A mid-life woman, travelling with only an elderly dog, in a small white van. Nomadic since childhood, thanks to a restless Sagittarian mother, ambitious father and life’s ups and downs – moving on has never been a worry to me. This journey may seem unremarkable, taken by an ordinary person, to a well-documented but fairly unexplored place. My destination is somewhere on the doorstep of many Britons but has only recently become thought of as a holiday destination.
Travel is a booming industry with people of all ages. Internet pages ooze with glossy images of adventure, tempt us with promises of indulgence and introduce notions of far-flung places we aspire to see for ourselves. I have been fortunate to travel extensively over recent years, but having ‘got that t-shirt’ my heart has more recently yearned for the tranquillity of my green and pleasant homeland.
I ran away from the “troubled North” of Ireland’s shores in the early days of the Peace Process when my own life was far from harmonious. A new start beckoned, a different scene, personal anonymity and the promise of a good income to take me to pension time. Subconsciously, I guess I always knew it was too good to be true, but I could never have foreseen the twists and turns of life’s path ahead.
A life of living at full speed, pushing the boundaries of what a body and mind could cope with, suddenly came to a halt a couple of years ago, when something went ping! For the first time in my life, I had to listen to what my body was saying, concentrate on calming my mind and learn a whole raft of new skills to cope with a suddenly less able physique.
So this homeland odyssey will be more inspiration than perspiration. Research has found that the average age of solo holidaymakers is 57, so I am, typically, a year early. (Patience was never my strong point.) Solo female travellers outnumbered males by almost two to one – 67% versus 37% – in an analysis of 62,656 singles holidays taken in 2017. So it seems I am not unusual. However, Ireland, unsurprisingly, was not one of the top chosen destinations.
Yet, there is many a good reason for me, and others, to travel closer to home and explore the beauty perhaps previously unappreciated:
- There is often “visitor attractions” on your doorstep, that you never got round to seeing or only visit when entertaining visitors from afar.
- Travelling from home often means the convenience and affordability of packed lunches and the comfort of your own bed.
- Friends and family may be close if you need help or a place to stop.
- New friends made on your travels are more likely to be seen again.
- The history and heritage of your home area may not have been on the curriculum when you were at school. Local knowledge helps understand much about the area’s culture.
- Familiar territory, your own transport, well-known language – all that familiarity means a more stress-free experience.
- No hanging round extortionist airports, no delayed flights, a smaller carbon footprint – I can feel my eco-guilt reducing too.
- And finally…inspiration. What every writer needs!
I hope that my exploration of the less documented nooks and crannies of the Emerald Isle will inspire not only me but those of you just waiting for the encouragement to step across the ditch.
Over the months, perhaps years ahead, I’ll be taking a closer look North, South, East and West, hunting for stories to tell. If memory serves, there is much, much more to that little island than the Guinness factory, a Wild Atlantic Coast and Game of Thrones film sets. I hope you will check in on my rambling from time to time to see what I have found.