Ladies and gentlemen: Norther Ireland!
It rained more than half the time, in typical Ireland fashion. (I learned to always carry a rain jacket with me when I first visited Dublin.) After two downpours, hours of drizzle, wading through water, scrambling over rocks, and crossing beaches and cliffs, I arrived at the Giant’s Causeway – a popular tourist destination – entirely soaked and covered in mud and grass (and possibly some sheep poop) up to my knees.
This isn’t the first time this trip I’ve walked passed gaggles of tourists while covered in mud.
At Glendalough, I got caught in rainfall while hiking on the cliffs above the lakes near the popular monastic city ruins. At Mont St. Michel, I decided it would be beautiful to hike around the abbey island while the tide was out. Beautiful? Yes. Muddy? Oh yes. I was the only one out there. (I soon realized why.) Out by the water’s edge it was nice and firm, like a beach. But as I delightfuly made my way back towards the bridge taking the tourists back to the mainland, I hit the real stuff: Thick, bluish, grayish, clay-like mud that just sucked my legs down into. I nearly fell on my face many times. My legs were completely gray, I carried my boots in hand and walked passed all the posh-looking tourists, knowing I had more fun than they did.
In those moments, I think, “This is the difference between a traveler and a tourist.“
When I made it back to the Giant’s Causeway today, I walked passed everyone carrying their umbrellas with their audio guide headphones in their ears. They all still had their makeup on their faces and they looked dry and content. But I was stoked. The Giant’s Causeway is cool (it’s a bunch of basalt columns jutting out into the water), and it’s nice to take a 20 minute stroll from the visitors center to see it. But what they don’t know is the stunning 12 miles beyond.
Maybe they drove passed it. But they don’t know the delight of trodding over it step by step, for hours soaking in the unreal scenery. Because tourists stick to pavement. They go to the places where the tour buses take them. They go where their money takes them, instead of their feet.