I’ve been waiting to use the section title for this series until I was ready to tell you all a good, fun, anxiety fueled story. Lucky for all of you, the perfect starter story happened to me on my trip to Ireland last week! (Lol, “lucky” in Ireland, huh?)
My dad has always wanted to go to Ireland. I don’t know why exactly except maybe since it’s his heritage? Hard to tell. So my mom and I decided to plan a surprise trip for him. He did not know he was going until the night before the flight and only because we didn’t want to get stopped for dragging him onto a plane against his will. (He hates travelling, he’s a weirdo.) We had everything planned ahead of time though from days trips (Cliffs of Moher, falconry lessons), to tours (Guinness, Jameson), to our stay in Airbnbs…to a rental car. Because like an actual genius, I thought it would be easier than booking stuff through tour agencies and having to wait on buses for everything.
I don’t know how many people know this but fun fact: in Ireland they drive on the left side of the road. Not only that, but their cars are flipped as well. So instead of the wheel on the left it’s on the right. Most of the cars are manual so now you’re shifting with your left hand while driving on the left side of the road on the right side of the car. (To be clear, they do have automatic cars but I didn’t want to pay an extra $100. Because I’m cheap, that’s why.) Bonus: there’s practically no stop signs so hello, one million roundabouts! It should be obvious at this point that I have never actually driven on the left side of the road…
So we spend 16 hours traveling to Ireland to get to the airport and pick up our rental car and with zero practice, I am in the driver seat taking us on a 2.5 hour road trip from Dublin to Galway. Luckily we didn’t have anything planned for the evening, but less luckily we arrived slightly too early for free parking. Because everything requires a parking fee except between nighttime hours. So we drove around city streets (on the left), I’m sure angering the locals with the slow speeds and lack of knowledge on how to make turns, until about an hour before free parking kicked in. We paid the fee and then finally were able to park that machine and leave it for 12 hours. Good thing we were staying above a bar.
Next morning we’re up bright and early to get out of that paid parking space, and spend the day driving in the rain to the Cliffs of Moher (3+ hours with the godforsaken roundabouts and chocolate factory detour). Go home, repeat for next day’s activity. Well, I made it two days without incident on these roads where I should mention they drive insanely fast on the universe’s tiniest roads. Day three we’re headed to Ashford Castle for falconry lessons, and I, who hates driving even in normal (American) conditions, have a full blown panic attack when we stop at the gas station. I’m sweating, panting, gasping for air, heart racing, and looking like a trapped animal. My dad is like wtf is happening and my mom, who also has anxiety, is like it’s cool just take her outside it’ll be fine lol. So we head outside and finally it passes and my mom’s like okay, I will drive for a bit so you can have a break. I was so grateful & it was a huge mistake, both of these things can be true.
My mom starts driving and I’m in the front passenger seat and NO. 100% do not recommend. I thought she was going to hit the walls, the hills, the bicyclers, the trees, the ditches, the other cars, everything. I felt like I was about to deliberately be driven to my death. Which she must have been feeling while I was driving but graciously only mentioned 100 times. I was at 100 within 5 minutes. I was gripping the “oh shit” handle like someone was trying to rip me from that car and take me. I was white knuckles and “watch outs” every 10 seconds until she was like, “ok, do you want to drive?!” YES. Omg, YES. I never thought that would be the better option here but pull over and let me drive!
Some of you are probably like why not just switch off driving? And to that I say “see above paragraph” and also, because I’m cheap, that’s why. It was $100 per person who was to be driving that car so I was actually supposed to be driving. Regardless, even if I would have paid the extra money to take turns…you know what, see above. I would have been panicking from the other seats the whole time or else stuffed in the trunk which I’m sure would have been full of it’s own issues. Basically, I would have ended up driving anyway.
A couple of notes: I hate driving even in my own normal driving conditions. Which is to say American driving on the right side of the road. Additionally, I live in Colorado where its 75MPH which is 120km~ BUT ON FLAT LAND! I was doing my normal Colorado speeds in winding mountain roads and super tiny streets. Bananas. I drive in snow and rain and extreme cold and heat frequently. All of those are less scary than my time driving in Ireland. But. I only had the one full size panic attack AND even if I’d had one every day I think it was worth it because that trip was amazing.
Travel causes me a lot of anxiety but for me at least it’s worth it because I love experiencing new places. Wanderlust and all that. But sometimes it results in these little anecdotes. Funny now but at the time I definitely thought the air was trying to suffocate me.
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