One of the best things that comes from traveling is the stories. I am talking about the really awesome stories you get to tell later to all your friends and family of your adventures and fun times. In my world, these stories tend to be pretty outrageous. I have this tendency for the absurd to follow me wherever I go. When I get back from a trip, you won’t hear the story about visiting a museum and then eating gelato afterwards (which, is a good story but that’s just too vanilla for me). I have this amazing weirdo magnet which includes attracting really off the wall situations (like the time I broke my tailbone while riding a bike in Central Park ----- hours before my flight to Paris).
I was going through old photos and found one I took while I studied abroad in Ireland and it made me laugh so hard. Not because of what was in the photo – but because of the story behind it. Before my classes started, I traveled the west coast of Ireland up to Northern Ireland and then back down to Dublin. I was in a large van/bus of about 20 people and I was the only American on the bus. Most everyone else was a mix of Australian, Canadian, and French. George W. Bush was President, which meant by being the only American I was the butt of quite a few of the group’s political jokes.
Most of the tour was spent with me keeping my head in a book, listening to music, and attempting to befriend the other solo female traveler, who was very shy. Otherwise, the other travelers enjoyed the game of:
Them: Hey – American girl. What do you call fringe?
Them: HAHAHAHAHHAHA. What do you call thongs?
Me: Flip Flops. We call certain underwear thongs.
(shampoo, rinse, repeat)
Needless to say, I stuck my face as far into my book as possible to try and become invisible.
Eventually our bus made one of its usual random stops and the driver announced to everyone “Alright! Up this hill is Queen Maeve’s grave and you guys can go climb up to see it”. He then went into the story behind Queen Maeve and explained how she was a warrior queen who ruled for over 60 years and was buried up this hill in a vertical position so she could face her enemies.
After he finished his story, I looked out the window into a very dreary, cold, wet, and foggy day (typical Irish weather), saw that this hill looked more like a mountain to my unathletic eye, and it was covered in craggy rocks and grass with no really clear trail. I was having my doubts about whether or not this was real or if it was his attempt to make tourists climb haphazardly on a hill so he could be entertained. I hunkered down in my seat deciding this athletic endeavor was not my cup of tea but then was practically dragged out my seat by some of the other travelers and convinced to join them.
I zipped up my raincoat, tucked the umbrella in my pocket, and then set off following the herd. It wasn’t long before I was left behind, slipping, getting stuck in mud, and flailing about hoping not to fall on my head. It was hot in my raincoat but too cold to take it off and I kept thinking “I should just turn around and go back. This sucks”. Out loud, I was cursing up a storm the local Irish would have been very proud of.
I finally made up my mind it was time to quit (or maybe my inability to get enough oxygen into my brain because I couldn’t catch my breath convinced me) when I got my shoe stuck in mud, yanked it out, lost my balance, and then fell forward onto the ground. I landed with a loud splat but had managed to hold myself off the ground so only my hands and knees were covered in mud. Or what I thought was mud. After processing through the searing pain in my hands and knees, I looked down to realize I had BOTH of my hands almost wrist deep in sheep poop. Yup, I found myself a pile of sheep poop to land in on a giant hill. I sat down on the grass and tried to wipe as much of the poop off my hands as I could using the grass and rocks but the smell, oh the smell, wouldn’t go away.
With even more angry curse words and some unforgivable phrases muttered to the Irish saints, I trucked back down the way I came but at a painfully slow pace to avoid falling again. I made it to the bus to find the driver had no paper towels and no hand sanitizer. He wouldn’t pull my suitcase from under the bus because it would mean unloading everyone’s. He wouldn’t let me on the bus until the others showed up and we could see if they had towels. Everyone got back eventually, word spread I had fallen in poop, and the solution was to pour a bottle of water on my hands and then to tie plastic bags on them. I then sat on the bus for 1.5 hours until we could stop and I could wash them.
Needless to say, I was not a fan of the Irish sheep at that moment. Great news is, I got it all cleaned off eventually and for some reason my embarrassment broke the ice between me and the shy female traveler I had been trying to befriend, which made the rest of the trip quite enjoyable. I am also happy to report that although I did run into quite a few more sheep on my trip (they are big fans of hanging out in the road and blocking traffic) I managed to not run afoul of their poop.
You take your wins wherever you can get them.
I hope you enjoyed this story and the old photos to go with it.