From Tourist, To Traveler
Courtesy of Sophie Stickelmaier

From Tourist, To Traveler

After spending three nights and two short days in Ireland, I managed to meet two strangers whose talk of travel, time and money is still spinning in my head.

The first was a 35-year-old Brazilian man who I sat next to on the bus from Dublin to the Cliffs of Moher. He explained to me that in Brazil, each employee receives 22 days of paid vacation each year. He had saved all of his time off this year to take a 25-day trip around Spain, Paris, Germany and Ireland.

I was impressed with his lack of concern for what his boss or coworkers might think. I told him that’s exactly how I wanted to spend my career: work diligently when I need to, but then take all of the money I earn and spend it on experiences. However, this can prove difficult when you’re barely making enough to cover rent. He then decided to toss a little brilliant, mid-life advice my way.

“See that’s the thing, there’s never a perfect time. I heard a quote a while back that said, ‘When you’re young you have time and energy but no money. When you’re older you have money and energy but no time. And later when you finally have time and money, you no longer have the energy,’” he said.

The next day when I was pouring over my bank account his words popped up in my head. Instead of stressing further, I quickly turned off my phone and spent the whole day exploring Dublin.

My last night was spent at Ireland’s oldest pub, The Brazen Head. I was yelling over a band when a lovely woman overheard my American accent and decided to introduce herself.

She told me her family was originally from Ireland, but she was currently living in the states. At 52, she still insisted on coming back each year to Ireland to visit old friends and family.

When she took out her phone to save my number, I saw her background photo was a shot of her swimming in a turquoise ocean, mountains stretched out behind her and a full-hearted grin spread across her face. When I pointed it out, she told me her love of travel didn’t stop at Ireland.

Last year it was Hawaii. She urged me to make it out there someday. Once again, I found myself talking about the imminent lack of money, for I was only a poor college student (at this point even I was tired of this title). She stopped me mid-sentence.

“That feeling’s never going to change though. There’s always going to be lists of things to take care of: house payments, phone bills, health insurance, kids… it never goes away,” she said.

I was not comforted.

“That’s why you have to be okay with the fact you might not have a nice car or big house, but you will have more life experiences than anyone else you know.  Just take a look at this photo…” she said, holding the glowing screen up to my face. “Expensive things won’t last forever, but I will always, always have this day.”

On my flight back I contemplated the compilation of advice I’d received the prior two days and quickly realized they were right.

There’s never a perfect time to ask for time off work and spend thousands of dollars in order to put myself in an uncomfortable situation abroad. However, if I want to have moments when I open my eyes in a new place and I am overwhelmed with pure appreciation, joy and pride, then now is the perfect time to plan my next trip.

Sophie Stickelmaier


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