Taking a Chance

By Susan DeBow

When I landed at Shannon Airport I knew what my luggage looked like. It looked like ninety percent of the other black suitcases bouncing down the slide and onto the carousel. I knew what was inside my luggage: clothes, shawls, workshop supplies, some makeup in case I wanted to drive through the Irish countryside in full-face and of course, my pillow.

My luggage was relatively easy. Much easier than the three women I was to meet, travel and be with for the next two weeks. You see, I had never met any of the women that I was going to be driving with on the opposite side of the road than I am used to. I didn’t know if they had bladder control issues that would force me to stop every two kilometers, if they laughed like hyenas or worse yet, didn’t laugh at all.

I was taking a chance. I was teaching a week-long writing workshop in Ireland and had planned on doing a bit of traveling before and after the workshop. Having been to Ireland many times before I knew my way around, and with the one exception of the time I took my husband with me for our 30th anniversary, I had traveled alone. But during enrollment for the workshop, I mentioned my plan of traveling to one of the women, who had never been to Ireland, and she asked if I might allow her to join me.

I thought about it. Would having someone with me cramp my style, impede my “anything goes” traveling mantra, or make me want to drive off the Cliffs of Moher? But what outweighed these concerns was the fact that I wanted to show other women the Ireland that changed my life. That was part of what the workshop was about: Change. Yes, the women going to the workshop wanted to explore and improve their writing, but the underlying current with each of them was change.

After agreeing to take one of the women on the mini-tour with me, I decided to ask a couple of the other women if they would like to join us. Two more hopped on the idea and the car became full.

I made an itinerary and told the women that I didn’t use a map. If I felt like turning right, I turned right. If I felt like stopping and pondering a shamrock, I did and if I wanted to talk to people I didn’t know, I would. And oh, yes, pack light.

Turning around while standing at the car rental booth, I saw two women wave to me. Phew. The flights had made it – at least two out of three. The third woman’s flight was delayed, so we would circle back to the airport in a couple of hours and pick her up.

After I signed for the car, I walked toward the women who had waved. We hugged, gathered our wits and luggage and walked to the rental car, none of us knowing for certain what we had gotten ourselves into.

And that was the beginning of friendships that I believe will last a long time.

I had booked us into an inn in Lisdoonvarna, the week before the spa-town hosted its annual Matchmaking Festival. On the way to the inn, I drove some of the roads I had driven before, hoping my traveling companions would enjoy the Irish countryside and vast views of the sea.

We chatted and were polite and careful and a bit tentative. We stopped for lunch at a small restaurant overlooking the sea. We watched what the other ordered and tried to un-fog our heads from too many hours of travel and jetlag. That night we ate at the inn and listened to some Irish music and all was fine. But then, I walked outside our inn and across the street. I heard singing. I asked a woman at the door, “is that live music?”

“Yes, come on in,” she said.

And that is when the surprise of my Ireland began.

Three young girls and a young man sang their lyrical hearts out and played a variety of instruments. It was unexpected and lovely and gave my traveling companions a taste of the surprises that can be around every sheep-strewn road in Ireland. The pub was filled with people of all ages, many of them much older than we were. Unlike our country, the older people don’t hide, they participate.

By the next morning, we were a team. One person was designated to ride shotgun, a scary position for someone on that side of the car who doesn’t have a steering wheel or a brake at their disposal, and who is always seeing branches coming at them because the roads are so narrow. The laughter got louder and more real, the stories less tentative and surface.

At the end of the second day we were celebrating one of our new friend’s birthdays, complete with cake, a dinner celebration, and a toast. We toasted everything! Especially ourselves for taking a chance. For getting out of our boxes and comfort zones to try to see what we were made of and celebrate our willingness to have an adventure.

When we arrived at the workshop we all felt safe and strong and were ready to welcome the other women, who hadn’t been able to travel with us, into our fold. And our circle grew.

Throughout the week, we shared stories from places that are not always easy to go to. We discussed concerns, our past and hopes for the future. We shared our lives. We communed over shared meals and toasted with wine and water. And we realized that if none of us had taken a chance, gotten over our fears and speculations, we wouldn’t have met. And that by taking a chance each of our lives was enriched and the prospect of change didn’t seem so scary after all.

About this writer

  • Susan Hipkins DeBow Susan Hipkins DeBow is a writer and artist. A hobby of hers is watching Law and Order reruns and then going around telling people she wants to make a “collar on the perps,” and demands a “remand.” She got hooked on Law and Order reruns after seeing Seinfeld reruns 20 times. You can read Susan’s work and see her art, photography and miscellaneous miscellany at www.ohiowritergirl.com If you are nice, she’d like to be your friend on facebook. Go to her Facebook page, Ohio Writer Girl.

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