Part of the reason for this whole trip, I guess, has been to face up to my fears and to reclaim a sense of adventure which I felt I had lost somewhere along the way of my life so far.
It's too easy to stay in your home town forever, in a comfortable job, but like may Irish people I've always had a wanderlust ... only I never got to spend a substantial amount of time anywhere outside of Ireland, except London, before. A month in Australia doesn't count.
It's not all easy and it has not been a case of highs, highs, highs, all the way. When I got to A Coruna, for example, I found myself in a tiny room in hostal which I had booked for six nights and suddenly felt self-conscious about travelling on my own.
I didn't feel like partying, after all the socialising in Valencia, so I found myself taking long walks by the promenade, checking out the world's oldest lighthouse, and the free concerts on the Riazor Beach. But, for some unknown reason, I felt quite alone and sad.
Then I began checking out information about Central America, where I intend to spend the last quarter of my gap year. The travel forums were full of tales of robberies and crime and, suddenly, the man who has been to Thailand, Cambodia, Egypt, Jordan, and God knows how many other countries, found himself in a state of fear.
Fear of change, fear of the unknown ... these are the things I want to grapple with this year, and it doesn't necessarily have to be about travel. It could be the fear of asking out the woman I fancied for ages or the fear of standing up to unacceptable behaviour by a boss at work, or even the fear of going into a bar on my own.
So, despite a series of good gigs, healthy walks, a decent game of soccer between Deportivo and Newcastle United, and a lovely day trip to Santiago de Compostella, I didn't really enjoy my time in A Coruna, and it was time to move on.
And then ... magic, as seems to be so often the case this year. Just when I least expect it, I come across a gem, just as the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia lifted my spirits after my ear infection put me into a downer in Penang back in May.
It seems that when I go back to 'just travelling' I can feel most alone, whereas Ive mostly been happiest this year when I'm busy. I loved my four months training to be a DM on Koh Lanta and meeting loads of sound people (apart from my house-mate!) during my month at the Spanish school in San Sebastian. Then I take off with the rucksack on my back and I can sometimes feel a bit down.
So, thank you Vigo!
Vigo is Europe's biggest fishing port, on the Atlantic Coast, and it's two and a half hours from A Coruna by train. The weather was ten degrees hotter, it was sunny every day during my stay, and I arrived on a Thursday afternoon to find they had invented a fiesta just for me!
On my first night, Public Enemy played a fabulous live gig for two hours in a big park an hour outside the centre. I struck up a mighty conversation (en espanol) with a couple of local loons. It was a fantastic night.
I awoke on the Friday to discover that the warren of streets which define the old town had been taken over by pirates, in zany costumes and playing medieval music, for the weekend. It was great fun.
There was a folk festival in Plaza de Campostella and a massive festival down by the port, O Marisco, featuring local and international bands, skateboarders, breakdancers, motocross, graffiti artists, and mountain bikers. It's considered to be Europe's biggest 'urban' festival.
What a contrast with the tame affairs we have in Galway. Here, the teenagers are encouraged to take part in events ... I was amazed by the skills of the breakdancers, a fad which lasted about six months down at the Westside Shopping Centre in Galway in the 1980s .... if memory serves me right!
All of these events took place for free.
I know I was lucky. The weather was superb, between 28 and 32 degrees, but I loved Vigo.
It's a rough, working class town with high unemployment, but that's what makes the people so warm and special. In my one star hotel, they treated me like a friend. And all the doubts and self-conscious thoughts which took over in A Coruna seemed to disappear.
It was magic just to follow the pirates around the old town during the day, or to check out a live Cuban gig one of the nights in the gorgeous Plaza De La Constitution, right in the heart of the city. A free gig at 11 p.m. at night, you'd never see the likes back home!
It was probably down to me, rather than the city, but I seemed to have no problem striking up conversations with people and, on my last night, Grandmaster Flash played a glorious gig to 10,000 devoted fans down at the marina. Two of the legends of hip-hop over four nights, I was blessed!
Twelve months away from work and 'normal' life can seem like a long time, but my four magical days in Vigo reminded me of just why I've undertaken this adventure. Thanks, Vigo, for reminding me about the importance of 'the craic' and not taking life too seriously.
Even though the locals are Celts, and very like the Irish, it's a place that does not get enough tourists from our part of the world. I was overjoyed to sample so many fun activities, Vigo reminded me that life can be just fun.
For four days, I was living in the here and now, and didn't want to be anywhere else, surrounded by skateboarding teenagers and veteran hip-hop fans of my own age. And, when life just is fun, what's the point in worrying about anything else?
Why we left the classrooms: by Pauline
3 weeks ago