On Tuesday, I stood where giants stood.
No, not giant robots, or giants that live at the top of some magical beanstalk (either of which would have been sweet), but rather the Giants Causeway, this absolutely incredible rock formation on the coast of Northern Ireland. To be completely honest, I hadn’t planned on going to Northern Ireland at all – although I guess I hadn’t really planned much of anything on this trip. Long story short – heading north to Belfast and beyond wasn’t even a thought in my head.
Boy, I’m glad I suddenly changed my mind…because Northern Ireland is GORGEOUS.
If you’re relatively new to the site, you might not be familiar with my Epic Quest of Awesome.
Last year when I quit my day job to run Nerd Fitness full time, I realized that I had never really been outside of North America – now, I had been all throughout the Caribbean for my job, and had even gone once to Aruba on a family vacation once, but I had never done ANY serious traveling outside of the US – I had lived in a bubble up to that point in my life. Because I was able to free up my time and location through Nerd Fitness, I figured it was time to begin leveling up my own life in as many ways as possible – I wanted to learn more, practice more, study more, and experience more.
Essentially, I wanted to become a happier, good-natured Jason Bourne..minus the whole “cold-blooded assassin” part.
Thus, my epic quest was born.
My goal over the next few years is to cross off as many things on my list as possible – a life lived in fear is a life full of wasted opportunity and regret, so I decided to I wanted it was time to live a life worth living. Or, in the immortal words of Andy Dufresne from The Shawshank Redemption (my favorite movie) – “get busy livin’, or get busy dyin’.”
Anyways, I hope these occasional updates about my epic quest have their intended result – inspiring you to leave the comfort of your shire and see the world too – as I’ve shown before – epic adventures can be done quite cheaply if you’re smart (and you are, you’re reading this site after all!). And don’t think you have to quit your job and travel for years either (but more power to you if you can) – you can hack your way into a simple epic vacation with your family for just a week or two as well…it all works.
Back to the reasoning behind these posts – I want to make sure each update has a moral behind it, like any fable, that you can apply to your own life.
I’m not lying when I say that before this trip I was a relatively risk-averse, picky-eating, shy, easily intimidated individual. Traveling on my own has helped me grow up in about twenty different ways and given me a completely different outlook on life – there are now very few things that I believe to be outside the realm of possibilities…like buying an island, something that I have officially added to my list (after only joking about it for years) thanks to Richard Branson’s Losing my Virginity.
Sir Richard was 28 when he bought his island, which means I have approximately 22 months to get mine…time to get working!
Pardon my international ignorance, but I had only ever heard bad things about Northern Ireland.
Watching movies like Blown Away, and Patriot Games as a kid didn’t help either (great flicks though). All I knew of was the Protestant/Catholic battles and horrible tragedy sung about in songs like U2′s Sunday Bloody Sunday.
So, imagine my surprise when I arrived in Dublin last week and heard traveler after traveler talking about how they couldn’t wait to get to Northern Ireland! I had seen Giants Causeway before in Where The Hell Is Matt’s video, but I hadn’t really put two and two together as to how close I was to them. I figured a few days up in Northern Ireland was well worth the time, despite the preconceived notions I still had in my mind when hearing”Belfast.”
Now, in my past eight months of traveling, I have to say that despite hearing some less than nice things about many of the places I planned on visiting, I have yet to feel really unsafe or scared anywhere – all I seem to find are incredibly nice people with big smiles who are eager to help in any way possible.
My experiences in Northern Ireland were absolutely no different.
Belfast was an incredibly nice, modern, beautiful city (minus the cloudy weather but that’s to be expected) full of happy people!
I absolutely love Irish and Scottish accents, and with Northern Ireland’s close proximity to Scotland these two accents were all I heard…and I loved every minute of it, especially trying to explain the point of my Vibram FiveFinger shoes to an 6-year old.
So, after a day of getting settled and exploring the city for a place to exercise (a great park with a sturdy tree branch for pull ups), I booked my trip to visit Giants Causeway.
I had the opportunity to visit a few castles on my way up the east coast of Northern Ireland and see some pretty epic sights -it was actually my first time seeing any true castle outside of a video game; unfortunately one was closed, and the other wasn’t exactly renting out rooms:
Then, it was time for Giants Causeway – with a decent hike down to the rocks, I decided to pop my headphones in and listen to some Gaelic Storm on the way down. Feel free to listen along as you read (and go see them in concert ASAP, one of the best live shows you can see) – though don’t yell at me when you start Irish step dancing in your cubicle.
If you’re old school enough – or nerdy enough, in my case – you’ve heard of or played the game Q*bert - Giants Causeway is like a massive, naturally formed game of Q*bert – created by a volcanic eruption that spilled into the sea and left behind thousands upon thousands of hexagonal basalt columns fitting together like they were hand-placed:
My only issue with the causeway was the ridiculous amount of people…so incredibly crowded, though I’m sure if I had rented a car myself and driven up for sunrise or stayed until sunset I could have had the place all to myself. Lesson learned!
After exploring for a few hours, we hopped back on the bus and went over to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, which in retrospect probably wasn’t worth the price of admission (5 pounds), but I did get a cool picture out of it – thanks Rachel – and it allowed me to take this awesome panoramic shot from the island on the other side (click for bigger view):
All in all, a great day in Northern Ireland, and another thing crossed off the Epic Quest list. This was actually the 5th adventure/goal in my current level, which means I get to level up!
DING! Level 4!
If you want to see more pics from the trip, check em out on the NF flickr page.
You’re probably wondering what the moral of today’s story is – after all, how much can be learned from rocks?
What I want you to think about today is the fact that Northern Ireland might have had a troubled past, but they have come a long way. I’m sure people around here haven’t forgotten what life was like back when things were rocky, but they have since moved on and worked hard to improve the country.
Here’s the point I’m trying to make:
Who cares who you were last year? Who cares what you did last month? Hell, who cares you how you acted yesterday? It has absolutely nothing to do with who you CHOOSE to be today. That choice is 100% yours.
Sure, if you’re 400 pounds, out of a job, and living at home, you might not be able to fix every problem you have overnight…but if you make a concerted and dedicated effort to be better today than you were yesterday, then mentally you can become a different person. With enough hard work and consistency, your outer appearance will begin to match your new inner attitude.
Yes, you have habits and systems in place that have made you who you were; however, what happened in the past doesn’t define who you are today or who you will be tomorrow. Not by a long shot.
Learn from your past mistakes and successes, and then MOVE ON.
I’m sure people growing up in Northern Ireland today feel as far removed from their country’s troubled past as a person who has gone through a tremendous transformation feels when he looks at pictures of himself being unhealthy from years ago. Night and day, my friend!
Yesterday is gone.
All you can do is be a better YOU today.
Work on that.