My South African Angel

The stormy weather has persisted throughout the day and on the west coast of Ireland it only gets worse. The sky is grey and the wind is howling. Our bus driver said it’s the worst he’s ever driven through.

It is beautiful.

We get to the Cliffs of Moher but I only stay for a few minutes before I head into the museum for fear of being blown straight into the Atlantic. The winds are so strong it’s hard to remain standing without being pushed over. At this moment I am feeling grateful for my very fat ass.

Maelstrom by the moors. Poe would be pleased. 
By the time we get back to Galway it is dinnertime and I am more than ready for it. I get to the hostel and check into my room- a four bed dorm. I have the place to myself and begin to unpack when I hear:
“What’s up bitchessss?” Standing in the doorway is a tall blonde with a gorgeous athletic body. She looks like she could be a pro surfer or an alligator wrangler. 
“Oh, sorry. Thought the other two girls were here. I’m Sarah!”
I love her already.
Sarah is a veterinarian living in Northern Ireland but she is originally from South Africa. I asked her what type of animals she works with. “Cats, dogs, birds, cows, horses, sheep- all kinds!” See? Alligator wrangler. 

She is also traveling by herself and seems to be making the most of it. She is highly energetic, has a warm presence, and is still drunk from last night. Before I can even ask she is telling me where I can get a good drink in town and she invites me to come out with her to a comedy show. I want to take her up on it but first I must get some sustenance. For the last twelve hours the only foods available to me have been museum-café muffins and petrol station deli meats. So basically… I haven’t eaten.

I head out and wander the busy little streets of Galway to take in the atmosphere. It’s a small city but full of life. There is music playing from every corner, the roads are narrow and cobbled, the buildings are all over four hundred years old and the people are all under forty. It’s an interesting mixture.
Bustling Quay Street (pardon the potato quality)
I finally settle on a place to have dinner. It’s small and quiet with rustic decor and a very vanilla mix of Duffy and Michael Buble playing on the radio. A soothing contrast from the commotion outside. I order a glass of Spanish red and the fancy chicken dish (which is essentially just a piece of chicken with melted cheese on it and tastefully drizzled tomato sauce around the plate). 
For someone who is on a budget but can’t eat pizza or sandwiches… this meal is a fit for a king. 
I head back to the hostel to unload my book bag aka “Hi, I’m a tourist,” placard and weigh my options for the night. It’s too late to go to the comedy show and the other girls, while kind enough to invite me out with them, seem a little too hardcore for my energy level at the moment. Still I don’t want to be trapped in a hostel on a Saturday night in Galway! 
I look in the mirror. I’m wearing the only clothes I’ve brought with me. A ruddy yellow sweater and my usual pair of black leggings. I am battered from the cliffs of Moher and have the choice of taking a shower in the questionable hostel bathroom or just facing the world looking like I was wrung out to dry. I choose the latter. 

I head out alone and end up in a tavern called “The King’s Head,” drawn to it by not only its catchy name but the music coming from within. There is a live band there tonight and they’re playing “This Charming Man,” by The Smiths. I’m almost certain this place was calling my name. I order a 7 euro shot of Jameson and rock out for a while in my yellow sweater and black leggings before I decide it’s time to head back. 
Along the way I pass by clubs brightly lit by neon signs and pounding with trance music. It is still rainy and cold and the cobbled streets are slippery, but the girls are fearlessly trekking through it in their mini skirts and stiletto pumps. I wish for a moment that I was dressed that way too, but then I remember that I’m wearing these leggings because I can’t fit into a miniskirt… and I would be miserable in one. 
For the second time today, I am grateful for my very fat ass. 
I get back to the hostel at around midnight and as I expected, everyone is still out. I get ready for bed and then, to my surprise, Sarah comes in. She is too tired from last night’s escapades to stay out tonight. So we talk for a while; from basic things like where we’re from, what our interests are, etc. to what it’s like to travel alone, the challenges of meeting new people and trying new things, and the judgement you face as a young person who doesn’t really have “a plan.” I confess that I struggle with having too many options and not knowing what it is I truly should be doing. She says:
“You think you don’t know what it is you want for yourself, but deep down you always know. You just can’t worry about what other people think. In the end you’re going to do what you want anyway. And what you’re doing right now is brave.”

She didn’t know how much I needed to hear those words.

The next morning I left her a note before heading out for the second leg of the tour:

“It was so wonderful to meet you, Sarah. I hope we see each other again someday.”

And I mean it. I really hope I see her again.


One Comment

  1. You are brave. You just need to take a direction, and sometimes going someplace completely not like home can help you find it. And know this, you don’t need to commit to “being” or “doing” something thinking it is carved in stone. Take a path, if you don’t like it, you can always take another. God knows I’m living proof of that.

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