One of the things I enjoy about my job is that it feeds my passion for travel — and with travel comes my passions for writing and photography. It might not be “adventure” like the Inca Trail was adventure, but it’s an adventure all the same when you’re travelling alone.
Dublin was a very short business trip. I aim to visit all of the user groups I look after in EMEA, and there is a burgeoning user group in the city. One of my colleagues was going there to present, and it made sense for me to pay them a visit since my company has an office in Dublin that I could work out of while I was visiting.
I had a flight out of London City Airport early on Wednesday morning. City Airport is a short walk from where I live, and since European flights only need an hour’s check-in time, it made sense to book a 7am flight. Until I worked backwards and found that I’d still need to be out of bed at 4.30am. Just the same, I wanted to have two full days of work in the Dublin office — and I’d just sleep on the plane.
Except from my paper journal:
“As the plane idled on the tarmac, in some deep part of the engine I could hear a singular note. High and clear, for all the world it sounded to me like a jazz musician’s trumpet — like that first note in ‘Stella by Starlight’.
Awake since 4, I quickly fell asleep with the sun shining on my face. A thought passed through a distant part of my brain, “Wasn’t it supposed to rain today?” and I smiled at the idea. It’s always sunny above the clouds.”
After landing and collecting my bag, I checked my wallet to see if I could scrape together enough Euros for the bus, and I was briefly excited when I thought I had 5 Euros more than I’d expected, but on closer inspection found I’d got Australian Dollars mixed in with my currency. I took a taxi from Dublin airport to the city, instead — it would go on expenses anyway, but I still don’t like spending money where I don’t have to. On the radio in the cab the DJ was making jokes about how the wind was going to blow, the sky was going to fall and the earth would crack open. Despite it being quite a bright and sunny morning, apparently there was the tail-end of a hurricane expected to hit Ireland later that day. “Here I am without an umbrella,” I commented. My driver laughed at me and told me that an umbrella wasn’t going to help.
I got the office without event, my colleagues made me welcome, and from there it was apparently just business as usual — a normal working day in the office, except in a different office.
By lunchtime the storm had arrived — a short walk to the shops meant battling against gale-force winds and driving rain. It wasn’t really a hurricane, though, more what I was used to from Ireland’s weather (I visited Cork several years ago, and have enduring memories of standing by myself on the top of Blarney castle in the wind and the rain).
Mid-afternoon the rain and wind stopped, so I took the brief window — what could have just been the eye of the storm — to check in at my hotel. These are the kind of moments I enjoy when I’m travelling alone, just a quiet walk and a chance to enjoy the scenery of the city. People in Dublin seemed friendly in the way that only drunks and crazy people are in London: as I walked down the street, a lady on the other side of the road, walking in the opposite direction, shouted across the street to me to comment on the weather. She’d got drenched this morning, she told me, now look at it! The sun was out and you’d never have known.
I grabbed a quick shower at the hotel, changed my clothes, and went back to the office. I walked in just in time — my colleagues were sat around the office “virtual water cooler” because Mayor Bloomberg was visiting our New York office, so everyone was gathering around to join in from their various locations.
The user group on Wednesday night was in a company called Engine Yard, in a part of the city where Google have several offices and a stone’s throw from Facebook’s Dublin office. Engine Yard was a big, airy loft space — surprisingly large for a small number of people working from the office, so either they are expecting to expand or space is cheap in Dublin. Either way, it was an impressive place. The group’s turnout was good — about 45 to 50 people from 60 registrations, and the talks seemed to go well.
I was back at my hotel before midnight, and slept soundly until my normal alarm the next morning. I considered resetting the alarm and going back to sleep — after all, I was much closer to the office here than I live in London — but in the end just had a slow start to the day, enjoyed my walk to the office and was the first one in that morning. Another day in the office that was much like any other if you aren’t interested in the minutiae of what I do all day, until it was time to catch a taxi back the other way. I walked with my colleague from London along the Dublin street as it started to rain again, and we caught a taxi the first time we tried — it was that that time of the evening, when every third car is a cab. We crawled for a while until we were out of the heavy traffic, where I wound down the window so I could smell the air and appreciate the passing sights properly. Ireland often feels to me just familiar enough to be like home, and just different enough to feel like a foreign country.
Dublin airport was busy, there was scarcely any time between checking in and boarding for me — what little time I did have, I spent searching for something to take home to the girl. When I was little, my Dad used to travel for work a lot and he always used to bring back European chocolate for my brother and I — I don’t remember how, but it became known as “Pilot’s chocolate”, and we believed that the pilot used to give my Dad the chocolate to bring home for us, which is a bit of a rough deal for my old man. I wanted to find pilot’s chocolate for the girl, and couldn’t — even if you can buy 5 varieties of Milka chocolate in our local supermarket. She has also almost accidentally ended up collecting Starbucks mugs from various cities around the world, but I was foiled again when the Starbucks in Dublin airport didn’t have any of that kind.
Then it was the journey home. Safety instructions in English and Irish, I close my eyes and drift in and out of a light sleep, until we are descending over England and London. Through the low cloud I try to see the flashing light on top of Canary Wharf, but can’t work out where we are or what direction we’re facing — even when I can see a white light flashing above the clouds. Arriving in England was a little disorientating, we landed, I picked up my bags, walked out the airport…and realised at no point had anyone checked my passport. I don’t know why, maybe there’d been some kind of extra check in Dublin I hadn’t been aware of. Either way, I walked out of the airport, snapped a picture of the entrance and labelled it “home”, and was once again back where I belong.