Three days into a nine-month trip around the world has taught me two things about it: 1) it impresses everyone when you tell them that you’re on it, and 2) even when you’re only on day three and you’ve only been around one city, you can feel the weight of the days to come as you drag them along with you
The morning of our first full day in Dublin the hotel shuttle driver suggested a free walking tour that he’d heard was good. He also told us that he bought his wife an ironing board for Christmas, but we took his advice anyway. It turned out to be the Dublin branch of Sandeman’s New Europe tours, a franchise-y kind of thing catering to backpackers in which local twenty-somethings offer friendly tours for tips only.
Our tour guide Garvan — tall, thin and covered with lots of red curly hair and even more stonewashed denim — was funny and well informed, and his enthusiasm for the things he talked about never waned during the almost four-hour walk. On the tour we met a friendly kid from Adelaide who’s in the first half of a six-month round-the-world jaunt and who seemed to me to be reassuringly sane. During the coffee break we chatted with Lynn and Morris, a couple from Auckland who within five minutes had given us their phone number, in case we wanted to stay with them when we make it to New Zealand next year. In return I gave them this URL so they could follow our trip, in case they wanted to change their number.
Garvan informed us that Sandeman would be hosting a pub crawl that night, at which €11 would buy all-you-can-drink beer for the first forty-five minutes — an offer that we were admittedly a little too eager to take him up on. We killed time wandering around the lanes of Temple Bar (Dublin’s drinking district), when we heard loud music pounding through the wall of a building next to us. A few seconds later we realized it was “Debaser,” Sophie’s very favorite song by the Pixies. A few more seconds later, we realized that we were standing behind the Olympia Theatre, and that the song was being played live right then by the Pixies themselves, rehearsing for their three-day Dublin run. On their current tour dates the band plays their album Doolittle in its entirety, and we stood in the shadows of that alley for an hour and danced to our own private performance of every track.
Later at the pub crawl we discovered — after paying our €11 — that the forty-five minutes of free beer was limited to Coors Light dished out in half-pint glasses by a surly young bartender. Coupled with our additional discovery that the backpacking crowd is really just a throbbing group of post-grads trying desperately to access each others pants, it was really a lot like spending a Tuesday night with Pitt students on E. Carson St. But we drank our share and followed the crawl to three pubs and met Australians, Americans, Germans, our Irish host who knew about both the Pirates and the Steelers and is working on getting his Web radio site off the ground ( http://www.radiomade.ie), and generally had a lot of fun and felt like we belonged.
But all the exhilaration and disbelief was punctuated by and a surprising amount of crushing anxiety. See, lingering constantly in the back of my mind was the knowledge that this was just the second day of a trip, with 268 more to come. And that unlike any other trip that we’ve been on, there’s no home or job for us to go back to in a week. That we can’t throw around the money we’d normally spend when we travel, to make ourselves feel pampered or just to make things easier. That this trip is real life, not vacation life. Like a kid at the first day of camp, it all suddenly seemed very real and very oppressive and very long, and I wondered if all these days we’re carrying will get lighter as we use them up.