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The future is dark, which is the best thing the future can be, I think.
— Virginia Woolf

19.11.2018 - ...and she's traveling ALONE?!

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Cork on the Quays

What I am learning from alone travel: there is a huge emphasis on sharing it with others. Travel is the convening of cultures, the absorption of other ideologies and ways of life. Of course it’s meant to be shared. But on the grounds of personal erasure?

I might be getting too prophetic. What set off this thinking was my time spent at the Galway City Museum. It’s a museum right next to the River Corrib that splits Galway in two (and it’s free!!). I was there for at least ninety minutes reading the plaques and history of the city, which is honestly a short time for me. Anyone who has ever museumed with me would know that I take my time in exhibits. This instance, though, I had no one ushering me out or waiting on me, and yet the entire time it felt like I was holding someone up.

I’m learning to relinquish the idea that my experience has to be anything someone has told me it should be. I’ve had this happen before, namely on my education abroad experience in Hungary back in 2015. I spent the first week worrying my group was not living up to past groups, going out as much, hanging together as much. It took me over seven days to realize that the people, scenario, and entire experience was different, meaning those stories I’d heard were not a stick to measure myself by. But unlearning these ideas can be hard. As people, we listen to others and their lived experience to sometimes justify our own choices. Role models are great in that way: they serve as a bastion to live up to or as an embodiment of a person’s goals and morals. When they become too entangled in our own decisions, though, I fear we lose ourselves in the process. Travel feels the same to me, this ideal we need to live up to, forgetting that it is our experience to make our own. This realization, however, doesn’t diminish the true shakiness of moving anywhere.

Sometimes being alone hits me in moments where I’m not prepared. Eating at a cafe, walking on a road while listening to music, seeing something funny and not being able to joke about it with anyone. When I truly feel lonely (though not the same as alone), I’ll tend to find a bookstore and walk around in it. I love surrounding myself with words I know so many have read, that authors poured time in to write. So far, I’ve bought five books (my parents are cringing). I feel that establishing a library for myself, even a traveling one, makes everything feel much more grounded. Especially when most fundamentals are not.

Let’s look at the facts of my life currently:

  • I have been in Ireland for six days. I have no track of time anymore, just that I am in X place at this moment.

  • I have no place to live, grappling with having to choose at all.

  • I have a small group of people I feel I can look to here in the country, and small in itself is more than zero, but still. Hence the books.

  • I have been enjoying my travel self and my pragmatic self is catching up to me.

  • I am going to be in Ireland for a year.

Holy fruitcakes.


Saint Fin Barr’s Cathedral from a bridge

Saint Fin Barr’s Cathedral from a bridge

One thing I’ve loved about “place” is its ability to shape shift. History outside of the US tends to be cemented deeper into the framework of the societies.

This is not to say the Native American history is not deep nor insufficient, but much was destroyed and displaced and devalued upon colonialism’s entry into North America. The oldest cemented history of the collective US is on the east coast, and not always accessible.

Here in Cork, you can see a medieval castle tower that stands alone next to apartments, or a church older than my entire university (that one always makes me think). Place is constructed and the people inside of it fluctuate, tear down previous place, construct new place. It’s hard to choose place without considering people. Sure, I graduated from Ohio State, and campus will always be home, but the people inside of it will change and never be the same. I feel similarly in picking a city to live in. What I can’t determine are the people, but the bones I can somewhat choose (although, this concept does depend on job and accommodation).


I’m rambling a bit because there is a lot on my mind. Bones, double espresso shot, chamomile tea, where I’ll be living in three days, what I’ll eat tonight, poetry. Let me be frank: this is all terrifying. Terrifying in a riveting way, and terrifying in a paralyzing way. Truly being alone is often demonized for no real reason other than fear - a very human feeling with a multitude of origins. Being alone is making this hard and rewarding. Being alone is reminding me that I can be my own connector. Being alone reminds me that I can own my time, which I find myself forgetting in the minutia that becomes life. Being alone is a good teacher, and I’m looking forward to taking bones and making them a body.

Until next time, I’m signing off because I’ve been avoiding email quite a bit.

Enthusiastically,

Madeleine <3

Madeleine Corley