Monday, August 19, 2013

Day 99 - Crossing the Atlantic

I have never crossed the Atlantic. While I have been lucky to travel many places in my first 30 years, crossing the Atlantic is an experience that has escaped me. While I have always dreamed of visiting many places on the European and African continent, I have never acted on my desires to do so. Instead, I would justify my inaction by convincing myself my time and money would be better spent elsewhere, and that visiting the old world was something that could wait “until I was older.” Realizing this perspective was a foolish way to approach and experience that would undoubtedly provide me memories and insight that would last a lifetime, I decided to make my dream of crossing the Atlantic a reality during my “I have never...” year. After recruiting my friend, Patrick, to accompany me on my journey (Unfortunately, Rachael didn’t have enough vacation time to come along), I started narrowing down a list of potential destinations. Eventually a bit of luck, one amazing deal, and some good timing resulted in Patrick and I booking a trip to one of the places I have always wanted to experience, Ireland.

Although Patrick and I booked our trip many months ago, its approach came surprisingly quick. As we prepared for our travels, Patrick and I would periodically talk about the coming experience surrounded by an air of disbelief. We knew we were making the trip to a place of beauty and deep history, but the idea of making the trip seemed altogether surreal as we approached our day of departure. Inevitably, that day came, so Patrick and I loaded up our bags and made the short trip to Chicago to catch our flight to the Emerald Isle. The realization we were a day away from planting our feet in Ireland was more than enough to excite us, but the first step in the process was making the seven hour flight across the second largest body of water in the world.

The plane...

My previous travels provided previous experience making long flights from one location to another, but I knew this flight would be particularly long given the ultimate destination. In our best effort to prevent jet lag, Patrick and I booked a flight to leave this evening, figuring we could sleep our way to Ireland and wake up ready to experience the country. Stated plainly, that didn’t happen. The wonder and excitement about our forthcoming experiences kept Patrick and I awake the majority of our flight across the ocean. Although I tried my best to lull myself to sleep with soft music and boring entertainment, my body refused to rest. As a result, I dozed in and out of sleep for 10 to 15 minutes roughly every hour, with my body jolting me awake to check the clock each time I realized I had fallen asleep. It was clear a good night’s rest was not in the cards for me, but I knew I wasn’t going to let that get the best of me.

The view from my seat...
Hours into our flight, somewhere between days and between time zones, I looked up and realized we were nearly half way across the Atlantic. With the rows of people around me calmed to a slumber, I did my best to keep quiet as I rifled through my laptop bag looking for something to do. My efforts proved unsuccessful, which prompted me to turn on the television monitor in the back of the chair in front of me and pull up our flight map. The map showed us little more than half way through our trip, which produced equal feelings of excitement and frustration that landed on indifference. In response, I stared into the blue glow of the screen and followed the map for minutes on end until I finally started to feel a heaviness consume me. Moments later I was finally asleep, and my body was ready to let me stay that way.

Getting there
Sometime later I was stirred to life by an announcement that came bellowing over the cabin speakers. As I came to I caught the tail end of the pilot’s message, which indicated we were about the land in Dublin. The realization of the message forced me forward and into an upright position at my seat. Excitement tore through my body once more and I came to grips with the fact that a dream was soon to be a reality. Although it was still hard for me to believe, the whole thing seemed more real in that moment than it hard at any point prior. I had crossed the Atlantic, I was over Ireland, and I was minutes away from starting a journey of new experiences in a totally unfamiliar country. All I could do was smile.

Roughly 30 minutes later, our airplane touched down in Dublin, and Patrick and I stepped out into a nearly perfect Irish morning. Today I accomplished something I have dreamed about since I was a child, and I have the next week to spend discovering one of the places at the center of that dream. I don’t know what we will encounter in our travels through Ireland, but I know we will make the most of every moment we have in this storied land. After crossing the Atlantic, we would be foolish not to do just that.

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