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Due to the nature of this trip I have to tell my story on a daily basis and the one thing that most people can't believe is that I'm doing it on my own. Solo travel has its pros and cons but the gift that it gives me is a truly honest impression of a place and its people. There's no tour guide feeding me their agenda or friend with a history major who I need to impress. There's just me and my weird and wonderful thoughts and this moment, right here, right now. (Cue Fat Boy Slim soundtrack.) Don't get me wrong, I think it can be amazing to share these moments with other people too but if you want to a unique and honest reaction I recommend trying travelling on your own at some point in your life.
I've had two of these solo wonder-moments in the last few days. The first was climbing Mount Gable in Clonbur, one of the tasks that you folks voted for. I followed a hand drawn map from a lovely lady named Laurena and eventually made my way up the hillside. At the summit I was rewarded with a view that needs no words, just a few quiet minutes to absorb the handiwork of millions of years of glacial shift. Quite a sight for my eyeballs to absorb. What made it even more memorable was that I didn't see another walker the whole time so I had the whole mountain to myself. (I may have spoken to a few of the shy mountain sheep but I'm not sure they understood the conversation I was trying to initiate.)
The second moment started with a road sign pointing to The Ross Errilly Friary 3km down a gravel side road. (That's 6km of unnecessary, wobbly pedaling plus, Ireland went on a church-building bonanza a few centuries back so it's not like there's any shortage of them on the main road.) Yet I had the urge to go so I followed the sign and was rewarded with one of Ireland's best preserved monastic sites. Surprisingly there was no gift shop, no entry fee or audio tour, no obnoxious tourists - just me and Snowy (my bike). I spent an hour exploring the different rooms, reading the inscriptions on ancient stones and replaying the lives of the previous occupants in my mind.
I spent the evening at Clos na Feirme, a luxury lodge in Clonbur, rocking back and forth on a swing seat overlooking Lake Corrib, sipping a glass of red wine. Loneliness was the furthest thought from my mind, contentedness was sitting on my lap.
According to the dictionary, 'solo' means to perform or accomplish something by oneself whereas 'lonely' means to be destitute of friendly companionship. I guess what I'm learning is that just because someone is on their own, doesn't mean they are lonely - although it's not uncommon to hear them talking to inanimate objects or animals!