STRIPPING GRANNY

Sitting here in the Departure Lounge of Dublin Airport, and I’m pinching myself. This is it! It’s actually happening now! The plane to take us to Reykjavik in Iceland has just rocked up to the Departure Gate and it’s looking Wow!

Now ..when we were discussing the idea of doing this world trip way back, we thought naively that it would just be a matter of walking out the door with haversacks on our backs and flying away on the wind for two years. When I say I was a small bit naïve … well, let me put it this way, I was a wayyyy ginormous bit naïve! I finished work just before Christmas and at the time thought, “sure that’ll give me lots of time to do my TEFL course, to write my blogs and to basically have some much needed ‘down time’ before heading away.” But you see, it doesn’t quite work like that at all. I was absolutely delusional! It’s been an education in itself since. Detaching from all of the material things here and stripping back everything to one haversack is a bit more time-consuming and overwhelming than I could ever have imagined.

The realization that I couldn’t do just that came as a bit of a shock if I’m totally honest. It kind of crept up on me slowly (as things usually do with me) once Christmas was over and little Harry had returned to Chicago with his Mum and Dad. Gazing out at the car in the garden and thinking…what am I going to do with that while we’re away? Naturally the answer was to sell it…and then it dawned on me! Paperwork, bureaucracy, all of the stuff that needs to be sorted before we leave. And then the panic began! Now those who know me know that “Diva” is not my style (ahemmm)…anyway, things that I thought would come naturally being a civil servant, hit me with a bang. All of the work discussions and meetings about the importance of “Customer Service” really rang through. But this time, I was on the other side of the desk and I did not like it one bit! Ringing about car insurance/travel insurance/network access abroad and all of the other items that were raising their heads and screaming out to be sorted. Being asked by voice machines over and over would I mind “holding the line” for what seemed like hours, with music that’s supposed to calm you but irritates the s**t out of you after about two minutes waiting. Receiving the wrong documentation in the post after spending almost a half an hour or more on the phone only to have to start the whole process all over again! I’ve concluded that we need to go back to having real people instead of voice machines when we want to make calls to various organizations (now that rings of granny stuff I hear you say:-))

Then our Vaccinations. Now there’s a whole new experience! And certainly one that I hadn’t given any real thought to in advance. Three weeks of shots – against everything and everyone except each other! Yellow Fever, Typhoid, Hepatitis, Diphtheria, Polio, Tetanus, and the one that took me by surprise the most – Rabies! I mean, I didn’t even know that it was still a thing. But no, apparently in some of the countries we plan to visit, monkeys running around wild are a threat and if they decide to nip you you’re in serious trouble. Imagine that?! On my first visit to the Vaccination Bureau in Dublin, I was squealing like a baby pig and the nurse hadn’t even taken the injection out of it’s wrapper! But the Doctors and Nurses were just fantastic and gave us such great advice (and lollipops btw) about keeping safe and healthy during our trip. The numerous packets of Malaria tablets and other prescribed medication that I’ve packed might mean me having to wear my hair in a bun for some time when we hit Peru, if you know what I mean 🙂

And the wonderful moments crossing my mind this morning in the run up to us just about to board this plane. The various farewell dinners, nights out and visits to and from friends and family. Spending time with the in-laws in Wexford, with life-long friends from Dublin, with family and extended family, cousins, aunts, uncles, neighbours, work colleagues and all of the thoughtful gifts we have received. One of my favourites is a quaint silver locket with a photo of my Mum and Dad placed carefully and lovingly in the photo section of it so that I’d feel they were with me throughout my journey. This was a gift from my beautiful Godmother/Aunt Anna and I will cherish it throughout our trip. Holy medals to protect us from every possible disaster from another wonderful wise aunt (who has persuaded us that having read an article from a reliable source, that St. Christopher is not the saintly figure of travel that he made himself out to be and sure we couldn’t possibly carry medals of his after that. It’d be a recipe for disaster :-)). She kindly researched it further and provided us with a more worthy saints medal to carry on our travels, St. Michael. Who knew? A moment of enlightenment for sure! I have all of these gifts packed into my bag and when I wear each piece it will remind me of each and every one of you that we spent time with before we left. Also, the efforts made by a certain individual to make sure we had our Visas for China sorted is so very much appreciated too. (you know who you are!). Sometimes there are just no words enough to thank people for taking the time and effort in the last few weeks to spend time with us and help us on this journey. And to those too who wanted to but couldn’t and sent us well wishes, thank you! You will all be sorely missed!

One such hilarious night with two of my childhood friends from Dublin that I must mention. We had decided to book a family room in a hotel in Tullamore and have a girls farewell night out. So, after some good food and wine it was time to hit our beds. Three beds in a row, each one of us vying for the position of Goldilocks 🙂 and just as we were about to nod off we heard this unmerciful snore. She (who will not be named) was woken abruptly by the remaining two, and told to put some higher pillows under her head to stop the snoring. Her response…”sure I couldn’t do that, I wouldn’t get a wink of sleep” … and then it all started, the fits of giggles went on till the small wee hours and we were 12 years old all over again!

So onwards now and my boys are also well and truly sorted. One is living in Madrid and the other is loving his accommodation between college in Dundalk and his new lodgings in a lovely house in Tullamore. His stunning girlfriend Aoife has become a welcome addition to our ever extending family. He will be joining us to visit Alison, Jonny and Harry in Chicago shortly and will then re-connect with us in China. And the whole family will all be meeting up in different parts of the world as we go. Family on tour is right 🙂

To anyone considering doing this, I can safely say that the biggest task is preparing the family home for renting. We are extremely lucky to have secured a lovely family to rent our home relatively quickly with the help of an auctioneer who has guided us so professionally through the entire process. The new family are coming to Ireland to live with their children and cats. Yes, cats! Bringing these little creatures with them as part of their family from abroad. How fantastic is that, and how lucky are these little guys to have such loving owners? Like, if there is such a thing as re-incarnation, I want to come back as one of their cats, without a doubt 🙂 They will be the new occupants of our home for the foreseeable future.

There has been a constant flow of tradesmen and cleaners coming and going. The whole process has been all consuming time-wise. The exercise of decluttering our home after almost seventeen years living in it has been a life-changing experience for sure! If I’ve learned anything so far, it is that we, (as in, all of us), accumulate material items to the point of it being almost immoral! After the major clear out, about fifteen bags and many boxes of items went to charity, a full car load to the dump. I found so many of those enchanting impulse-buy special offer items from Aldi and Lidl. Remember those Thursday offers? Lads, seriously, they were still in their boxes in my presses! And I know there are more of you out there who do the very same!. What are we at? Clothes with labels still on them that I had forgotten I had bought. Children’s clothes the same. To say I was ashamed to see the absolute waste of money over a lifetime is an understatement. Stripping back to one haversack is the most liberating thing I’ve ever done. Of course, the sentimental items have been put into storage, but what I have kept compared to what went out of the house in those black bags is nothing short of a disgrace. I would highly recommend that even if you are not moving house, that you go through each room and declutter ruthlessly as though you are. You would be amazed at what you discover about yourself in the process.

Another not-so-nice learning curve has been the fact that when we tried to get travel insurance for our trip, I was shocked to learn that there are almost no travel insurance packets for this type of trip if you are over 49 years old! Now that is just so disheartening is it not?. It almost sends out a message that if you’re over this age you won’t be needing this type of long-term travel, back-packing insurance?!!! Do the insurance companies out there think that once you hit 50 that you just sit in your armchair and watch the soaps until you pop your clogs? Now come on! How and why this is allowed to happen? It is something that I will certainly be following up on.

Granted, Colm has been getting an earful from me over the last two weeks about putting too much coal on the fire to the point that I am suffocating with the heat. I was freaking out! I mean I genuinely thought he was coming down with some serious infection as a result of the vaccinations and had suggested he take a trip to the doctors surgery to make sure that he hadn’t contacted some serious deadly virus as an indirect consequence. Some horrible sickness that was making him feel so cold the whole time maybe?. The house was so warm and I was thinking “What the hell is wrong with him?” And as the days went on and I had to have my own medical checkup before we left….well ahemmm…you see it wasn’t him at all. It was me! 🙂 The separate journey of the aging process which brings with it its own thermal heat is not something I’ve taken to graciously as you might guess! 🙂

And today, as we leave, we have in our possession a new pair of boots each, a coat, a hat and scarf that my dear friend Mary crocheted for me to keep me warm in Iceland and beyond, that I just love! My teddy bear with his “Irish Granny on the run” jumper clearly visible and secured to my haversack. (He’s so visible that when we were walking down Grafton Street in Dublin yesterday with teddy tied to the haversack on my back, I heard someone shouting my name! A friend from primary school who had followed my blog and had seen a picture of my teddy bear on it, realized it was me from the teddy and we stopped and chatted for a bit. How wonderful and random is that?).

We have our phones and gadgets for keeping in touch with the world as we travel, minimum amount of necessary clothing (and I mean minimum to the point that we may have people giving us plenty of space on those warm trains as we travel), gifts for Harry, some oestrogen (naturally), Malaria tablets and gifts that we received over the last few weeks. And now, having stripped back to just this, there is a wonderful feeling of freedom. This is where we wanted to be all of those months back when we made the decision first to travel. Right here and now, after months of bureaucracy, the physical work of decluttering our lives, emotional farewells and long goodbyes, the medical checks and packing. This is the start of our wonderful journey. Where the excitement really begins. Granny has well and truly stripped :-0

See you all again shortly in Iceland for the Northern Lights and the Blue Lagoon experience … and we’re off!