Before coming to Ireland to study, I’ve been on short travels with family and friends but I never went alone.
I’ve enjoyed the planned journeys rather than happenings on the roads, uncertainties and adventures; this time last year, I told myself to try backpacking travels, with new friends or by myself, and that was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.
I enjoyed the good and bad wholeheartedly, most importantly, they’ve become interesting and memorable stories to tell.
Blessing in Disguise
I caught a bad cold before going on my first travelling to County Cork, Ireland in October with a Chinese-Korean girl I’ve just met.
As a girl living in Taiwan, the subtropical area of the world, I’ve never experienced European winter, and the coldness in October in Ireland already hit me hard, giving me headaches, running nose, cold feet and cold hands etc.
Gladly, the excitement of going on a trip with a new friend gave me motivation; we were merry, excited, swapping cards to board our train as Irish locals did, talked and rested in the comfortable train carriage without noticing the passage of time.
Little did we know, there was another surprise waiting for us – we were told that we could not use our leap cards for such a long ride. In other words, we became fare evaders unintentionally because we didn’t buy the train tickets and thus needed to pay a fine.
I was shocked, angry at myself, and felt quite depressed (and still felt ill) and I couldn’t believe something so unfortunate would happen.
The next day, my friend and I decided to part for a while because we wanted to do different things.
I went to Blarney castle, turning the feeling of constant anxiety after getting the fine into concentration on enjoying the view, and the castle area didn’t disappoint me – it was so beautiful!
The winter sun shined through the gaps between the tree leaves, as the ancient castle stone decayed into grey and white in a graceful way, and a stream ran across the whole place. The scenery gave me peace and joy returned to me once again.
I returned to the hostel with a lighter spirit and began to chat away with a newcomer in the hostel: later on, we became good friends and went on to visit him in Germany at Christmas. She was so kind as to offer me a place to stay and really enjoyed him showing me around his city, meeting with his other local friends and so on. I even got to see snow for the first time in my life!
Thanks to the seemingly unfortunate Cork trip, I made another friend!
After that, I decided to try travelling completely on my own.
Czech Republic, my first trip alone
My first destination was a little town called Krumlov, Czech Republic, which gave me another memorable trip experience with all the good people who helped me during the trip.
I can really remember the details of this trip because I could enjoy it massively all by myself, but I don’t want to bore you with them – let me just say, the March snow covered the fairy-tale-like town with yet another mysterious feeling, and the streets were so quiet that I could sometimes hear my own heart beating when I was walking around.
Before coming back to Taiwan, I went again to Eastern Europe by myself, this time to Hungary and Croatia, and I enjoyed them both massively as well.
Again, traveling alone brings a lot of uncertainties, for example I didn’t book anything in Croatia and just went for it, but I met three French travellers and they introduced me to their hostel, and we did sightseeing for the national park the next day – it’s just spontaneous, new, and exciting every minute and every moment on the road when alone.
Travelling = Best Exchange Student Experience
Other than that, I also went on many short trips around Ireland on the weekends to hang out with my Maynoothan friends and explore Ireland, and every single moment of these trips is cherished by me, and I wouldn’t exchange for any other things, with those good times spent with good people – I couldn’t even include everything on my trips, just let the pictures show you.
What I want to say here is that as an exchange student, everyone can try and do new things when you “feel like it”; or even when you’re worried, thinking “uh, this is not what I would usually do, should I do it?” My advice is to just do it; be safe, and don’t think too much.