While writing Heart Shaped Bruise this week, I got to a part where my characters go to Westport in County Mayo, Ireland for the weekend. It’s obviously a fictional story, but Westport most definitely isn’t a fictional place. I went there for the weekend in 2012 with my friend and had a wonderfully, spectacular time. Little did I know that one weekend would be what set me off on the path to travel.
First things first, it’s Ireland. No offence to the Irish, but it’s practically on my doorstep and it’s not much different to England. It’s apparently known as the adventure capital of Ireland, and I could see why. There were activities like kayaking, caving, surfing and all sorts to choose from. The most active I got was making my way up Craogh Phadraig (St. Patrick’s Mountain), the rest was spent either in pubs or being hungover.
Beautiful for day for a spot of canoeing! (C) Natalie Martin
Some traditional music being played in one of the many pubs (C) Natalie Martin
Craogh Phadraig (C) Natalie Martin
Sheep!! (C) Natalie Martin
Sometimes, I sit and wonder how weirdly the world works. On the day we arrived, me and my friend went to find a bite to eat and went into The Helm. The music was good, the vibe was good, the food looked good…until we were told we’d have to wait 2 hours to be served. So, we left, looking for somewhere else to eat, but there wasn’t anywhere that had the same vibe and so we went back, prepared to wait it out. We ordered our food, and were then approached by a french guy, who asked if we’d managed to order. This then led to a conversation, which ended up with us eating together and spending the night drinking far too much alcohol until the sun came up. Happy days.
What came out of that was a six month relationship for me with one of them. That alone re-sparked my love of the french language and gave me the final push I needed to get into learning the language, and it resulted in me spending a lot of time in the South of France. The relationship didn’t work out, but it was what inspired me to spend the summer there in 2013, and it was that summer, in 2013, that I ended up in Uzes and met the people who persuaded me to go to India and then to Thailand, and meet the people I met who’ve inspired me for the next trip.
I’ve often thought to myself, wouldn’t it be great to be like Jim Carrey in Yes Man, and taking every opportunity that life throws my way. Who knows where I’d end up? I mean, I know I’m not alone in meeting one person, or going to one place, and having it lead somewhere completely unexpected. Of course I know things don’t always work out for the best, but for me, it was a perfect case of the stars aligning to put me where I needed to be, today, writing this post, on a blog I started to shout about my book.
Nuts. And it all started from one innocent (okay, it was never going to be entirely innocent) weekend. I still wouldn’t necessarily class my weekend in Ireland as travel in the broadest sense of the word. In reality, we barely even scratched the surface, but it was what started me off on this whole adventure. I’d initially thought it was my time in Uzes, but it was only while writing the scenes in Westport that I realised, that was where it really began.
It hasn’t been easy. There were times I felt like crawling under a rock and never coming back out again (Irish hangover), days when I felt like I couldn’t communicate effectively (less than fluent French in France) and times when I wondered, what the HELL am I doing here? (after experiencing my first time with an Indian toilet).
But, you know what? I wouldn’t change it for the world.