The best equivalent I found for this proverb is “The journey is the reward.” and it already briefly explains a concept known as “slow travel”.
It doesn’t mean that you get out of it what you put into it, when it comes to being on the way, – either spiritually, or literally. On the contrary. Slow travel, as Dan Kieran illustrates in his book of the same name, has to do with letting go. Being alergic to air travels, he uses other, slower, means of transport to get to where he wants to go and found it much more rewarding than just getting from A to B on a plane.
Try and give up control yourself and you might just come to experience a journey like I had a few years back, in 2010, when two girls and I set out on a long weekend in Ireland to get our first glimpse ever of the Emerald Island.
We spent the best part of our stay in Dublin. Each day we were eager to get out of our very cheap – and filthy – room in a youth hostel which we shared with a guy way past his prime. The long pile of books he had stashed on the window sill told us that this establishment probably was more to him than a place to stay for the night.
We would stroll aimlessly about without making an effort to go see any sights. Being a huge fan of Dublin’s prominent sons, the members of U2, for more than 20 years, the town where it all started, was a bit of a holy ground for me. As I was in the company of two girls not sharing my passion for one particular band, I simply mentioned Dublin’s significance for me, but refrained from making it my own private pilgrimage.
This must have put a smile on the faces of the gods of Rock’n’Roll up in the everlasting air show, for, although I didn’t go searching for any U2-related spots on their home ground, they found me.
Walking around this or that corner, they were there – just like that, waiting for me to come by. For instance “Bonavox”, the hearing aid store Bono took his stage name from, about 40 years ago. Or the “Wall of fame”, the facade of a building, holding gigantic pictures of famous musicians – U2 among them. In a shopping centre I stumbled upon a life-size picture of Bono during shooting the video for “Sometimes you can’t make it on your own.”, one of my favourite songs by U2. It allowed me to pose with him although he wasn’t there. (Who would have thought he is about my height?! 🙂
We walked past the “Nude”, a restaurant owned and run by Bono’s brother. I imagined the band might be inside, sharing stories and laughter over a family meal. I had no idea that day, that the restaurant would close down three days after our stay and that my picture would actually become a historic document.
All those encounters weren’t planned, they literally happened on the way, as part of what treasure and rewards life has in store for you when you let go of control. My journey to Dublin took place only three months after I had been to my very first (and only) U2 concert ever. How I ended up there after trying to see their show since I became a fan in 1986 tells another story of letting go and just going with the flow, and is worth a blog of its own.
On the last day of our trip to Ireland we wanted to see a bit of the countryside south of Dublin and we decided to hire a car. Me being the only one who brought her driving license, the task of going for it fell upon me. The problem was that I had never driven on the left side of the road before. So, in a stroke of madness, we came up with the idea to share duty and split the task until we were out of town and able to swap seats. I was on the steering wheel, but the fact that everything was on the “wrong” side of the car, too, took up all of my attention, so that I needed the girl beside me to operate the gear shift with me saying when and her telling me when to step on the excelerator. The other girl helped me to focus my eyes to stay on the corect side of the road and which exit to take. It made for quite a nice adrenaline fix and we all cracked up about how we were like the blind leading the limping one across the street.
We had a wonderful day out with a glinting sea, a beach full of big sea shells (some of which became a mobile for one of my windows at home) and some lovely ravens sharing our lunch.
We arrived back at the hotel at nightfall, without adding a single scratch to the car already covered with dents from previous obvious first-time lefties. I was particularly proud that we managed to land at the door of our hotel without a map of the town and hence no clue how to get there.
The day was rounded by meeting two very sweet lads, a band in their own right by the name of “We cut corners”. They were friends with one of the girls and welcomed us as their guests into a – as it turned out, very posh, “members only” club behind an unspectacular door in a quiet side street. Inside there were thick carpets, a receptionist in the lobby and comfy sofas and armchairs all around. It looked more like a private sitting room than a restaurant/bar.
After a first round of drinks we spent some time in a bar on a different floor, which was on a terrace high above the streets. Then we headed for a smoking area on the same level. The room was filled with a party of approximately 20 people chatting and laughing. I took it all in and couldn’t believe my luck, when there, in the far end of the room, I spotted one of the main cast of my favourite TV-show (Being Human). It was the night of Halloween, of all days, and what better than come across your favourite vampire, when the undead mingle with the living? His name is Aidan Turner and he’s on the way to worldwide fame at the moment, starring as Kili in the current Hobbit-trilogy. He looked as adrorable as on screen, dressed equally cool as the vampire he played in the show. I stared at him from where my group was seated, only about six metres away, but didn’t dare to go over and talk to him or ask him to have a picture taken with him. He wouldn’t have minded, I’m sure, because he is known for being very kind to fans.
The night had already become magical for me by now, but on our way to “Workman’s Club”, where our hosts took us for a nightcap, I got one last gift to end our “magical mystery tour” of Ireland. Right around the corner of the club, what else was there but the “Clarence”, the hotel owned by the members of U2? It looks rather posh and so I didn’t dare walk in, because I wasn’t suitably dressed. It was just enough for me to have a look at it from outside.
And then we arrived at our ultimate destination for the night and for our journey. A long line of people waiting to be granted access to the promised land, had formed at the doors. Our lovely companions ignored the hostile comments from the people waiting and walked right up to the doorman. After exchanging a few words we were all ushered in, feeling like VIPs, leaving behind a crowd whistling and booing their frustration at us.