Most of the time when I traveled, I would plan everything meticulously. I would sit down in my local coffee shop and draft a list of all of the sights and attractions I wanted to see and all of the foods I wanted to try. On that same token, I made sure all of my hostels were booked far in advance and that I had my entrance and exit from the country completely sorted out. Yup, I was THAT kind of OCD traveler. In 2019, I finally decided that I would change things up a bit. I used my miles to purchase a $5 ticket from Florida to Dublin and promised myself I would plan as little as possible. I booked the first 2 nights at a hostel so I had somewhere to stay as soon as I arrived, but the rest of my week-long vacation was left completely open. I was traveling alone so I decided I would just see who I met along the way and play it by ear.
The first day? It wasn’t anything too special. I arrived exhausted after a red eye from the USA and it was raining nonstop all day. Not to mention, the hostel was probably the worst I had stayed in, to date. I was completely lonely and wondered why the heck I had come to Ireland in the first place.
On the second day, the magic started happening. I had met a charming guy from Rio on Tinder – let’s call him Matheus. He was living in Dublin working two jobs whilst learning English. We met on a bridge over the Liffey and strolled around the city for what seemed like hours, talking about his life in Dublin, our shared annoyance with our governments, and how he plans on staying in Europe in the future. Oh and speaking of Guinness (did I even mention Guinness?), we later had a few pints at the PantiBar. Weird name, but great beer.
On day three, I joined a “free walking tour.” While learning about the history of the Dublin Castle, I turned to a Canadian couple around my age and bluntly said:
Hi, I’m alone! Wanna be friends?
Ok, maybe not exactly that, but something to that degree. It worked, and after the tour, we grabbed some pints at the cheapest most authentic pub they knew called The Cobblestone.
Pro-tip: In Ireland when drinking with friends, normally everyone buys a “round” for the group. Don’t try to leave before your “round” comes up, that’s just bad manners.
The Canadians (Sam and Sam – they had the same name!) told me they were staying in a hostel called the Abbey Court which had a free breakfast and great vibes. Tired of my own hostel and eager to hang out with my new friends, I checked in the next morning. As Rose poetically mentions in her article, the hostel is legit a maze, and I lost myself every time I entered.
The next day, Matheus (remember him from day two?) hit me up and told me flat out “Why the hell are you staying in these hostels? Come stay with my friends and I! We’d love to have you!” I didn’t know Matheus too well, but I decided to take a leap of faith and I lugged all of my stuff over to his apartment. Best. Choice. Ever.
I basically fell in love with all of his friends. The house had five Brazilians and a Russian girl who pretended to understand us when we talked in Portuguese. We spent our days cooking whatever we could find at the supermarket, blasting funk music, and discussing how we managed to move to Europe. I quickly learned that Dublin was a city of immigrants, especially Brazilians who wanted to learn English. Through seeing Dublin in their eyes, I learned a lot more about the city than I would have if I had just kept to myself back in the hostels.
At around 5 p.m. on the first night, the gang brought me to a huge multi-story pub with 2€ pints called Dicey’s. They told me essentially that since the beer was so cheap, the Brazilians of Dublin came, dominated, and made the place their own. If you go, show up before 7 p.m. to avoid paying the €10 fee. The whole night, the pub played Brazilian funk music and I legit could’ve sworn I was back in Brazil. I made friends with basically everyone I ran into and we danced on the terrace, in the freezing cold of January, until the early hours of the morning.
I promise I didn’t just drink beer my entire time in Dublin, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a major component of my experience. I explored the city on foot at least 10 times at all hours of the day, journeyed out to Galway and the Cliffs of Moher, and met even more amazing people (you know who you are) who later ended up visiting me in Italy. I didn’t have a goal in mind when I landed in Dublin on what I wanted to accomplish, but I ended up leaving a week later with friends I know I’ll have for the rest of my life. I mean, isn’t that why we travel? To get to know places, but also to get to know people?
This year, I’m making it my vow to plan less, be more spontaneous, and just take things as they go. My mom will probably cringe when she reads this, and that is completely okay, but in Dublin I discovered that maybe arriving with little planned and minimal expectations leaves you with the most to learn and gain from your experience.
Enough about me, tell me in the comments about the first time you threw caution to the wind and “winged it” on your travels. Was it worth it? Would you do it again?