Random Acts of Tourism

Friday, July 31, 2009

Astute GSRED Twitter followers may have noticed a certain ennui in some of my tweets recently. In truth, I've been having trouble finding my stride since I left Scotland. Maybe I've been making poor choices about where to go and what to do. Maybe I'm expecting to have great and meaningful experiences every time I round a corner. Maybe I'm already haunted by too many sights-not-seen and too many roads-not-taken. Or maybe there's the tiniest chance that it's actually not possible to sustain a high level of savvy travel and serendipitous encounters for weeks on end. I know intellectually that sometimes it's going to be Rucksacks Hostel and wrong turns - I never expected otherwise. The sad thing is it turns out that knowing bad times are inevitable doesn't actually help when I'm hurdling a dead body to get to the toilet after spending a day walking in ever-decreasing concentric circles around my intended destination before confidently striding off towards a part of town that turns out to be inhabited entirely by packs of feral children and mobile phone shops.*

People who know me may recall that I'm ever-so-slightly fond of a good plan. (Which is a bit like saying Hitler had a vague interest in expanding his real estate portfolio.) This meant I happily spent last year planning everything to do with the trip, and had a great time doing it. But it also means that when I don't have a plan I get a bit antsy, and end up spending a lot of time trying to devise a plan instead of just picking something to do and going with it.

One day in Dublin I bounced aimlessly around the city until I finally committed to a museum that ended up being closed for renovations. Left without a plan, I took one of the cheesey hop-on, hop-off bus tours that are in every major city, intending to ride it all the way around to get the lay of the land and then decide what to do (In other words, I was going to sit on the bus in order to make a plan). Instead, on a whim, I got off the bus at the far end of the route and took a tour around Kilmainham Jail**. It was a Random Act of Tourism, and it was good. There was a guided tour, and it was interesting to be in the jail, which actually reminded me a bit of the good old Millennium Falcon Room. I also had fun taking weird pictures, because the whole place was so... textured. And it had really really good doors. I zoned out of what the guide was saying a lot of the time because I was just looking at how interesting the surfaces were, and I thought about all the designers and scenic artists I've known who would have been in raptures about the place. It was a really different perspective.

One of the fantastic doors of Kilmainham

And it was good. I felt like I'd done something, and thus felt free to go and have a nice bit of lunch. So it turned out that doing anything was better than obsessing about trying to figure out the best thing. Lesson learned. Not the first, and not the last.

It's funny, though. In the end, the best things that happened that day were getting an excellent an unexpected email from a new friend I met over here, and skyping with an old friend who happened to see that I'd left myself signed on from a previous skype session and called me up on a whim. Once again, it's the people***, not the places that really save the day.

* Mom: Not really. But there are a LOT of mobile phone shops...

** Well, actually Kilmainham Gaol, which is pronounced "jail" but looks like, well, you can see that it just looks weird. Like tyre, and aluminium.

***The Dublin hashers have also been fantastic. I went out for drinks with them this week, and I believe I may take part in their annual Bog Hash on Saturday. As far as I can tell, this involves hashing through an actual bog. I'm not sure my shoes will recover, and I need to find a way to get back to Dublin airport in time for my 7:55 am flight to Moscow on Sunday, but I was assured by somewhat-sober hashers that there would be a way. Originally I intended to move to a nice, big, Days Inn near the airport for a quiet Saturday so I could revel in anonymity and fluffy towels, and get myself organized for Russia. (There are also some significant laundry issues that I need to address before attempting a new continent.) But the bog is calling, and really, how could I pass up the offer? Especially since it could result in a Bog Blog...


Lisa said...

Awesome...Looking forward to the bog blog!!! (

I actually named one of my folders "Bog", intending to type "Blog" and didn't even notice until a couple of months later - I never changed it because I thought it was kinda cute..)

Phonella said...

I just rifled through all your Flickr shots of this gaol. What wonderful texturey stuff you've captured!

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