It was in the darkness of an early Saturday morning, as autumn bustled and blew into preparing us for the winter ahead, that I walked briskly across the carpark to the brightly lit multi-storey building. The sound of several sets of footsteps, covered the various silent thoughts of those around me. As we reached the entrance doors the cluster around me grew, soon all my close family had gathered. The building was Dublin Airport and they were there to wave me off.
I was leaving home. I was not the first to break the circle, but the two who left before me, did so to begin their own dynasties – they had married and were living in Dublin, not more than 20 miles away from the parental nest. I was leaving the country!
It was not a sudden decision, planning had filled the previous few months. If fact the kernel of the idea had formed with the awakening of Spring.
I was in a steady job that I enjoyed, had a fun social life, and coming from a large family meant I was never short of company. I had realised that in ways I was alone, yet never alone. I wondered how I would cope on a desert island? The practical stuff was no problem, I could cook and clean and sew to beat the band. The major problem as I saw it, was - could I live alone? Would I be able to stand totally on my own two feet, not having others to fall back on for company, a loan if money was tight, or share the good times with? A letter would take five days to reach most Continental Cities and phone calls were expensive.
Well, walking through the doors of Dublin Airport were the first steps in that voyage of discovery. I took a deep breath and headed for the check-in desk, I presented my ticket, passport and my suitcase. A small trunk had gone on ahead to the address I was heading for that day. Once checked in, I returned to my family for the last few minutes and farewell hugs and kisses. The boys cracked jokes, but they had the air of the first few hushed jokes at a wake. My parents were quiet. There were no tears, just whispered phrases. The flight was called, a final round of hugs and as I turned to walk away, regained voices wished me a pleasant journey. I walked up the incline with a tight grip on my hand luggage, at the top I stopped and turned to wave, then turning to the right and out of sight, I stopped. Stopped to take a deep breath, I was on my own, next stop Frankfurt, Wiesbaden here I come!
That was forty years ago.
- I rented an apartment and learned to enjoy the silence of an empty room.
- I began working with the USAF.
- I made friends (one of the first was a guy with the same surname, he came from Limerick and had grown up in an orphanage. He had no family so he adopted me).
- I joined a musical & dramatic society and learned new skills.
- I travelled widely. One trip was an overnight train journey to Austria (13 hours) At the end of the holiday I returned by day.
Little did I know then, that the exercise in ‘going it alone’ was preparation for the past fifteen years of widowhood. It stood me well.
The topic: First time travelling abroad alone. (not in a youth/School group) was chosen for us by the intrepid traveller Paul/Blackwatertown. So why not set down all the baggage from the past week, pull off the hiking boots and settle in to see where he takes us, before gently strolling map in hand to see what the other active members have to say on the topic: Delirious, Maxi, Maria/Gaelikaa, Maria SilverFox, Padmum, Paul, Ramana, Shackman speaks, The Old Fossil, Will Knott.