I woke up today with a shattering realization: I leave for Ireland tomorrow. It shouldn't have come as that much of a shock as my past three weeks have been nothing but a flurry of emails, registration, packing, unpacking, repacking, and unpacking again as I try to plan for four months within the space of two bags. But, I think the difference has been up to this point it has been x number of days until departure. That 's' on the end of "day" makes a real big difference. Today, I woke up, and it was "day". No 's'. Just singular. Uno mas. Tomorrow. Twenty-four hours.
I don't care how hard a person tries, I am convinced it is impossible to avoid this ground-breaking and sudden comprehension of time that happens before any major event. For so long you think of that day, you get worked up about it, you run around telling all of your friends about it, that when it finally gets here you don't know what to do with it. It's like that friend who walks into a room right as everyone is talking about them; "Oh... you're here... shoot."
Regardless, I know the final anxiety and excitement won't set in until the wheels lift off the runway and the plane banks to the east for a nice 3,000 mile cruise over the Atlantic to Shannon, Ireland. That will be the roller coaster moment -- when the safety-bar locks into place, the wheels on the cart jerk forward on the track, and you are officially along for the ride. Or as a good friend always likes to put it when faced with the start of a new experience, "Well... somethin' will happen," and off he goes.
My anxiousness/excitement will be equally caused by the one key fact: I have never been outside of the country. Very fortunate to say I have seen almost all parts of our own nation, but never have I set a foot outside. Not even Canada for a weekend, and I live two hours from the border. Literally the farthest away from the continental U.S. I have been was a family trip to Acadia, Maine. So obviously I would choose a four-month European trip for my first venture out. Go big or go home right?
Luckily, Ireland seems to be very newbie-rated when it comes to international travel. I have yet to tell anyone I am going to the Emerald Aisle and get a response of "Oh man, that's rough, try to enjoy yourself if you can." In fact every response has attested to the complete opposite, that Irish people are some of the friendliest, good-natured, and positive people they have ever met. Case and point: traditionally they view their funerals and wakes as celebrations of life rather than mourning of death and make it one big festivity -- definitely a positive vibe.
I am excited to see the United States from a different perspective, and I would say one that is about as neutral as you can get. I am excited to experience a very traditional culture that is still maintained in the southern part of the country. I am excited to meet new people and make connections. I am excited to wander, explore, and see the sights that are off the well-beaten, tourist path. And I am excited to learn, to learn about myself and about a different part of the world. 29 hours, 26 minutes, and 50 seconds until the flight leaves the gate ... but who's counting.
Slán!! (Gaelic for goodbye... figured I should start practicing)