It all started out as a joke.
My best friend and her sister had just returned from a month-long excursion to the British Isles, and Amanda was telling me all about it. She mentioned a place in Northern Ireland where they could spend multiple nights in the same place, but explore a host of fascinating sights within walking distance in any direction.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “I want to take you there someday!”
“That would be incredible!” I replied. Then came the joke: “You know, when I get married, you’re going to be my maid of honor, which means you’re in charge of my bachelorette party, and a trip to Ireland would be the coolest bachelorette party ever, haha!”
She was silent for a moment. Then, “Oh wow—we’re doing it!”
I began hurriedly backpedaling. “Amanda, that was a joke. I am not going to allow you to spend that kind of money on a stupid bachelorette party for me! I wasn’t even planning on having any kind of bachelorette party anyway!”
“Too bad, you’re having one now,” she said. “And it’s a wedding gift, so it would be horribly rude of you to refuse it.”
As it turned out, circumstances regarding my wedding were…complicated. I spent many months despairing of it ever taking place, of ever being able to even see the man I loved again. Ireland faded into a hazy daydream, while in its place another travel plan was taking shape—this one a one-way trip, complete with job and apartment applications and no plans of ever coming back. Though I never contemplated it for long, the thought of changing my name and creating a whole new identity for myself even drifted across my mind like a ship sailing across the horizon.
I asked Amanda what she would think of moving to Cincinnati with me. I just didn’t think I could stay where I was any longer. There was too much pain and it had gone on too long. I was desperate for some way to escape.
Sometimes I think my younger sister was the only reason I stayed. Whether she needed me or not, I wanted her to have me around. Maybe my reasons for that were selfish. Maybe I needed her as much as I told myself she needed me. Either way, she was the last tenacious, if dangerously strained, thread that held me in place until the storm had blown the worst of itself out.
In February of 2017, I found myself with a stunning diamond ring on my finger, a wedding date on my calendar, and Ireland a glorious reality ahead of me.
My fiancé Aaron and I had intentionally planned our wedding as simply as possible—a small, lovely venue that needed barely any décor, a short guest list of only our closest friends, a simple reception, no extra frills on any of it, and plenty of delegation of tasks to loving friends and family—which left me at liberty to undertake an eleven-day expedition to the other side of the ocean only a month before our wedding.
Aaron came to see me the night before Amanda and I were to leave, since work would keep him from seeing us off at the airport. My heart ached at the thought of leaving him so soon after our recently-ended separation, but he was all smiles as he reassured me that we could send messages to each other every day, and encouraged me to live in the moment and take in every detail of the amazing experience that I was about to have.
There was more than a little fear in my heart, too, as I gripped his hands and gave him kiss after kiss…because what if one of these kisses was our last? My overactive imagination couldn’t seem to help spinning what ifs. What if the plane crashed and I died? What if I left my fiancé shattered and devastated by my death virtually on the eve of our wedding? What if war broke out and I couldn’t get home to him?
He held me tight to his chest and kissed the top of my head, even though he was laughing, once he deduced what was bothering me. He left me with both stern reprimands for allowing that kind of thinking into my mind, and gentle reassurances that we were both in God’s hands, that God had not brought us this far, through so many trials, only to separate us now.
“Now go and have an adventure!” he ordered.
And so the next morning, I did.
I was way too busy to journal this trip while it was taking place, and still to immersed in the emotions to do a good job of it anyway, so it occurred to me to do it in the form of a series of essays, and that other people might actually enjoy reading them. My goal is not to put a gloss on anything - I am trying to capture as much real, raw honestly as I possibly can. (Also using this as practice becuase I want to improve my essay craft.) I don't want this to be a travel brochure, only showing the pretty side. This is as much about what I learned and experienced, and how I grew both as an individual as well as in my relationship with my best friend, as it is about Ireland. Probably even more. I hope you guys enjoy!