So Long, Farewell

725 days after first arriving in Dublin to start my new life and a new adventure I am boarding a plane in search of my next adventure. For anyone familiar with my blog for some time I have been umming and ahhing about my life in Ireland and weather to leave for pastures new. Well over Christmas I finally made up my mind, and so after a short holiday to Australia to visit family and friends I am off to Canada.

Back in July 2017 I had applied and very quickly was accepted for the 2 year International Experience Canada Visa; I had not expected to get the Visa so quickly and had no intention of going so soon. Instead I sat on the Visa with the intention that I would go in June 2018. I had a great job in Dublin where I was learning a lot and working with a great team, I also had great friends who I could really rely on so although I wanted to go to Canada I was in no rush.

 

But as the year rolled on I realised I was not happy. The cost of living was getting higher and higher and impacting on my quality of life, I had started to apply for more senior roles but the salaries I was being offered were the same and sometimes less than what I was already on. I became depressed, I was sick of the rain, with no car (insurance too expensive to own one) I felt confined to the city where there was public transport for me to get around, I felt like all I ever did was eat and drink, I was sick of the “casual dating” scene I felt was so prevalent Irish culture, and I felt isolated from the things I loved: being outdoors, hiking, playing with my dog etc. I had felt it coming for some time, the weight slowly slipping on, my zest for adventure slipping away… then over Christmas while sitting on a sunny beach in Morocco I decided enough was enough, I was out.

I decided that although I want to continue to grow in my career it was not the most important thing to me. Having a healthy work / life balance, being close to nature, being able to afford avocado toast (ok maybe not avocado toast, I hate avocados… Eggs benedict, I like that), getting a dog, having a car – these are all things that are important to me and all things I feel I have missed over the last two years.

So on that basis I went looking for a place to live in Canada. For me it was important to find somewhere that:

  • Had a proper hot summer which lasted more than a week;
  • Was close to nature, with lots of hikes and outdoor recreation activities;
  • Was close to a lake, river or ocean;  
  • Was affordable to live; and
  • Embraced an outdoor, active but laidback lifestyle.

Okanagan

In the end I chose Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (BC). Settled between the Rocky Mountains and Vancouver I had visited and fell in love with the Okanagan Valley 8 years ago while on holidays after a semester as an exchange student at the University of New Brunswick. I had been a little reluctant on BC originally; mainly due to the fact that it was already the go-to destination for Aussies, and I did not want to be mistaken for just another Aussie out to get drunk, snowboard and work bar jobs. BC also only legislates for a mandatory two week’s annual leave per year, and although employers in professional industries are known to provide more leave this was a huge concern for me with my need for a better work / life balance. However all the other natural beauties of BC and my fond memories of the Okanagan Valley soon outweighed any reluctance and I had made my decision.

So now all my bags are packed and I’m ready to leave. I will leave behind some amazing friends, but as we go on our separate ways we will remember all the times we had together; and as our lives change, come whatever we will still be friends forever…

Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption

I planned each charted course
Each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this

I did it my way

 

friends

Morocco, Marrakech, Souks and Sunshine…

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Morocco, the land of the Sahara desert, Atlas Mountains, Casablanca, Marrakech, souks and sunshine… For Christmas 2017 my friend, Guada, and I decided to escape the dreary cold and wet winter of Ireland and head south in search of sunshine and tan lines. Being both from the southern hemisphere (Guada from Argentina and I from Australia) the idea of a hot Christmas was a welcome and totally normal idea. So we packed our carry-ons full of summer gear and headed off to Agadir.

We reached Agadir at  2.30am and slowly made our way through customs. A few hours earlier we had organised for a chauffeur company to drive us the 2 ½ hours to Marrakech. As we walked out of the airport we were meet by 2 men; one dressed in modern western attire, the second in a full length cloak and pointed hood…. To our ignorant relief our driver was the one in modern western attire. But as we soon learned the full length cloak and pointed hood is a traditional outfit in Berber culture, and after a few days, as we became accustomed to seeing them everywhere, my friend and I both wanted one for ourselves…. but at 2.30am in a new country, with no other people around, it just kind of freaked us out.

blue houseWe jumped in the car with our driver and head off in the middle of the night along the road we hoped was for Marrakech. I had popped a sleeping pill as we left Dublin and had fallen asleep almost the moment I had sat down on the plane, so I quickly fell back asleep on leaving Agadir, while my friend desperately tried to stay awake in case we were being kidnapped. We speed along the blacktop and arrived in Marrakesh at about 6am. We had booked to stay in a traditional Riad in Marrakech’s Medina, but at 6am when we rocked up on the doorstep bags in hand the night-man refused to let us in telling us we could not check in until later. Thankfully after some words from our driver, the night-man let us leave our bags and our driver took us for breakfast at one of his local haunts. Our driver treated us to Harcha and Msemen, typical moroccan flat breads served with honey, cheese or eggs, and our first of many proper mint teas. After breakfast our driver dropped us off at the train station where he promised we would find somewhere to sit for a few hours and use the free WiFi while we waited for the banks to open up to exchange our money. I have to say, he was a pretty amazing driver, and we looked forward to more of this open and genuine hospitality.

DSC_2856We spent our first day in Marrakech visiting the Majorelle Garden ( Yves Saint Laurent), Jemaa el-Fnaa (square) and Marrakech’s famed souks. We looked, we shopped, we ate and we drunk mint tea. Completely exhausted we were back at the Riad and passed out by 8pm that night.

The next morning we were up early and on a mission. We had decided to go to the desert for 2 days the next day meaning that we only had one more full day left in Marrakech and we were determined to make the most of it. We started the day at Saadian Tombs, it was a peaceful and in the far corner there was a local man creating new mosaics for the tombs. From the Saadian Tombs we headed to the vastly different but impressive El Badi and Bahia Palaces. Before accidently finding ourselves on an impromptu tour of Marrakech tanneries while in search for the Ben Youssef Mosque. After lunch we leisurely made our way through the souks again before strolling through the gardens surrounding Koutoubia Mosque and ending the day in Jemaa el-Fnaa square.

 

Morocco continues in ‘The Sahara’….

Mum wants to Blog…

Back in March (about a week or so after I setup my own blog) my mum, inspired by my decision to start blogging decided she wanted to start a blog of her. My parents were set to semi-retire in the coming weeks and start traipsing around Australia as two grey nomads in their caravan. Internally laughing to myself I thought ‘this is going to be interesting’.

I had done a bit of research on blogging before I decided to set up my own blog, watching Youtube videos and reading articles like ‘How to write a blog for dummies’. I passed on the links to the sites I had found useful to my mum and left her to set up her own blog.

A day or two later my mum was already stuck. She had watched the videos and read the articles but when she jumped on to WordPress to set herself up it just wasn’t happening for her. The setup stage was a little more technical than putting pen to paper and mum was struggling…. daughter to the rescue. In the end I organised for mum to send me her details and I set up the WordPress account for her, I picked a web address from the ideas she had given me, picked themes, photo, wrote a bio, etc.

13179279_266234143719449_6771317988140813333_nAbout the same time, mum also had the idea to start a Facebook page for her Teddy, Yellow Ted, to document his travels around Australia with the two grey Nomads. So as I was organising her blog I also set up a Facebook page for Yellow Ted and linked it to mum’s Facebook account. I was starting to think it was a sign of things to come and I would probably be jumping onto her blog a lot to ‘fix’ things she couldn’t get her head around.

But it all turned out well. Once mum had the basics set up she quickly began playing around with her Blog and changing theme’s, uploading posts, figuring out how to add pictures etc. In the end, after the initial setup I have never once had to jump onto her blog to correct any mishaps (touch wood).

In April they retired, and the 2 Grey Nomads and Yellow Ted set off on their adventures around Australia in their caravan. Now mum blog’s more than me averaging about one blog a week as she shares stories from her trips on the road and “hardships” of retired life.

It has been great to see mum blogging and to read of my parents adventures. Although we may talk a couple of times a week, sometimes being on the other side of the planet can make it difficult to appreciate what is going on in their day to day life. Blogging has given us that opportunity to read and get a real feel for the other person’s life that we wouldn’t have gotten through a phone conversation. I now look forward to mums next blog post at Nomadic Pearce Travels and am really happy she decided to give it a try.

When you throw the rational and pragmatic aside and start being impulsive

Since moving to Dublin in March I have been on the go to set myself up and secure myself in Dublin. Setting up bank accounts, finding a home, finding a job, meeting people, making new friends and reconnecting with old ones. It has been go, go, go.

I was calculating and pragmatic when I planned my move over here and although I definitely had my stressful moments, I have always been able to make rational decisions and get out of hard situations. However being rational, calculating and pragmatic are not always words that some people would describe me as. Impulsive may be in some ways more accurate.

A few weeks ago after a particularly bad week with my new misogynistic housemate and older financially tight housemate I made an impulsive decision to move out. I jumped online and agreed to move into the second house I looked at. The house was close to my work, close to the city centre and the other tenant seemed relaxed and easy going, just what I wanted. I transferred the bond (deposit) and a month’s rent and moved into the house.

The place was what I considered a dump. When I had looked at the house the tenant had said it was only messy because of the other person moving out, and as you only have 20minutes (if you are lucky) to really look around and get the feel to the place I really hadn’t realised how bad the house was. On moving in I found leftover food caked onto the stove, the sink, the washing machine, the kettle… pretty much anything in the kitchen, and it was not new caked on food scraps. This was the type of caked on food that had its own ecological system growing on it. The bathroom was mouldy and had obviously not been cleaned for months (if ever) and the room I was moving into was dusty and dirty. I talked to the tenant however she could not see the problem and advised if the house was not clean enough for me it would be my responsibility to keep it cleaner.

dubThis on its own had me anxious. But what tipped the place over the scales for me was the neighbourhood. I had only visited the neighbourhood once on viewing the property and had been told that it was a working class area. However as I was moving in, the men across the street started catcalling and as I walked home that evening from a friend’s house and saw the drug addicts, drunkards and violence that was on the street I became even more anxious.

Within half an hour of waking up the next morning I found myself having an anxiety attack from the decision I had made to move in to this place. I got myself out of the house and went for a walk to calm down. I came back with an armada of cleaning supplies in an effort to make the most of it, but shortly after arriving back at the house and I had started cleaning I became too anxious again and left the house. I finally acknowledged my mistake, and messaged the other tenant to tell her this would not work out.  I would accept paying rent until she could find another tenant and would get the bond back once a new tenant was found. Really in this economy that should have only taken a week.

I packed up my belongings that afternoon and moved back to the house that I had been living in. I had paid up until the end of the week and my old housemate was happy to have me back. Someone had already put down a deposit to rent my room from the following week, however following all the trouble the misogynistic housemate had caused the landlord had kicked him out earlier that day so I organised to take over the lease of his old room at the end of the week.

sandymountThe room is smaller but I am hopeful that it will work a lot better for me. The much bigger wardrobe is a bonus, the privacy of a window looking out into someone back yard instead of the main street is also nice, and there is more usable space as there is no fireplace in the centre of the room. Not to mention the rent is slightly cheaper. Things weren’t so bad and I thought things were looking up from the bad situation I had impulsively threw myself into….

 

As this saga was so long I decided to break it into two posts, please watch this space for part two of my impulsive misadventure.

Happy Birthday Me

The other week was my birthday, and as a sort of birthday present to myself I decided to go away. I had been thinking over a few different ideas; Disneyland Paris… Amsterdam dressed as a Disney Princess… Ibiza… Tayto park… in the end I went  hiking in County Kerry. Although it may not sound like the big party weekend that a birthday weekend should be, it was still a great weekend away.

Due to indecisiveness the booking of my four day mini holiday only happened on the Monday / Tuesday before my birthday. I rented a car and then jumped on bookings.ie to find cheap accommodation. I was determined to spend my first 2 days (one night) hiking part of the Kerry Way in the Black Valley, but the other two nights I was open to wherever the cheapest accommodation would be.

In the end my accommodation bookings looked like this Thursday night – Black Valley, co. Kerry, Friday Night – Cork City, co. Cork, and Saturday night Ballinskelligs, Ring of Kerry, co. Kerry.  That might sound like I was tramping from one side of the country to the other and then back again but it turned out to work really well. The Wild Atlantic Way a costal scenic route which starts in Kinsale co. Cork and makes its way all along the south and West Coast to Derry in Northern Ireland. I had already completed part of the Wild Atlantic Way from Tralee almost all the way to Galway back in October so decided that for the second 2 days of my trip I would complete the Kinsale to Tralee part of the route including the Ring of Kerry.

So with a sort of plan in hand 6am Thursday morning I set off to Killarney co. Kerry to start my mini adventure. After my Canadian Tim Hortons breakfast, in the Obama Plaza in County Offlay I arrived in Killarney about 10.30am and went in search of the Tourist Information Centre for a map of the area I wanted to hike. It turned out the Tourist Information Centre didn’t really have any proper hiking maps of the area, but I had read and been advised that the trail was well marked so wasn’t too worried and after parking my car at the Lake House Hotel headed off on my overnight hike.

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The Kerry Way – Killarney to Black Valley

With the exception of the area around Torc Waterfalls (a main tourist attraction for Killarney) the path was very well signposted and I had no troubles finding my way.  My only beef would be that the signposts didn’t indicate how far it was to your next destination which would have helped gauge whether I needed to hurry up or could slow my pace and enjoy the scenery.

In total the hike into my B&B in the Black Valley was about 20km ascending about 350m as you walk over the mountain range into the valley. use7I was especially taken by the views shortly after I passed between Torc Waterfall and headed over the top of the range before I headed back into the valley towards Galway’s Bridge. Up here you could see down into the valley below but were not quite at the peak of the range, you had a mix of jaggered rocky mountain sides and open fields with little running streams and wild deer grazing, which eventually lead to one particular field with a small waterfall with a pebble shoreline where you could sit and enjoy a break. It was all starting to make me think of the Jane Austin tv movies I had seen over the years and it was easy to imagine this landscape hadn’t changed much in the last 200 years, especially when there was not a power pole or any other sign of industrialisation in sight.

After 5 ½ hours of walking I finally reached the Shamrock Bed & Breakfast. The B&B was the last B&B in the Black Valley before you reached Bridia Valley, and my feet were well tired by the time I reached my destination. The B&B is run by Sheila, who I would consider a typical country Irish grandmother; tough as old boots, says her prayers 3 times a day, is always well stocked on scones and soda bread, and told it as it was. When I arrived she quickly settled me in, started a fire in the dining room and set me up with tea, scones and a WiFi password. I had pre-arranged dinner to be included with my stay however as it was a Thursday and the parish priest only gave Mass on a Thursday evening I would have to wait until after the service finished at 8pm for my dinner, but as I had just been filled up on scones I wasn’t fussed. Sheila returned from Mass and quickly began to dish out a 3 course meal of Potato and Leak Soup (my favourite), Beef and Vegetable Stew, and Apple Pie and ice-cream all homemade and all so delicious. With a full stomach I soon headed to bed for an early night.

use5The next day I was up and out of bed by 7.30am, where I was again greeted by an array of food from my host. I had told Sheila the night before I didn’t want too much for breakfast, a little bacon and maybe some eggs would be fine but in traditional grandmotherly style a plate piled high with bacon, scrambled eggs, fried tomatoes, toast, fruit, orange juice, tea, jam and butter sat on the table waiting for me. I ate heartily knowing the 20km journey I had to make back to Killarney would be exhausting and knowing I would probably only stop to eat a banana on the trail. After breakfast I profoundly thanked Sheila and headed back the way I came.

This time round I stopped to have a look around the ruins of an old abandoned house probably not more than 100 years old, which stood next to the ruins of another much older structure. The house was already being reclaimed by nature; the roof had long since disappeared, ferns covered the floor and there creepers all over the walls. It was humbling to see how quickly nature had reclaimed these buildings.

use4I finally arrived back at the Lake House Hotel (as planned) in time for lunch. I had previously visited the Lake House Hotel with some of my extended Irish relations and had really enjoyed the food here as well as the view out across the lake so it was a no brainer to finish my journey here. I was able to get a window seat and celebrated the completion of my 40+km hike (and my birthday) with a glass of red wine and an amazing leg of roast lamb.

After a very long lunch break I jumped back into the car and headed off to Cork to start Part 2 of my weekend journey…

Keep an eye out, I will be adding Part 2 of my Birthday weekend mini adventure over the coming days!

For more information on the Kerry Way, Shamrock B&B, or the Lake House Hotel  click on the hyperlinks!

Who you gonna call…

As someone who has left all there family and friends, a secure job and a nice apartment behind to move on their own to a new country and start again I would call myself a pretty independent, self reliant person. But over the last couple of weeks I have had to face my more vulnerable side and realise that there are times when I do need to call someone and ask for help.

independent women sick memeI am not the best patient, when I get sick I get “man flu” and think its the end of the world. I don’t battle through it, instead I crawl back into bed and wait for the end… or my recovery. In Australia, when I was living at home (and I may have tried this a couple of times after moving out) I would text my daddy to bring me water, boost juice, toast, a bucket, etc. as I lay in bed dying.

When I broke my toe on Christmas eve I called my mum, who had to drive across town to pick me up, and then spent Christmas to New Years taxiing me around while I was unable to drive.

In Australia, even when my parents where not available there was always a close friend or boyfriend  I knew I could call to pop down to the shops and pick up some medicine, comfort food, or just pop over and keep me company while I was being a baby.

A couple of weeks ago it was a concussion, this week it was a cold and slight feinting episode in the shower, and although I am fine it has made me realise that no matter how independent or self reliant you may think you are, you should always have someone you know you can call if you need help. Of course I have my parents and friends back in Australia who I can call, but you also need someone close by.

sick_woman1After my concussion, I was talking to a work colleague, who was shocked to realise I didn’t have anyone to check on me while I was concussed and insisted in exchanging numbers so if anything did happen I could contact her.  I now also realise that I do have a group of friends that if needed I could call on for help.

It is important as you establish yourself in a new city or country to identify people in your life who you can call for help when you need it. They don’t always need to be your closest friends, just someone you know will answer your call. Because you never know when you will get sick… get hit in the head by a boom… drop a dumbell on your toe… or need a place to crash for a few nights.

So who are you going to call?

She’ll be right… It’s just a little concussion…

Part 3 (if you haven’t read Part 1 on Adventures and Naps blog page, or Part 2 – click on the links first!)

After my big weekend of learning to sail, I was not surprised to wake up Monday feeling completely exhausted. Again I was a little surprised that I still had my sea legs, but I suspected they would go away as the day progressed. Over the weekend I had sustained numerous small knocks to the head and one pretty solid knock from the boom of my dinghy and I still had a headache from it, but there was nothing I could do but go to work and get this day over with. I was sure after a good night’s rest I would be 100% by Tuesday, and until then I would just have to get by.

Within an hour of getting into the office I realised something wasn’t right, the sea legs had turned into a constantly slight warp in my vision, concentrating on anything was taking all of my effort, my comprehension of basic conversations was basic at best and my speech had apparently seriously slowed. I decided that maybe those booms to the head had, had a greater effect than I had realised.

Doctors are expensive in Ireland and the Irish health system is about 15 years behind what I was used to in Australia so I wasn’t particularly fond of going to a doctor. But I really had no choice. So I packed myself up and after reassuring my boss several times I would be fine, I found myself in a local doctor’s surgery. MRi’s are not standard so I ended up having ‘an old fashion’ physical examination with the doctor asking me to follow her finger and touch my nose, while she used a little hammer to bang my bruised knees checking my reflexes. After a 15 minute examination the doctor advised, that without a proper scan of my head she could not be certain, but suspected that I had a mild concussion.  She wrote me a letter and advised that if my situation worsened to head to a hospital, otherwise I was to rest for the next couple of days.

In a haze I proceeded home to rest, stopping off at the grocery store to buy something to eat. On the trip home I remember being accosted by a woman on the bus, but for what I have no idea; I remember calling my mum to tell her what happened; and then I remember standing in my bedroom at home realising I did not have my bank card. Somewhere on the trip home I had lost my only Irish bank card. I had enough sense to cancel my card then and there and in the days since I have still not found the card, so god knows what happened to it.

sailing donnaOver the next couple of days as I began to recover I realised just how bad I had being. I returned to work on Tuesday, feeling better than I had on Monday but probably still not really right to be at work. The room would still warp from time to time, and my comprehension was still mediocre at best but as they say… fake it until you make it. Being new to the company and still on a temporary contract I didn’t want to let something as trivial as a mild concussion get in the way of a possible permanent position.
By Friday for the most part I was back to my normal self.

As I had talked to people afterwards as my concussion became general knowledge around the office, the common question I was asked is ‘Will you go sailing again?’ and the answer is a definite YES. I really did enjoy my weekend, I really enjoy sailings, and as I become a better sailor the likely-hood of a knock to the head decreases. Next time though I may just wrap some bubble wrap around my head just to be on the safe side.

If you haven’t yet read Part 1 or Part 2 of this adventure follow the link to Adventures and Naps where I guest posted Part 1. While you are there have a read of Alanna and Tyler’s adventures, and if like me you like what you read – don’t forget to follow them!

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One of the seals who live in Dun Laoghaire Harbour

 

Level One – Dinghy Sailing

Part 2 (go to Adventures and Naps to read Part 1)

Following my sailing taster several weeks ago, I decided to start my sailing experience from the very beginning and complete a Level One – Dinghy Sailing course. The course is run over a weekend and last week I finally got to get out there and completed the course.

I showed up again all bright eyed and bushy tailed at the Irish National Sailing School (INSS) at Dun Laoghaire Harbour excited for the weekend ahead and full of notions that I would take to sailing like a duck on water. In truth, I was just as bad (or good) as the rest of my fellow newbie sailing enthusiasts.

If I thought the 1720 was a small sailing boat, it was nothing in comparison to the 3.5meter (11’6 foot) Laser Pico I was going to start my sailing adventures in. The level one course is a very basic introduction to sailing, but I am happy I choose the level one dinghy course over the level one yacht course. With the dinghy course you are the only one in the boat; you are in control and responsible for the rudder, the sails, and the boom; and when you lose control of the rudder, sail or boom you are the only one to blame. You learn about wind direction and how the direction of your sail effects how fast or slow you cruise through the water, about no go zones, and how to tack and jibe. A basic introductory lesson to sailing but one that any person starting out really needs to have.

picosBy the end of my first day I was feeling very confident in my abilities, I was lured into a false sense of ease by the lack of exhaustion in my upper body which I had been expecting, and as I had managed not to capsize all day I was now a master of the seas. The couple of small bumps to the head from the boom when I failed to react quickly enough or the freezing rain in the afternoon hadn’t ruined what I had felt had been a great day.

I woke the next morning to not quite sore but exhausted muscles and the ongoing feeling of sea legs which had not quite disappeared from the day before. The second day of sailing was spent much more on the water, refining the skills we had learnt the day before. As we came in for lunch you could see in the attitudes and conversations of my fellow novice sailors that we had set out that morning expecting to be masters of the harbour, but we quickly began to feel that everything we had learnt the day before had somehow already slipped away. The morning had been rough on our morale, and the picking up of wind which had led to a few more booms to the head had done nothing to improve our situation. But we persevered, and after lunch we began to feel like masters of the harbour again as we sailed our Pico’s around our little course congratulating ourselves for not capsizing and ignoring the 12 year olds sailing around us like pros.

CertBy the end of the weekend, with my Level One – Start Sailing certificate in hand, I felt thoroughly happy with my sailing adventure. I had really enjoyed sailing in the little Pico’s and already had plans on my next holiday to rent a little dinghy and sail around the bay of a new city. But I have not lost sight of my Mediterranean dreams and am already planning to undertake my level two course in August.

If you haven’t yet read Part 1 of this adventure follow the link to Adventures and Naps where I guest posted Part 1. While you are there have a read of Alanna and Tyler’s adventures, and if like me you like what you read – don’t forget to follow them!

Weekend Adventures, Kevin the koala and my Epiphany

DSC_0146During the week I made a new friend, he’s an Australian who’s been living in Ireland the last few years. His name is Kevin and he is a koala.

After meeting Kevin he very quickly grew on me, I think the idea was that he was something familiar from home, but without knowing it actually hit another soft spot. You see my mother has a little teddy bear called Yellow Ted, I gave him to mum years ago and now that my parents are retired Yellow Ted travels Australia with my parents. Yellow Ted even has his own Facebook page  where he shares his adventures… it is very cute and I love reading it and seeing his pictures.

DSC_0202Don’t worry, I am not about to set Kevin up with his own Facebook page. But Kevin the koala reminded me of Yellow Ted. So this weekend when I decided to go on my mini adventure Kevin came with me.
It had been a couple of weeks since my last mini adventure and I had decided to walk from Greystone to Bray via the Cliff Walk before heading to Powerscourt House and Gardens. I started the Cliff Walk at a decent hour, about 9.30am and the track was quiet. The walk itself has a lot more untamed beauty to it than Howth Heads or any of the other trail I have done in Ireland so far and I really enjoyed it.

I had lunch and ice-cream in Bray and headed over to Powerscourt House and Gardens. I love Powerscourt. When my mother was 17 she lived in Ireland and went to Powerscourt. We had a picture at home of her in front of the main water fountain feature there. When I first went there 8 years ago I took a photo in that same spot, and today I went back to that same spot and had another picture taken of me in front of the same water-fountain.

The gardens at Powerscourt are amazing, everywhere there are people, friends, couples, families just wandering around or laying on the grass enjoy the serenity of the place. I could have spent an entire day there, and I wished I had brought a picnic blanket and some lunch to just sit in the sun and enjoy the day with friends. But as usual I was doing this adventure alone, I had actively decided not to invite anyone on my mini adventure and for once I was starting to regret my decision.

I can be stubbornly independent. For the last 10 years I have almost always traveled on my own and am so use to it I find it difficult to  travel with others. I like to decide where I go, what I do, what I don’t do, where I eat, when I eat and not have to worry if the other people do … I don’t like having to spend an entire day in mindless chatter. I can go minutes, even hours happily being in peoples company without talking to them. Pretty much I like things my way. I know, I know, not my most endearing quality but at least I recognize it and can work on improving it.

Anyway being at Powerscourt today, just Kevin and I, brought this all to the forefront of my mind as I wondered the gardens. After sitting in the Japanese Gardens at Powerscourt for some time pondering my newest epiphany I  decided that I am going to make more of an effort to invite my friends to come with me on my mini-adventures. Because lets face it, sometimes the things that we most dread or the events that make us most anxious usually turn out to be some of our best adventures…. or misadventures.

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Dublin Horror Renting Show

It’s been several weeks since I moved into my new home and finally the anxiety I would get thinking about the events leading up to the move have now disappeared, so I have decided it is time to share my renting horror story.

In the months leading up to my move to Dublin I had been fiercely watching DAFT.ie to get an idea of house sharing options in Dublin. I was keen to live in the Swords / Malahide area as I knew the area well and thought it a great place to spend my weekends. I had done a few Skype calls to try and secure accommodation before I arrived but to no success. Instead I arrived in Ireland with 5 night’s accommodation at a local hotel and determined to find a place within that timeframe. What I hadn’t realised was that Dublin has been in the midst of a housing crisis, rents were astronomical and though discrimination against people without references is illegal the surplus of people looking for accommodation means that landlords can and do only rent to those who provide all the right references.

In the end, I did find accommodation that did not require references within my 5 day time frame (maybe that should have been my first warning bell). It was a 3 bedroom house on the outskirts of Malahide sharing with a young married couple and another married guy who worked in Ireland to and sent money home to his family. When I moved in I paid a deposit and my one month’s rent in advance; I was promised a sub-lease agreement to sign in a few days from the main tenants of the house once they received the paper work from the agent. The sub-lease agreement never materialised even after multiple requests.

For the first week my housemates seemed quite friendly, and I thought everything would be grand. However the 1 ½ hour commute into the city each way for work was more than I had expected so after only a fortnight I told one of my house mates (the wife of the married couple) I would start looking for a new place to live close to work, however assured her I would give notice. By this stage I was already beginning to feel uncomfortable in my new home; two of my new housemates did not speak English as a first language and when the wife was not home, always spoke in their mother tongue even when I was around. They also watched television in their native language meaning I was never able to sit with them and watch television if I wanted. The husband only worked casually and spent most of his days at home lazing about the house in his underwear leaving dirty dishes everywhere – when I approached him about being uncomfortable with him lying around in his underwear I got a lecture about he and his wife being the main tenant of the household and it being his ‘home’.  Only working causally meant the husband was constantly concerned about the cost of gas and electricity and would often follow you around the house reminding you to turn off the lights when you left a room (whether you would be returning to the room 5 min later or not); he wouldn’t use the timer on the hot water to save energy and often turn off the hot water the moment you got in the shower leaving you with cold water a few minutes into your shower; and when you turned on the heating on a cold evening he would turn it off and suggest you go put more layers on…. I was getting infuriated with him and so was the other house mate, however talking about it only ended in argument and being told we could leave if we don’t like it.

After a few weeks in the house our first guests arrived… it was the wife’s mother, two sisters, and the new born baby to one of the sisters. They stayed for 5 days, meaning there were 6 people sharing a 3 bedroom house with only 1 working bathroom. Finally they left but a fortnight later the other housemate’s wife and daughter arrived to stay for almost 3 weeks. It was a full house, and I was expected to make allowances for the toddler staying in the house.  I understand people have families but I never signed up for this when I first moved into the house. All of these extra people don’t just mean that the house is more crowded, it also means that it can take longer to get a shower, use the kitchen, or that more electricity is being used… and when I brought this up with my housemate they thought me selfish for asking whether they would be paying for the extra electricity being used by their families while they were here.

All the while I had continued to look for a new place to live. Finally I found the place, my lovely little old miner’s cottage with its 170 year old fireplace in Irishtown, and not a moment too soon! A few days earlier I had had another run in with the husband about the hot water system, I had turned it on for his wife to have a shower after he misuroomnderstood me telling him the water was not hot enough yet for the wife to shower. I had then left the house and no one turned the hot water off after his wife had showered, so he had a go at me for leaving it on… I, being a bit fed up at this stage and didn’t back down, in the end after a few harsh words I just walked away with nothing resolved and things had been tense between us since.

Anyway, I had my new place and was now only a few weeks away from moving out… The day I found out about the new place told the wife, when I first told her I was leaving she was very good about it, thanking me for giving notice and acting as normal. We chatted and laughed in the kitchen about the bingo night I had been to the night before, everything seemed good. However that was the last time she talked to me unless I asked her a direct question which she could not avoid. From that day on she avoided me, would not say good morning when I would see her or communicate with me in any way. Her brother had happened to show up the evening I told her I was moving out and continued to stay at that house every night from then on, sleeping in the lounge room. The brother made me feel uncomfortable, constantly sleazing up to me when I was home and being a right misogynist, while the sores on his mouth and face suggested he had a drug problem. After he started to stay with us, on several occasions I found my bedroom door and window open either when I got home from work or in the morning when I woke up making me feel even more uncomfortable and causing me to hide my valuables.

By the end of the week, after telling my housemates I was moving out, the father of the wife was also staying at the house and the 4 of them would start drinking and carrying on loudly about 11pm at night. As this started on a Friday night I did not mind so much until this continued on to Sunday and Monday night when I had to get up early for work. Monday night about 2am I went down stairs and asked them to keep it down as I would need to be up shortly. I was meet with a string of abuse and laughter, and returned to bed angry and upset. It had happened to be Census night on the previous Sunday and as it was my first Census I was keen to complete the survey. I had asked my housemates about it and they had told me they never received on, so on the Tuesday I rang the Census office to ask for a new copy to be delivered. While on the phone they had asked me my address and I could never remember if it was 57 or 75 so I quickly jumped on DAFT to check the number on the ad for the new housemate… turns out it was 76. But while I was there I noticed they had the move in date a number of weeks after I had moved out. I thought they may not have realised I was moving out that weekend so sent a text message to my housemates to tell them. The reply was a phone call with another string of abuse, and when I explained about the Census all hell broke loose… apparently we had received a Census but they had not wanted to complete it so had thrown it out and did not like that I had organised a new one.

I hung up the phone to the housemate shaking and in tears. After several nights of lack of sleep, the ongoing isolation I had left in that house, and the overall stress of the situation I had reached my breaking point. Walking back to the office I had decided I was going to rent a car that evening and move out, I had no idea where I would go for the next 4 nights until my new place was ready but I needed to get out. As I neared the office I saw the one person from work that I knew would help me if it was in their power. I walked up to him and explained through some uncontrolled sobs what had just happened and asked if he knew anyone with a spare bed, couch anything who may be able to put me up for a few days. In the end he was able to offer me a room in his apartment that luckily was free that week as its usual occupant was on holidays. After sitting through a team meeting with a big fake, calm, smile plastered on my face I pulled my Head of Department aside and explained briefly that I no longer felt safe at my home and was moving out that evening. As much as I tried I was unable to keep the calm composure I had managed through the meeting, and the tears and silent shaking came back. Of course leaving early was not a problem.

I sent my housemates a text message advising them I would be moving out immediately and went to pick up my rental car. When I got back to the house the lot of them where there: the husband, wife, brother and father. They proceeded to sit there and watch me pack my stuff into the car, never offering any assistance, appearing to be trying to intimidate me. I asked the husband to transfer my deposit back to my account, which he said he would do, and I got into my car and left.  I left the car I had rented with some friends of mine, who gave me food and the comfort good friends can only give before I caught the bus to my workmates house. Finally about 9pm that night I arrived at my workmates place, he and his partner welcomed me into their house making me feel more at ease in the first 5 minutes then I ever had at the other house. A glass of wine later and I was relaxed. 3 bottles later I was drunk. The next morning I am not sure if I was hungover or still drunk…

I never received my deposit back on the other place. I did contact them several times to no avail and with no sub-lease agreement in place I had little to no legislative backing to assist me in getting my money back. In the end I decided that the stress of trying to get the money back was not worth taking the matter to the small claims tribunal.

houseIn my new place, we signed all of the leasing documents before I moved in; receipts were given and each tenant even has an ongoing spreadsheet of expenses. I have meet the landlords and there is a much more open and by the book approach to the rental of the property.

The whole ordeal has been an eye opener to some of the harsh realities of Dublin life. But this problem is not isolated to Dublin or Ireland. Any major city often does not have the capacity to provide accommodation to the 1,000s or millions which move to the city in search of work, adventure or a new life each year, and without the correct knowledge and out of desperation many of these people will find themselves in situations like mine or worse. However unlike myself, they will not have the knowledge, ability or supports around them to get themselves out of this situation.

I don’t want this post to put anyone off moving to a new city or country, instead use my experience to learn from my mistakes and put measures in place to ensure it doesn’t happen to you. Travelling is an adventure and allows for so much personal growth, as much as this has been a major challenge to me it has also helped me to grow and develop as a person; and while I would not wish this experience on others I do not regret the decisions I made at the time – at least I have learnt from them.

Until next time….

Charmaine