“Now, Voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find.” Walt Whitman from Leaves of Grass
Thanks a million, Walt! Your words have inspired me for most of my adult life. (And to everyone out there, if you haven’t seen the movie Now, Voyager with Bette Davis at her best, do it now.) So with those words in my heart and with the new year approaching, I am happy to report that I am taking the advice rather seriously. I am flying back to Dublin on New Year’s Day. Many people believe that what one does on the first day of the year indicates how the rest of the year will play out. So if I want to truly be a voyager who seeks and finds, I thought I would start out the year that way. And I don’t know if Walt would agree with me, but the sailing is usually much more calm when someone joins you, so I am so happy that my cousin Susie will be in the seat next to me. We’re going to be staying in a gorgeous apartment that I found on airbnb. It’s just next to Christ’s Church on Cow’s Lane. My favorite cafe, Queen of Tarts, will be just below our apartment and next to that will be a cappuccino bar called La Dolce Vita. I mean really, it’s like I made it up for the movie version of my life. Susie will stay for a few days, and then I’ll be back to the independent Kathy. I’m looking forward to both ways of traveling.
There are so many fantastic aspects to preparing for a trip. Psychologists say that the planning can be almost as much fun as the actual experience. For me the planning can be a bit stressful, especially when I know that I’ll be away for more than a month, but it is mostly exciting and stimulating. To take away some of the stress, I think a master list of things that have to be packed can be helpful. My partial list of essentials includes: passport, euros (I usually keep some extra from my last trip, but I use the ATMs there for my spending money), IPOD, speakers, books, journals, computer, umbrellas!!, camera, adaptors, magnifying mirror, and toilet paper. (Yes, I said it, I like American toilet paper.) I also like to bring food that I can’t get in Ireland – dried cherries from Trader Joe’s, pretzel sticks, and apple chips. A list of things to do in preparation for a long trip is also a good idea – call the bank to tell them I’ll be using my debit card in Ireland, call the credit card company, “freeze” my phone contract, (I use an Irish SIM card while I’m in Dublin.), turn off the water, unplug stuff, stop the mail, turn down the thermostat, get someone to water my plants, etc. I don’t think even Walt could have anticipated all of the complications of modern life! And then the clothes! In January the weather in Dublin is usually cloudy with a shower almost every day, and the temperatures range from 32 degrees to about 48 degrees, but sometimes it goes up into the 50s. It rarely snows, but last January there was one night of wet snow, and it was kind of romantic, especially because it melted almost immediately. So because of the constantly changing weather and because I only bring one suitcase, it’s a creative challenge to bring all the right stuff. (It helps that I have an IT suitcase that weighs only eight pounds.) I decided this time to bring three coats – a black puffy jacket with a hood, a gorgeous long, black coat with fur around the bottom, the cuffs, and the hood, and a deep pink faux fur coat. (I’ve always wanted a pink coat and now I have one.) It’s almost imperative to have a hood on everything. Even on the nicest days, it’s windy. And of course a couple scarves, pairs of gloves, and boots are essential. When you’re away from home, you can really miss all of your things, so it’s like a puzzle to try to bring enough clothes so that you have choices and comfort, but at the same time not too much so that you don’t overpack and weigh yourself down. I like to start early so that I can change my mind as I go. It’s a science and an art!
To get myself ready for a trip to Dublin, it’s always fun to watch movies to get in the mood. The old reliables are The Field, The Secret of Roan Inish, Angela’s Ashes, Circle of Friends, The Commitments, My Left Foot, Michael Collins, Leap Year, and Waking Ned Divine, to name just a few. And then there are the movies that need to be watched with a cheerful friend and lots of caramel popcorn to prevent one from lapsing into a deep blue funk…Calvary with the great Brendan Gleeson and The Wind That Shakes the Barley with the also great Cillian Murphy. (My family and I watched it together one Thanksgiving Day and we still haven’t gotten over it.) And speaking of Cillian Murphy, he’s the lead in the Netflix show Peaky Blinders where he plays the role of Tommy Shelby, the leader of an Irish crime family in Boston in 1919. He’s excellent as always.
Reading something Irish is always a good idea, trip or not. This time I’m bringing along a copy of John B. Keane’s play Big Maggie. The international book club that my friend Helen started has chosen the play as our next topic of discussion, and as luck would have it the play is being performed at the Gaiety Theatre on South King Street starting at the end of January and I already have my ticket in my wallet. The play is about a woman who is determined to make a better life for herself and her children after the death of her husband. John B. Keane (1928-2002) is one of Ireland’s most popular authors, and he also wrote the play The Field which is one of my favorites.
So I’ve got the essential tangibles packed and ready to go. And I’ve always had the indispensable spirit of the voyager, so “I’m ready for it” as Kodaline might say. I want to wish everyone a happy new year with adventures that help you to seek and find.