Irish luck? Yeah right. I hate the word luck. I feel like the term has been used so loosely that it almost seems like an excuse for anything– good or bad. I still do believe that there are circumstances that does require a bit of luck though, and that’s why when I went to Ireland, I felt a bit of invincibility, like, luck can’t get me down in this country, can it?
I knew it was going to be a great day when the weather forecast said it was going to be nice and sunny on that Thursday, in the middle of December, right on the verge of a hurricane. On the day before, I contacted the tour company to confirm certain things such as necessary visa, meeting points, etc. I have decided to take a tour to Giant’s Causeway. It also included a few other stops that I couldn’t pass up on because they were Game of Thrones related. It was a spontaneous trip, but I still planned it wisely. I mean, I had to– I was staying in Skerries, about 45 minutes away by train from Dublin, where the meeting point is.
After much deliberation, I knew I was going. Despite the very risky train timetable and pick up times, I went ahead anyway. I woke up at 5am, and before 6, I was out the door walking to the train station. It was cold and misty, but I was properly dressed in layers. After a couple of days in Ireland, I knew the temperature here wasn’t to be underestimated. 44 degrees Fahrenheit felt more like 20 degrees to me. It’s a different kind of cold, and though most of the Irish people I met believed this was a more tolerable kind of cold compared to London’s “miserable” temperature, I felt otherwise. Ireland is freezing. And that day was no exception. The wind pierced through the skin of my face as I scurried my way to the station, knowing very well that I had exactly one hour after boarding the train to make it to the pick up point.
I could have been stressing on the train but I wasn’t. For some reason, I just knew everything was gonna be okay. So I’ll reach Dublin Connolly station, and from there, I’ll have to take a bus to the pick up point. From the bus station, I’d still have to find my way to the actual spot, but thanks to Google Maps, I wasn’t too worried. And then I remembered something quite crucial.
Fuck. I left my passport.
I meant to transfer it last night to the backpack I’m using but I got sidetracked and grabbed my iPad to watch Netflix instead. I know it’s a rookie mistake to travel without your passport so don’t ask me what I was thinking. I’m usually on top of my shit when it comes to traveling so that was quite bewildering to me. Coming from Dublin, which is in the Republic of Ireland, you definitely need your passport and a UK visa to enter Northern Ireland. But wait. I remembered the email where the tour company said there wouldn’t be any border control on this tour. So phew. I was fine. I didn’t need my passport.
I was about two stops away from Dublin Connolly when I decided to check the time. Again, fuck. It was almost 7. I had to be at the spot before 7:30, otherwise they would leave me and I’d get no refund back. Even worse, I won’t have any more time to actually go on this trip even if they showed me mercy.
I ran to the bus station and every minute I waited for my bus felt like an eternity. My heart stopped every time I checked the time, and once I finally got on the bus, I still didn’t feel at ease. Every bus stop, every stop light, and every yield the bus had to make, I held my breath, clenched my butt, and blatantly fidgeted.
I made it to the pick up point at 7:24. There were already people waiting, and after confirming it was THE spot, I felt more calm despite the chilly December air. At exactly 7:25, the tour guide came and led us to the bus. If I came a minute or two later, I would have missed it. If I made one tiny blunder and made a wrong turn, I would have lost €60. But luck is a funny thing. To cynics, it can come off merely as a co-incidence. Despite futile effort, some things, like timing, just cannot be controlled. Hey, maybe Irish luck really is a thing. I got this. Nothing could go wrong.
The journey from Dublin to Northern Ireland was quite lovely. I do love a long car ride, and this bus trip was everything I needed at that time. I was traveling alone again so I was in my element. The universe clearly has got my back today so there was no worry in mind. To top it off, I had the seats to myself. What could possibly go wrong.
As we passed by the lush countryside of Ireland, I couldn’t help but get lost in my own world like I always do in my journey. It was a huge dilemma deciding which tour to take. I didn’t have much time because the holidays were two days away, so it was either Northern Ireland or Cliffs of Moher. Somewhere between Northern Ireland and Dublin, there I was wondering if I made the right choice. And that’s when the tour guide, John, began speaking on the microphone again…
“The border control is about fifteen minutes away. Please prepare your passports for the inspection. For non EU passport holders, please have your visa ready as well.”
Fuck. Me. My passport was inside the room of a 14-year old girl where I was being hosted in the suburbs of another country.
I knew how this could go. This isn’t the first time I crossed countries by a bus. Though it’s in different continents, the process couldn’t have been that much different. They collect our passport so they can stamp it, we get off the bus for security, and then off we go on the road again. Okay, I can talk to the tour guide and convince him to let me hide inside the bus and then smuggle me right back into United Kingdom. I’m tiny, so it can work. It definitely can work.
Unless of course the border control officers would come inside the bus and individually check our passports. In that case, I’m screwed.
After deliberating in my head for what seemed like an eternity, I thought it’s best I talk to John the tour guide right away. You know what I love about Irish people? They’re friendly and very humorous. This shouldn’t be a problem. Plus, I’m charming. Really charming when I want to be, so there’s no way I couldn’t convince him into smuggling an Asian girl to another country.
I saw the stress in his face as I told him my problem. I tried to rationalize and even showed him the email I received from his tour company. I mean, I could definitely throw a fit and act like a diva because why the fuck did someone email me telling me there was no border control? “He must have misunderstood and thought you were inquiring about the Cliffs of Moher tour, you should definitely have your passport with you when you’re going to a different country”, John said condescendingly. Feeling even more stupid than I already did, I asked John, how do I get away with this? There was no way I was going to have to sit out of this tour. I’ve come too far.
Like I’ve predicted, the security officer would be inspecting and checking passports one by one in the bus. But there’s a way, apparently. The bus isn’t completely full and the officer only goes as far as the furthest person. He instructed me to go hide in the back, and if I get caught, just show him the email from the tour company. I could play it cool and just say fuck it, I left my passport, and see where that would take me, but I already know. So smuggling it is. I chatted with him for a little, asking him if this has ever happened before, which to my surprise, it has. Was it successful, I asked. About fifty percent of the time, apparently. John was very nice about this. He tried to keep me calm and he told me everything was gonna be okay. “But if they catch you, you’re on your own.” Right. Nothing to worry about.
When we were finally approaching the border, I headed on to the back as John announced over the microphone about my unfortunate and quite embarrassing situation to everyone. “Please refrain from laughing or giggling when the officers are inside.” I reached the back and there was a couple that I actually had the guts to kick out of there so that the officer doesn’t have to go that far anymore. Which would mean there would be less chances of me getting busted. A guy a couple of seats away from the back, whose name I would later on learn as Dennis, smiled at me. I also learned later on that he didn’t have his passport too. I wanted to ask him to move as well but I was beginning to feel really nervous. My heart pounded faster as we got closer to the border. It was almost paralyzing. Though I didn’t see any buildings or structure yet, I practiced squeezing myself down. I studied my positioning and I minded the gap. Shit. Wtf am I doing. The bloody gap between the seats would still give me away and the fact that I’m hiding just makes it even more suspicious. Who do fuck do I think I am?
So I stared out the window, almost at the verge of giving up. As I looked outside, the road of the freeway continued on. Where the hell is the damn border. I just wanted to get this embarrassment and humiliation over with so I can figure out how I’d get myself back to Dublin. Ready to accept defeat, I took a deep breath and told myself that it’s okay. Maybe it just wasn’t the time for me to see The Dark Hedges yet. I’ve already been bragging about those Game of Thrones filming locations to my husband so I must have jinxed it. Or maybe I already used out my luck. Maybe the Irish luck only worked in Southern Ireland. Maybe, just maybe, it just wasn’t meant to be, and the risky train schedule was a sign that I chose to ignore.
Or maybe I was being pranked.
Because seriously, where the hell is the damn border control?
And that’s when John announced we have just crossed the border of Northern and Southern Ireland. From the Republic of Ireland, we were finally in United Kingdom soil. I exhaled, and I swear, at that moment, I felt my blood circulate my body again, because I knew. John didn’t had to say it but I felt a huge relief when he made the official announcement that I can finally stop squeezing myself at the back of the bus. No, there was no border control check. Normally, there is, but because it’s a closed tour, we’re an exception to that.
I laughed as everybody clapped and as we all realized I’ve been played big time. I laughed at myself as I walked down the aisle back to my seat. I laughed because no one has pranked me this good before. I laughed because there was no way out of the embarrassment. I laughed because what the hell was I thinking trying to get smuggled into another country. And I laughed because that is my answer to everything.
John later on approached me at lunch at a Game of Thrones themed restaurant in the town of Ballintoy, and asked me if we were on speaking terms. Of course, I said, and I applauded him for a very well played game. He told me this isn’t the first time he’s done this and that two rich Colombian women wanted to sue him because of this very prank before.
Yes, I made it to Northern Ireland. If the photos failed to give that away, well, yes. I made it safe and sound, and I reentered United Kingdom legally. I walked The Dark Hedges, also known as the Kings Road in Game of Thrones. I crossed the Carrick Rede Rope Bridge and I inhaled every glorious moment as I had my very first view of the Atlantic Ocean. I let myself be mesmerized by the otherworldly wonders of Giant’s Causeway. I had amazing mulled wine and roasted marshmallows at a Christmas market in Belfast at the end of the day. I also made a new friend, Dennis, who also didn’t have his passport, and who would have probably had me busted if there was an actual inspection at the border.
This isn’t a story about luck. It rained practically half of the day and I was wearing white. I got sick the next day. And I hated the Irish Coffee I ordered. So there was nothing, except me catching the tour, that particularly emblemed the Irish luck for me. It may not be a lucky day completely, but Northern Ireland was the clear choice and I’m glad I went with it. It’s instantly become one of my favorite places on Earth. This may not be a story about luck, but it is a tale about taking it easy.
Take it easy. Even when you’re faced with your own stupidity. Learn how not to take everything so seriously. Own up to your mistakes. And then laugh at yourself.
Laugh at yourself. Because good or bad, eventually, it is the answer to everything.
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