Several months ago (or was it years?) I decided I was going to get rid of 90% of my things, pack a small bag and get on the first cheap flight to somewhere, anywhere outside of the United States. I had already been to Croatia, Bosnia, and Italy (and spent a very short stint in Frankfurt, Germany, although really it was too short to even mention since I saw exactly nothing). I'd also gone to Mexico-lite (Tijuana), and had taken countless trips to Canada and all around the continental USA. I had traveled a lot but usually just for a week or two at a time, which really isn't enough time to get to know a place. I like to see cities as the locals see them, not what the tourist brochures and campy carnival-like traps want us to see. Chicago's Navy Pier is a prime example of what I detest about seeing new cities: every local thinks it's terrible, never goes there, and doesn't think it represents the city at all.
The real stuff, the good stuff, happens when you're off the tour bus and away from the plastic, traveler-friendly exhibits. So I decided to put some real time into it.
At the end of July of this year my apartment lease was ending. The prior November I broke up with my girlfriend of 10 years and turned 40. I won't say I had a midlife crisis (my shit is very much together, thankyouverymuch), but I did have several of my anchor-points evaporate, and I was left with very little reason not to "disappear into the world" (as my favorite new friend says). Before the lease ran out, I decided I needed to go to Iceland. So, I booked a flight, packed a bag and went for two weeks. Two incredible weeks (I wrote a lot more about that and will link to it later). After Iceland, I came home and didn't look for a new apartment. Instead, I paired down what little I had, put the rest in storage, and started living out of a small backpack.
I wasn't due to leave Chicago for almost two more months though. It's weird—really weird—to be a nomad in your own city, the place where you feel like you should be able to just "go home". I stayed in several AirBnB's, crashed in an excellent friend's spare bedroom for a night, and camped for a few weekends in Wisconsin. Things went smoothly and I stayed in some really nice places, like a 45th floor condo overlooking the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan.
It turned out to be a good prelude to leaving the country, not to mention good preparation for living with just what I could carry. On October 24th it was time to leave Chicago and go full-nomad. First somewhere in or near the UK, then maybe Stockholm or Paris, followed by Berlin, and hopefully Prague and Budapest. Who knows though, it's all tentative and I'll go wherever I feel like going.
On Saturday I flew to Dublin, Ireland. I arrived early Sunday morning, and as I write this it's about 11:30pm on Monday. The last two days have already been excellent and eventful.
Once the airport shuttle got to the city, I saw there was a mini-marathon taking place right in front of my hotel. What I didn't know was that it was just a prelude to the enormous Dublin Marathon on Monday—but more on that later.
Since I arrived at about 9am, my hotel room wasn't ready for check-in, so I wandered around the city a bit, through Temple Bar and the city center, to Christ Church Cathedral, and then to Brazen Head—Ireland's oldest pub—for an incredible full Irish breakfast, coffee and whiskey. It's easy to see how Brazen Head (and the surrounding area) have been hyped up and geared for tourists, and I was reluctant to go in, but I will say their Irish breakfast was exactly what I was hoping for.
After that, I wandered back across the Liffey river to my hotel and took a long nap in a hot bath, then slept another 3 hours in the bed. I'm not much of a bathtub guy (how often do you want to stew in your own juices, really?) but it was glorious after the long flight and some walking. I got up again around 7pm and went out to forage for food. I stumbled across Bobo's Burgers near Trinity College, and had a great burger next to a very drunk Croatian (it was his birthday) and his very-obviously-brand-new Irish friends. Sadly, I didn't remember much of my Croatian and could really only say "how are you?" ("kako ste?"). After the burger, I made the trek back over the river to my hotel and faceplanted on the bed.
This morning, I woke up without an alarm at about 6:30am. Yeah, it was early, but I was anxious to get moving. I threw on my running gear and went for a nice run along the river to the sea port and back. On the way, I had two groups stop me to ask "where does the marathon start?" The first time it happened, I just stood there with a dumb look on my face trying to figure out what I was missing. It turns out that today, Monday the 26th, is an Irish Bank Holiday and is also the day of the epic 26-mile Dublin Marathon. Which, thankfully, I was not running. It started just a few blocks from my hotel though, and ran a massive circle around, and through, the city. Marathoners and their fans were everywhere today. After my run, I hit the hotel breakfast buffet (which was surprisingly good, if not a bit overpriced), and stepped out to wander around a bit down Talbot Street and Henry Street. Everyone was out, thanks to the Bank Holiday, so the streets were full of people shopping, drinking or just milling around.
Apparently today was also the tail-end of the Bram Stoker festival. I'd missed all the preceeding days, but tonight at 6 was the incredible Macnas Twilight Procession. It was basically a dark parade with giant spooky marionettes and performers. I was so excited to be able to see this, but... it seems it was rained out. The rain was sideways (really), so I guess I can forgive them for not wanting to get their giant, expensive puppets wet. I guess.
Tonight, for dinner, I tried to walk to the highly rated Kennedy's pub... which was closed, and apparently has been for some time. I kept walking and, as seems to be the norm here, stumbled upon an even better pub. The Goldman on Fenian St was as comfortable (for me) as it can get. The bartenders were really nice gents, and I had an excellent fish & chips alongside a couple of pints of Beamish. It gets said so often that we tend to tune it out, but Irish stouts here taste so, so much better than the stuff with the same name and label back home. I used to think that whole thing was bullshit—like hipster audiophiles who claim they can hear massive degradation in sound quality for anything that isn't vinyl—but it's true. Beamish and Guinesss at home are fucking garbage. The stuff here though is pure gold.
After drawing a bit and writing a bit, I stepped back out on the wet foggy street and walked back across the river to my comfy hotel room. Tomorrow I check out, and then check in to a new place on the South side. And the nomad adventure will continue...
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