So this story is one that happened quite awhile ago, but is in my arsenal of stories that are begging to be told. This happened a couple summers ago when I took my epic adventure abroad and got to go backpacking around Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland for two months. For a little exposition- we were on a really limited budget, and I truly think that being on such a tight budget is what helped us experience things in a different way than other tourists. We had booked the cheapest flight we could find, and knew we would have to pinch pennies to even get by.
We were in our first destination- Dublin, Ireland. I believe it was our second night in town, and we were still pretty jet-lagged. We were staying in the cheapest hostel we could find, which was a 12 bed dorm, but it was so central in Dublin, we didn’t even care. We had rented bikes earlier in the day and cycled all over Dublin. We got to see the largest municipal park in the world, and got a really good taste of the geography of the city. I highly recommend renting bicycles in a new city because you are more immersed than in a car, but get to see a lot more than you would if you were on foot. Just be careful, because in Dublin the streets are backwards from the way they are here in the US. Everytime I checked for traffic, my instinct was to check for cars on the right side of the street, but they were all coming from the left. Because of this, we tried to stay off the main road. We were not about to become road-kill in our first destination!
After cycling around the city, we returned to our hostel for dinner. We went into the communal kitchen area to cook some pasta we found in the communal bin. If you don’t know what the communal bin is- its basically where other travelers leave food that they do not want anymore for other travelers to have. We came across some pretty interesting foods from rummaging the communal bin! Before we started cooking though, we struck up a conversation with an elderly lady from Sweden who was leading a traveling adventure for some teenagers. She was telling us all about her adventures, and the joys of being able to travel. We weren’t chatting for long when she asked us if we wanted their leftovers. She seriously gave us a TON of delicious Lamb Stew! She also showed us where they were leaving fresh produce that they could not bring with them, and told us we could have it. This was a marvelous example of some of the generosity we encountered time and time again on our travels. Being on such a tight budget, we appreciated any and all measures of generosity.
After eating and washing dishes, we wanted to go experience Dublin, but didn’t quite feel up for some of the touristy bars or clubs. We headed out of our hostel with no real destination. I should add that there were three of us at this point in time. There was Sophie- who I planned this trip with and stuck with the whole time, and Amber- a girl who we had gone to school with our freshman year of college before moving back home to Alabama. We meandered the streets and people watched. Eventually we came across a little winery, and when we looked inside, there were people playing guitars, violins, clarinets etc. and they were all singing. We knew we could not afford to get a bottle of wine, but out of curiosity we decided to poke our heads in and listen for a minute. Just a few seconds after peeking our heads in, a lady approached us and asked if we would like to take a seat and look at a menu. We apologized and told her we were travelers and didn’t have the funds to pay, and that we just wanted to take a quick listen. She then insisted we take a seat and hang out as long as we liked. We had nothing better to do, so we accepted this nice gesture and quietly sat in.
These musicians were amazing! They seemed to know each other really well, and presented a mixture of original music, and covers. Eventually, one man asked if we would introduce ourselves, so we shyly told them who we were and where we were traveling from. When they heard that Amber was from Alabama they excitedly referenced Sweet Home Alabama and everyone sang it with full gusto. Of course we had to chime in! Sophie and I grew up singing, and had a pretty good ear for harmonies so we sang along with harmonies. They were excited to hear that we were also musically inclined, although nowhere near as talented as anyone else we heard playing in the room. They asked if we would play and sing them a song, and we- with some definite hesitation, found a song we could play and sing together unrehearsed. I honestly do not remember what we played, but I do remember it sounded as unrehearsed as it was! It really was not very good, but the whole room was so supportive and enthusiastic about their new American guests. They continued to jam and insisted we chime in with harmonies wherever we could- so we did!
After singing along to all of these tunes for awhile, a woman who was sitting near us stood up from her seat to use the restroom. In the process she bumped into several chairs and knocked over a wine glass. Our attention quickly sprung her direction, when we realized she had one of those sticks that blind people use to see. Then I started looking around a little more closely… Almost EVERYONE had these sticks, or was wearing glasses. I whispered to Sophie “I think everyone here is blind,” and she told me she was just noticing the same thing. We were amazed- No, we were more than AMAZED. These musicians were absolutely incredible. Not only were they incredibly skilled, but their music came from a place of raw emotion. I was baffled as to how it could take so long for me to notice we were in a room full of blind musicians, but then again- its not every day you encounter blind people, let alone incredible blind musicians. We jammed for a little bit longer before everyone started packing up their instruments to head home.
We left the winery in complete and utter awe of we had gotten the privilege to be a part of. This was one of those moments that you can not plan or anticipate. This was one of those rare magical experiences you encounter when you are traveling. We truly thought walking out of that place that this would be the number one highlight of our two month excursion abroad. Although it is in my top 5, its only one of the many incredible moments we had while traveling abroad.