of panic attack. I laughed at that, thinking how wrong they were, that it must be allergies or something. Oh how wrong I was. Fast forward a bit, to when a guy at a church event complimented me. I couldn’t breathe, I was sweating and my hands were shaking so hard I could hardly hold onto my plate of food. I would later realize this was my first panic attack. As time went by, normal things got hard. Grocery shopping became incredibly difficult. I couldn’t decide between vanilla or strawberry yogurt. My brain would freeze and just not make a decision. I would usually end up not deciding and just walking out. As I tried to find a job, moved back home to where I had no community, things got worse. I had trouble sleeping at night and could only sleep as the sun broke across the horizon. It was difficult to make any decision in a reasonable amount of time, what to wear, to eat, how to compose emails, whether to go left at that green light, etc. I found two churches that I liked and tried to get involved but I was too weak to do anything but sit there. I bought a dog and she quickly became my best friend, needing me to get out of bed in the morning to feed her and walk her. 

I decided to thruhike the Appalachian trail and it was the second most greatest decision of my life. The first being to follow Jesus. I believe I was healed of depression the instant I set foot on that Trail. I had one goal, to reach Mt Katahdin. This was easy to focus on and while it required great physical and mental strength, it was also quite simple to walk north through the wooded mountains. I finished feeling quite accomplished but knew life after trail would be difficult. It didn’t take long for the endorphins to wear off and for my troubles to come back tenfold. I had trouble getting used to society and civilization and my anxiety made it worse. I got a part time job doing cashiering and packaging at a UPS store. Trying to work more than 28hours a week absolutely exhausted me, to the point where I couldn’t even chew the food my mom had cooked for me. My arms and legs would feel like lead, too heavy to move. My neck would feel like it could no longer support my head. Going to church every Sunday made me shake so much I couldn’t breathe. Going to small group bible studies made me shake so hard I couldn’t speak. The place where I should’ve felt safest I felt terrified of. It got worse, I would shake so hard and have trouble breathing, I didn’t feel safe driving, making myself late to social events, making the anxiety even worse. I would try to be me, but would be unable to speak, leaving people bewildered. 

I refuse to live like this anymore. I refuse to be silent. I struggle with (social) anxiety and PTSD like symptoms. When I get a panic attack, I shake (unnoticeable to most unless you are touching me), I can’t speak or have trouble forming sentences, I can’t make decisions, and I have trouble catching my breath. Please don’t tell me to just breathe or calm down. It’s not that easy. I don’t know what I want you to do. I don’t always have panic attacks but I do still feel anxious most of the time. I feel like I’m fighting with my body, against my body and mind most of the time. I know I should learn to work with my body in harmony, but that still looks like a fight. I know it’s irrational. It doesn’t make sense. 

Traveling helps. It forces me to live in the uncomfort every minute. I must make a choice or risk losing much more. I have no choice but to meet people, in hostels, tours, and restaurants. I meet some amazing wonderful people, some friends for life. There are times when it’s just too much and I stand on the street corner and tears flood my cheeks. I back up into the walk of the nearest building and pray. God, fight this for me! I have no idea where I am or how to get to food, shelter or smiles. Traveling solo is difficult. Traveling solo dealing with anxiety is insane. I’m glad I came across the oceans, trust without borders. 

The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still. Exodus 14:14

Hug me.

Pray with me. 

Cry with me. 

Walk with me. 

Do messy with me.

Eat with me.

Laugh with me.

Be alone with me. 

Fight with me. 

Be still with me. 

This doesn’t quite articulate all that I want or need to say but it comes close. I write this at 4am as I’m about to get on a plane to home after almost 3months of traveling so it might be more rambling word vomit than inspiring or thought provoking but that’s all I got. 

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I woke up early to pack and get ready to go to the island for the day. The hostel breakfast was just white bread with butter or jam. I ate 2 slices and grabbed 2 slices to go, hoping to supplement my snack-bar lunch. I was one of the last people to fit on the first bus; the others lining up would have to wait for the next one. There were tons of cars and buses heading towards the ferry station. I figured the ferry must be huge. The hour long bus ride was rough, just passing through neighborhoods and farms. We immediately boarded the ferry, which had 3 floors with an open top deck. There were 12 seats across and maybe 10 down? I wasn’t too sure how many people fit but there were plenty left standing on the sides and sitting in the aisles. I sat on the top, knowing it’d be cold but not caring becasue I wanted the view. It took about 45 minutes but it was a very smooth ride. I thought about what I was going to see first or what I’d have time for and decided to rent a bike for the day for 10 euro. That way I could see more than just the fort. I got my bike, a pink road bike, and started pedaling my way along the coastal route to the fort.

 Wow, not even 5 minutes had passed and this bike was already uncomfortable. The handle bars were way too low, the seat was too tiny and I felt every bump or gravel on the road. This made me miss my awesome beach cruiser bike back home with its fat tires, large ergonomic comfort seat and tall/wide handlebars. It was tough going uphill but I loved the whoosh of the air as I flew downhill. I felt like I got going pretty fast or maybe it was that I’d been mostly traveling at 2mph for awhile. I made it first to the seal’s beach where there were supposed to be seals hanging around. I think I saw 2 far away but they could’ve been rocks. It was a smelly piece of shore for sure. I tried to eat my toast but it’d gotten hard. I pedaled on, trying not to think about the pain all along my back. I came to a beach and decided to stop for a bit, even though it was way too cold and windy for beachtime. Of course I dipped my toes in the watter and it was ice-cold! I wandered back to the rocks and sat, waiting for my feet to dry to get the sand off. It didn’t take long and I was on my way again, unsure of where all the hundresds of people I’d come over with were. There was an 11 and 12 oclock ferry so there should be triple the people. 

I made it to the bike lot where there were gifts shops, a cafe and the admission gates. It was 4 euro to go inside the fort. They said to allow 20 minutes to walk there, 20 to explore, and 20 to walk back so I had plenty of time. I was surprised at the number of people going up as the hike up got pretty steep and rocky in spots. I finally stepped through the entrance and voila! All I saw were large stone walls. Yes, these rocks had first been put into place at 500BC but they’d been destroyed and rebuilt numerous times before being abandoned. The walls looked just like the ones I’d seen all over the country except much taller. I walked over to the cliff edge hoping for a great view. Now that was cool. Parts of the cliff jutted up and out farther than the rest making it seem as if you were over the edge. i strolled around the fort, trying to find any cool doors or exits but it was just a plain rock circular wall.

 I exited and bought a chocolate muffin to go with my lunch. I tried sitting at the picnic table in the sun but it was still just too cold to enjoy it. I biked back, still with plenty of time, along the non-coastal route. I felt like it’d been uphill both ways. I was going so slow uphill I may have been walking my bike. A couple and I would leapfrog each other as we pedaled our way back. One hill was super long so I got off and walked my bike. As I pulled my bike along, a bug flew into my ear. 

Ack, get out, out! I could hear it buzzing its way deeper and deeper. Ow, now it started to kind of hurt or make pressure in my ear. I didn’t want to put my finger in my ear afraid to push it in further. I started to freak out, hopping in place and shaking my head wildy. It kept buzzing then it stopped. Was it still in there? Yepp, there’s the buzzing again. I hope it doesn’t get tired and just stay in there. Finally, I heard some more buzzing and what felt like it flying away. Whew, not sure what I would’ve done had it actually gotten stuck. 

I made it back to the few shops around the pier and bought myself an ice cream. I happily froze as I ate it, trying not to shiver. I turned in my bike and wandered the few shops before walking to the ferry. They were already boarding 45 minutes early. I got on and just kind of dozed in the seat next to the sun filled window until we got back to the bus terminal. Once we got back to Galway I checked back into the hostel getting the same room again. 

I was wanting to explore the city before getting dinner so I plotted a course, trying to see as many free attractions within a 30 minute walk. I took a wrong turn but ended up walking along Galway harbour with all the boats which was beautiful in the lowering sun. Many of the cafes were closed but that was ok as it kept me from spending money. I did find a gelato/crepe/waffle and nutella cafe though. They had huge jars of nutella but their prices were too high for how much you got. As I turned the corner, I saw tons of people gathering and heard a last few resounding beats. A few girls were making beats together in the streets. I hung around until they started playing again. I wondered what prompted them to play in the streets. A guy from the crowd really got into it, dancing and buying them a 6pack, placing a beer in front of each of them. A girl with really cool fringed booty moccasins joined him, dancing and twirling around. The girls finished their set and the crowd dispersed. My guess is they’d wait a bit for the next crowd to gather around. It was getting late, 9:30pm, so I headed back to the hostel to cook pasta and make plans to go hike in Connemara National Park the next day. 

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Rain & Wind

I woke up at 7:30 but layed in bed til 9ish. I heard John clanking stuff in the kitchen so I got out of bed. He had put out cereal and milk and was cooking porridge. I declined the porridge but helped myself to the cereal and milk. He hard boiled two eggs and Tom gave his to me, I guess I was eyeing it too much. He set it in the funniest looking single egg dish ever and proceeded to tap around the top. He ate the egg from inside the shell so I followed suit. He left for his kite surfing lessons and I stayed a bit, charging my phone as I was planning on wild camping that night. I wrote him a note, again thanking him for his kindness and generosity. I walked back toward the beach campsite wanting to check it out more. There was a tent set up along the beach pretty close to the cliffs. There were cairns set along the cliff behind it. I made my way along the road, stopping to take pictures practically every 10steps. It started to rain as I hiked along a cow path so I dumped my pack in the mud to get my rain gear out. I prayed there’d be a cafe once I hit the road again and sure enough, there was a pottery/art/cafe. I walked quickly towards it, reaching it before I got drenched. It was rather fact inside so I felt a little bad standing there with my drippy pack. The cafe prices were fairly high for their food and pastries but I should order something so I could stay in. I bought Murphy’s ice cream, the tiny 4bite size for 4euro. It was delicious but made me cold! I sat there for half an hour, eating my own snacks for lunch waiting for the rain to end. One of the ladies working there sold her artwork, paintings mostly, framed and unframed. 

As I hiked on, the wind grew stronger and stronger. I remained on roads, never even getting to gravel lanes. I wandered into several more cafe/art/gift shops but everything was geared towards exquisite (expensive) tastes. The map said I would get to hike 6km on the beach before reaching Ballydavid. There was no place to go to the bathroom but I foun another art/pottery shop. There wasn’t a bathroom in the shop but the lady let me use the one in her house across the street. The bathroom was decked out with lounge style stuff, almost like a living room except with a toilet, sink and tub. A soon as I saw the beach, it started raining. This wasn’t the foggy sprinkles I’d experienced thus far. This was all out buckets pouring from the sky. The wind whipped all around, at times making the rain feel like it was coming from all directions, even defying gravity. I was soaked in minutes, my rain jacket not doing anything and I’m sure my pack cover wasn’t helping much. I didn’t have time to get my rainpants on because they were at the bottom of my pack. Everything in my pack was in waterproof dry bags except the daypack. I was trying to hike fast enough to stay warm but couldn’t. I was wet and cold and had no choice but to keep walking. I saw two ladies up ahead of me and figured they might have a car or know what was around me. They were from Germany and the one lady that spoke English son was going to pick them up at ballyfird and take them back to their hotel in ballyferriter.  I asked if he could give me a ride to anywhere as I tried to figure out where I was/where I could sleep. The beach trail was getting a little dangerous, at times on the washed away cliffs between rocks and the really close crashing waves. It would’ve been fun had it not been cold and rainy. Finally we reached a road but walked on that for 20minutes before seeing signs for hostel and bar. Of course they were meeting up and having a drink before leaving. We trooped in sopping wet and they sat at the bar while I tried to get an answer about if there was a bed available in the hostel. I stood there dripping making puddles on the floor for 20minutes before I finally got an answer. I didn’t want to take my stuff off because I wouldn’t be able to pick it up again and because it kept me a little warmer. The hostel was upstairs in the building directly behind the bar. There were 4beds in my dorm and I was the only one there. As I tried to unpack a little to spread my wet stuff out, I realized the wifi was only in the bar. Maybe I’d go down later after I got warm and dry. I showered and put on clean dry clothes which felt so nice. I went downstairs and cooked my pasta on the kitchen. I could hear a family in the private room but never saw anyone come or go from the hostel. When I crawled into bed I was still the only one in my dorm and I could see the empty beds in the dorm across te hall. I wonder why it took so long to see if they’d had one available bed. I passed out early, exhausted from the wind, rain and chill, not having looked at anything for the morning.

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Killarney National Park

I got up, again not doing much besides slipping on my flip flops, and went down to breakfast. They had bread, butter, strawberry and grape jelly, cornflakes, fruit/fiber cereal and milk. I put 2 slices of bread in the toaster and poured some fruit/fiber cereal in a bowl with milk. I was famished and it was great now that I could finally eat. The fruity fiber cereal actually tasted pretty good. I packed my daypack and carried both packs downstairs. I left my large pack in the locked luggage storage rooms and set off for Killarney National Park.

It was 5km just to get to the park but  it was cloudy with no rain/fog so I was ok with walking especially with such a light pack. There were horse and buggies taking people back and forth between all the sights. I could hear them coming from far away…clip clop, clip clop. Some of the horses were large draft horses with big fuzzy feet with long hair swishing. I finally arrived at the entrance to the park, excited to see all the mountains, waterfalls and whatever else I might find. I really had to go pee but couldn’t because I was walking down a road. Now that I was in the forest, I had my pick of trees.

There were 2 paths I could follow, the paved one or slightly longer walking path. Of course I chose the walking path, especially as it went closer to the lakes edge. I ambled along the path, taking the many side trails to the actual shore. It was a sandy pebbly sort of beach with gentle waves sneaking in among the pebbles. I stood there for a spell, listening to the waves, to the creek bubbling and bursting through the rocks to meet the lake. I was glad for the cloud cover and it was too windy to be buggy. I meandered on, not knowing exactly where I was but that was ok with me.

I found the Muckross Abbey which had many graves/memorial stones out front. The Abbey was completely open to explore and I soon found myself staring up, up and up at a really old Yew tree. It was maybe 8 feet in diameter and the Abbey had been built around it so it was several hundred years old. It was neat to walk among the polished stones that monks or other religious people had walked on, praying over the land or whatever they did. I made my way towards Muckross House, just walking around it, not paying to go in. There were tons of horse and buggys waiting around, to take people to the different attractions. I just really wanted to pet one. I found the sign to Torc waterfall, another 4km further but had fun walking through blooming rhododendrons. It reminded me of the mountains back home. The horse and buggy would trot past, sometimes snorting and shaking their head. I passed another huge old tree before reaching the waterfall parking area. People could just drive most of what I just walked.

I started up to the waterfall next to the creek along with hordes of other people. The way up was ethereal, all covered in moss and a light misty fog. The waterfall itself was amazing, cascading down in several sections. I took a couple’s picture after they remarked that I looked like a good photographer and they in turn took mine. I wanted to eat lunch at the waterfall but there were too many people crowding the little viewing platform. I hiked on up about 80 steps to a small view through the trees. There were a few people milling about, taking breaks and taking pictures so I sat down on the dirt to begin my lunch. I dug out my water bottle and my pizza. Yes, this is still the same pizza…it totally lasts that long right? I mean, all it is is bread, cheese, a little sauce and pepperoni. I chomped 2 slices down and also tried the 9bar. The first bite was yummy, second, not so much. I got about halfway through before I had to put it down. The trail continued up but I overheard a group asking others coming down if it was worth it, if there was another view at the top. The answer was a resounding no so I headed back down, returning the same way I came. I saw a few new side trails because I was coming from a different angle. I wandered down one and it was amazing! The views up the mountains through the fog over the lake were just breathtaking.

It didn’t take me long to make it back to Killarney center where I promptly turned left to go to Ross Castle. I was pretty tired of walking on pavement without sitting down for a while so the 30 minute walk down there seemed much longer. About midway through, I sat on a stone wall to rest my feet and have a sip of water. The lady across the street looked at me strange as I was swinging my feet, kind of oblivious to the world, content with the music in my head. I finally made it to Ross Castle, situated next to the water. It looked just like the toy castle I grew up playing with, complete with trap doors, dungeons, heavy wooded doors and many paths and stairs. I wandered the outside as you had to pay to go in. I imagined enemies approaching from the sea and standing on the tower looking out for them. I rounded the corner and stumbled upon a tiny gift shop and food store. I spotted playing cards with 52 different images of Ireland for only 2euro. I snatched them up, happy that I found a deal as most of the other cards I’ve seen were 4 or 5 euro. I thought about taking a horse and buggy back to the city center but I figured I could just walk.

I made it back around 5, wandering into all the touristy gift shops and looking for ice cream. I found Murphy’s which makes their own ice cream but it was 4 euro for about 4 bites! The bowl was so incredibly tiny, I looked at it, the cashier and back. She smiled helplessly. Oh well, guess I wasn’t eating Murphys ice cream. Just around the next corner I spotted another ice cream sign. This store had many different flavors and prices more my style. As I gazed upon the ice cream flavors, one in particular caught my eye. Nutella cream. Ohmigosh, somebody finally put them together! I’d done it before on my own, microwaving a tablespoon of Nutella to drizzle over vanilla ice cream. I combined a scoop of Nutella cream with caramel crunch and sat outside, enjoying my creamy treat.

I then explored more shops, pretty much looking at the same Irish souvenirs with very little difference. I was ambling through one shop when something blue and sparkly caught my eye. Ooh, what’s that? I knelt down to have a closer look. It was one royal blue crystal clover necklace among a few other colors, green, amber and clear. I checked the price. 12.50 euro. It was really pretty but I couldn’t justify buying it. I stared at it then walked out quickly, wondering if I’d ever justify buying myself jewelry that’s more than a couple of dollars. I’d seen all the shops and made it back to the hostel, checking in for the night and getting my large pack back from the locked luggage room. I plugged my camera in and went back downstairs to use the wifi. I met a guy who hiked el Camino de Santiago in Spain and a lady from Montreal. They made plans to grab dinner together but again, I said I’d be making my own pasta. As we talked, my thoughts wandered back to that blue crystal necklace.

Why couldn’t I buy it for myself? I was in another country, I should be able to buy a trinket, a gift for myself. Aha, I could buy it for my mom and I could borrow it sometimes. We already share shoes and some clothes because we’re mostly the same size. I left to go buy it shortly after my new friends had left for dinner. We had talked about traveling Ireland, they were going counter-clockwise and I, clockwise. The girl had just seen Cliffs of Moher and said it was beyond words.

I found the shop and bought the necklace, waiting til I was back at the hostel to put it on. I pondered why I couldn’t buy it for myself, why I had to come up with another reason. I think one of the lies I believe is I’m not worth it. I’m not sure yet exactly where this stems from but I’m working on it. I really dislike when people spend money on me and I definitely don’t like spending money on myself. Or even time… God, rewrite Your truth into my heart!

I made my pasta and continued writing and updating the blog. I was hoping to get to bed earlier but typing out the blog on the tiny iPhone takes so long. I finally finished but then it took practically 10minutes for my shower to get hot. The window to outside was stuck open so I got a cold draft too. There were no hooks or any place set my stuff in the shower so it just sat on the floor. Luckily my toiletries are in a water proof sac. There was a box of q-tops on the counter so I took one. Ah, it’s the little things! I eventually crawled into bed just past midnight.

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Blarney Castle

I woke up a little after 8 and cooked the rest of my eggs. I was hard to finish all 3 today. I couldn’t figure out how best to attach my daypack to my pack so I just carried it. I bought a bus ticket to Cork for 23.50euro which was way higher than I expected. I tried writing my journal but had no idea where I was as the bust never announced stops nor did they have signs saying which stop it was. Cork ended up being a huge bus station and I immediately bought a 2 way ticket to Blarney. It took just a short time and I was on entrance to a castle! It started sprinkling so I ducked into an alleyway to put my rain cover and rain jacket on. I ate 2 slices of cold pizza, just standing there in the alleyway as people rushed by under umbrellas. I figured out how to attach my daypack and away I went towards the castle. I paid the student discount price of 11euro and soon found myself staring up at a huge stone structure in front of me.

Wow, it’s a castle! I explored all around it, into the dungeons and secret trap passages it had. I ventured towards the front, eventually getting into the long line to kiss the Blarney stone. I wasn’t too sure about kissing it but I did want to see it and the rest of the castle. The line wandered through different rooms and up next to crumbly old steps. We reached a long steep spiral staircase and as we got higher, I wasn’t sure my pack would fit. The steps were hardly wide enough for my feet to stand on and my pack was brushing all sides of the spiral. Finally I reached the top of that one and had to lunge forward to get my pack through. Now we were near the top of the castle, stepping where castle defenders had fought. I wondered what it would’ve been like, to actually have to protect your home and livelihood from other people. As I got closer to the Blarney stone, there were plaques telling the history and stories behind it. It was said that you’d receive the gift of eloquence, of gab, if you kissed the Blarney stone. It was closely guarded at the very top of the castle, up another set of spiral stairs, this one skinnier than the last. \it was finally my turn. I dropped my pack, layed on my back, reached for the stability bars and kissed the stone. There were 2 men there, one to help hold people from falling, the other to take their picture (like a roller coaster pic) and sell it to them at the bottom. I made my way back down, wandering through the great hall and kitchen areas back to the tiny photo gift shop. I stood in line just to see how my picture came out, definitely not to buy one. It didn’t turn out too well anyway. I ambled over to the Poison garden, containing plants that could be made to harm, like the mandrake from Harry Potter. Back then, this type of garden would be the health garden, good or bad. Next I went past the old trees, some so large they didn’t look real. I ambled through a rose garden (it smelled so good…I wish my pictures could be scratch & sniff!) and the druid garden. By then I was pretty tired and hurting from carrying my pack around.

I got back on the bus to Cork where I wandered for an hour or so before getting on a bus to Killarney. Maybe I was too tired but I didn’t care too much for Cork. It was really grimy and really trashy looking around the river and main street shopping and eateries. The whole place looked run down and unkempt. I got to Killarney at 7ish and immediately saw an outfitter. I liked this town already. I took out my phone and made my way to the Neptunes Hostel, taking my time, ducking into Irish/celtic gift shops. I loved going in them just to hear the music. I got to the hostel, checked in, and of course my room is on the 3rd floor. I’d had pizza and a banana on the bus for dinner so I wasn’t hungry. I just stayed downstairs, alternating between people watching and planning/updating the blog. I went upstairs at 11 and surprisingly all my roommates were in bed asleep. The bed was firm but soft with no weird lumps or bumps or springs felt through.

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Making Plans

I woke up later and just stayed in bed as long as I could before getting up and cooking eggs. I had two but realized I was still hungry so I had a third. Tom came and really helped me make a plan for the next week, showing me where to go, where to camp or hostel at and how to see the beautiful Ireland without getting caught in super touristy places. He used to be a tour guide so his info was quite handy. The general plan we came up with looked good to me so I was all set to go explore Waterford some more. I checked the bus schedule and decided to leave 30minutes beforehand to get to the bus stop. I was told it was about a 15-20minute walk. After 30minutes had passed and I was still walking, nowhere near the landmarks, I wondered if I’d even come the right way. I checked my phone and it said yes, I was still headed the correct direction. I asked a gas station clerk where the bus stop was and she answered a 5minute walk the direction I was going. After 15minutes I finally got there. It’d taken me 50minutes to get there and at a pretty fast pace too. Oh well, I’d missed that bus but another would come in 45minutes.  I checked out the church across the street, mostly just to use the bathroom. I had my 1L water bladder with me as well as a few other things. I was going to buy a daypack so I could leave my heavy pack behind when I was just going out for the day. Finally the bus came, 15minutes late. It was 5.50 euro for the 15minute ride back into town. Urgh,  I texted Tom to see if he’d pick up at the station again at 5:30 because I was not going to pay that much for a bus. He replied yes but that meant I now only had just under 2 hours. I found a neon pink daypack at Shaws, a department store. I wanted a smaller one but this one had good straps and back support. It was 35euro. I shouldered it and went on to the touristy gift shop and bought a few trinkets, knowing I’d have to carry them or spend a lot to send them home. I found a Supervalu on the opposite end of town to get a few more grocery items. I still couldn’t find protein bars anywhere! The checkout counters had organic fruit or nut bars but with only 4g of protein and if I was to be hiking, I needed more. I guess I needed to go to a sporting goods store but it was time to go. I checked out as fast as i could, running back to the station, hoping I wouldn’t be too late. It was 5;35 but I practically ran into Sonya, his wife. She’d be driving back to the hostel today. I bought an apple charger in town so I wouldn’t have to use/rent the hostels or ask someone else. My charger hadn’t been working on my iPhone but had on my camera. The girls were really trying to dye the blond ones hair blue but it was only tingeing it. They’d also bought flour and a few other things so they were baking cookies and cupcakes trying to use it all. I ordered a pizza for delivery to the hostel, counting on it to be my lunch and dinner the next day of traveling and touring Blarney Castle. It finally came and it tasted okay, not a whole lot of pepperoni. I got ready to take a shower, slipping my shower coin into the machine and it began counting down! Oh no! I thought it didn’t start til I turned the water on. I wished the time was in the bathroom because I had no way of knowing how much time was left. The water turned off midway through getting clean so I ended up using the sink, which made a little mess. I didn’t feel like hikertrash at all, rinsing my hair in the tiny sink and shaving my legs using the sink. I also washed my stovepot and spoon, making sure everything was food free. I’d burnt a noodle or two the day before. I went to bed early after getting my stuff kind of together because I’d be going with Tom and the other 2 girls into Waterford at 9am.

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I woke at 7:30, packed a little and went down for my half Irish breakfast. She’d already left for her day job so he was cooking. He had it all set out all pretty on the table and I felt bad because I knew I was just going to pick at it because I still had a hard time eating. He set a plate of goodies in front of me and I almost threw up. I knew it smelled good, of bacon, sausage, eggs, beans & tomatoes but my body just said no. I started with the beans and ate as much as I could, getting through the sausage and toast. He helped me figure out the bus, saying we’d leave at 11, to go to the (slightly) larger city where I could catch a bus to Waterford to chill there. We left and we caught the bus just before it left. I was able to get the student ticket of 11euros. I’d contacted Tom of Toms comfort hostel and he said he could pick me up at the bus station at 5:30 so I had 4hours to explore Waterford.

Lunch was the first stop. I walked back and forth looking for a cheap place to eat but also to sit down somewhere. I found a tiny little shop called Bunkers that served a few different sandwiches on sourdough or blaa bread. Blaa bread was softer and fluffier. I chose a BBQ sandwich on blaa bread and it turned out pretty tasty. The shop was filled with old photos and odd trinkets but had a very homey feel. I wasn’t sure if it was purposefully like that to be touristy but I liked it. The lady let me use the shop bathroom as most places did not have restrooms for even customers. There were pay-for-use toilets next to the bus station.

I finished lunch and immediately wandered down the street into a tiny shop called Serendipity. It was run by an American couple that moved here 10years ago. They sold lots of health/healing stuff, books, soaps, oils, organic vegan bars and they had “healthy” lights that were to make you feel more relaxed. They had chairs and wifi so I got to know them a little, getting information on what to do and what not to do in Waterford. I left, telling them I’d probably be back, but I was going to explore Waterford.

I walked to the Viking triangle, through a shopping center that had a chocolate cafe, among other stores. I spent some time admiring the chocolates, pondering which I was going to buy. I settled on a Guiness caramel filled chocolate bar, paid for it, and promptly went outside and polished off (almost) half of it. Mmm! So tasty it fills my heart with happy.

I still need to get groceries, pasta, oatmeal, protein bars, nabs and snacks of some sort as well as dinner for tonight. I went back to Serendipity and used the wifi to locate a supermarket. I left my pack with the couple there at Serendipity and made my way towards the Aldi. I felt I could trust them with my stuff. I always carry my important things, like my passport, credit cards, phone, etc on my person anyways. I bought a half dozen eggs, 3pastas, granola bars, and 2 bananas before it was time to go. I went back near the chocolate cafe to buy a smoothie from the Shake Shack for dinner. Peaches, bananas and yogurt…mmm, I love fruit!

I grabbed my pack from Serendipity and headed across the street to the station but not before thanking the couple, telling them they truly been a lifesaver. They gave me 3 9bars, organic seed energy bars that were just past there shelf life. I waited at the station for Tom, not knowing exactly where I needed to be but ran into his wife, Sonya. She works in the city as he more of runs the hostel I guess. I’m still not used to sitting in the front seat on the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the road. The hostel was just an extra couple of rooms of his house. A kitchen/lounge area, bathroom and a couple rooms with bunk beds. There were 2girls there and 2guys would show up a little later. I mostly stayed in my room, planning and writing til time to go to bed.

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Windy Wicklow Way

I didn’t sleep well at all; maybe it was the wind, maybe it was the first night being in a tent in awhile. The wind was howling all night. I felt like if I wasn’t in my tent, it’d blow away! If I curled up with my feet close to me away from the bottom of the tent, the back of the tent would lift up, pulling against the stakes. The sides of the rainfly billowed out making it look like a sailing ship in the 5am light. I stayed in my bag til 8:30, got up and packed up my tent as fast as I could, stepping on pieces so they wouldn’t blow away. I knew I couldn’t cook here with all the wind so I figured I’d cook when I reach the trees/protection from the wind. As I started hiking up, the wind was so fierce it knocked my feet sideways. I gazed ahead and realized the trail continued up bald pastures so I just crouched behind a piece of the old crumbled rock wall and cookedmy breakfast of oatmeal. I choked it down, still unable to eat much, packed up and kept going because it was cold! I wasn’t hiking fast enough to stay warm. I saw lots of sheep and had to step carefully to avoid their droppings. Right after lunch I crested a hill and voila, there was a lake! It was incredibly gorgeous. By that point, I was hot and sweaty so I wanted to go jump in the lake. But alas, it was too far away. I hiked on, passing moe sheep and cows, hiking on roads, gravel roads and fire roads through mountains that were currently being logged. I strolled past he Wicklow lodge, not even going in because it looked way fancy. The roadwalk was super long and in the hot sun. Two fellows passed me going the other way, expressing surprise that I was on my own. They told me there were 2 guys from TX just ahead of me, as well as free water from a farmers shed just up the way. I drank a few drops straight from the hose and soon found myself catching up to the 2 TX dudes. They hiked a tiny bit faster but stopped to take a lot of pictures so it was about my pace. We were all going to Glendalough Hostel (pronounced glendaluck.) we arrived at Glendalough hotel which looked fancy and we thought this can’t be it. We were pointed on down the road, past the tiny church and graves to the hostel. I checked in and found myself on a bottom bunk bed of about 10bunks of all girls. I went out to the common room, the only place where thee was wifi, to try to plan the next few days. The TX guys came out as well and we met Hannah. She was doing like I was, solo backpacking around Europe. She started in Stockholm, Sweden and had planned on having a partner but the girl dropped out. She was on day 11 and advised me it gets easier. The first week she was all over the place, similar to how I was, but then she started making plans 5-7 days out instead of 1-3 and she said that was way less stressful. She and the TX guys went to dinner at a place that had appetizers that started at 16euro. Nope, not the place for me. I showered in the teensy tiny shower that had a push button for every 5 seconds. Now that was annoying! I tried to lean against it without touching the wall but that didn’t work. I tried pushing it with my elbow but that didn’t work either. I thought maybe the hot water would be good for my sore back, sore hips, sore feet…road walking really got me hurting! I got out, having pushed that button what felt like a million times and grabbed a pasta side to cook. The self serve kitchen was still crowded at 8pm so I had to use a large pot just to boil a cup and a half of water. I watched it boil so of course it took forever but eventually I ended up with creamy tuna alfredo. Hopefully the protein will do good to my muscles. Robert and Eric (the 2 TX guys) and Hannah came back fat and happy from the restaurant and we all sat around the common room with our phones, trying to make plans but just swapping stories instead which was a-ok with me. The guys would be hiking to glenmalure tomorrow (my halfway point for tomorrow) and Hannah would be meeting up with a lady who was taking her to go ride a horse alll day through the Irish mountains! She’d been riding horses since she could walk so this was her dream come true. It was now almost midnight and I had no idea where I would spend the next night but I was sleepy so I fell into my comfy bunk bed.

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To the Mountains!

I woke at 8 knowing I still needed to get fuel for my alcohol stove. This time I had my two slices of cheese and one ham folded to make half a sandwich. I ate a slice with jam and the funny looking tasteless cereal. I packed up and checked out, wandering to some camping store another hostel guest had told me about. Sure enough, there it was! A real outfitter in Dublin! Now let’s pray they have denatured alcohol or heat or something similar otherwise I might have to buy a whole new stove set. They had liquid fuel called Power fuel. The guy had an open bottle someone had bought and didn’t need all of so he gave it to me. I asked if it was okay to try it out on the sidewalk and he said sure. So I unpacked my pack, hiker trashing up the sidewalk and proceeded to pour a tiny bit on my stove to see how it would burn. It lit superclass ans burned brighter but with tons of soot. It was blackening my stove, pot and windscreen with nasty soot. The city had really woken up and there were plenty of people walking by me, just burning a small fire on the sidewalk. It finally went out so I could pack up and head out. He told me I could have it for free which was awesome! I then confirmed with him the bus route and exactly where I was going. I wanted to look around the foreign outfitter but knew I had to get going as I had 21km (13mi) to hike. I made it to the bus and paid 3.30euro for the 30min ride down there. Ireland got prettier and prettier the further we got from city centre. The bus driver dropped me off right across the street from Marlay park which was nice. People had been telling me to get dropped off at the shopping center or such-n-such st and walk to the park. I we like uh-uh, there’s public transit-it can take me right to the park. I wandered (I do a lot of wandering…) into the park and actually found the beginning of the Wicklow Way.

I passed through the concrete markers, acknowledging that the little yellow hikerman would be guiding me. Almost immediately, the path split with no signs so of course I picked the path that went uphill and into the woods, because the trail is always the hardest. I was right and found the little yellow man in the forest.

Ah, finally hiking a path through the trees with my home on my back.

I came upon a man on a ladder adjusting something on an old funny looking tree. Wait, what is that? There were a bunch of fairies, fairy houses and mini yards set up all along the tree. He was the guy that actually created all of it. That’s incredible that he makes art and never knows how long it’ll last as it’s on an old rotting tree. I continued on, crossing roads and wondering whether I was going the right way. Eventually I started up a forested gravel road with sporadic views back to the city. It was fairly steep so every so often I’d stop to catch my breath and lookout and think,

“Wow, I’m hiking on a mountain in Ireland!”

As I hiked on I kept thinking how much it looked like Grayson highlands in southwest Virginia. I passed only a few people going the opposite way, locals who were out for a walk. After hiking for 5.5hours, I arrived at Knockree youth hostel, where there were tons of loud children playing out front. The hostel was full but I went to the bathroom to at least get some water. The older guy was rude and had said they’re full; go to Enniskerry which had pricey B&Bs. I talked to the younger girl who was just working there for the summer and she said shed seen people camp by the river just a 10mins walk down the way, even though it was technically illegal. I thanked her, took some pics of the maps along the wall, and continued on. It was close to 6:30 and I was hungry. I found a spot next to the river and cooked some pasta. It was nasty and I could hardly finish it but I forced it down. I saw some nice tent spots but it was so buggy by the water so I packed up and got moving. There was a waterfall within 5km that was rumored to have great camping spots. After the longest time and the longest uphill climb, I saw the waterfall from a long way away. A local couple took my picture and wished me luck on finding a spot to set up camp. Yay, maybe the luck of the Irish would be on my side. It was close to 9 now and I was gettin frustrated. I could see I was walking away from the waterfall. I crested a hill and saw a tent next to a bridge! Saweeeet!! A tenting spot and I wouldn’t be alone! I practically skipped down the rocky hill, shouting hello as I passed the tent and campfire. I picked a grassy spot on the opposite side of the creek facing the sunset. I quickly set up and got in just as the sun was setting. It was windy and getting chilly fast.

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