My Ireland hitching adventure began in Skibbereen waiting…and waiting. After an hour or two of giving drivers a thumbs up, the woman living in the house behind me took pity and asked I come in for coffee and biscuits. She and her family were so incredibly kind, offering to take me to the bus station since my hitching attempts seemed a bust. While I was there, the next-door neighbor came over and was told of my plight. He was excited to meet me and hear about my travels and was earnest that I must meet his son, who he made sure I knew was very available, with a twinkle in his eyes. He then had an Aha! moment and said perhaps his son could drive me to Bantry, halfway to my destination, this very day. And that is how I got my first ride. Turns out his son and I actually had a lot in common as far as interests go, and I enjoyed swapping stories about traveling, music, culture, and family. He turned out to be as sweet and friendly as his dad; I enjoyed his company very much so and was rather sad the exchange was so short.
In Bantry, I was quickly picked up by a French man who moved here because of his love for the beautiful landscape. I agreed that it drew me in as well. Our interaction was very brief, but he left me at a better intersection so I would have more luck getting a ride.
I stould outside an ice cream shop for about a half hour and had a couple people stop, but none going my direction. At one point a bicyclist rode by, and we connected with smiles. Once he passed, I contemplated an ice cream break. But no sooner was I walking in the direction of sweet, cold creamy goodness than the very bicyclist I had just seen pulled up in his car and offered me a ride. He was German and moved here to enjoy the lovely outdoors by bike and find rest and relaxation in the green hills overlooking seascapes. He was jovial and told me of his family back home, of his deep connection to Ireland and how he had always been drawn here even before he physically came to the country.
My last ride was a sheep farmer born and raised in Glengarriff, and we shared wonderful banter as he drove me towards Dzogchen Beara, the Buddhist retreat center that was my destination. Along the way, he stopped several times to make deliveries, always leaving the keys in the car with the motor running. I was amazed at how trusting he was of a complete stranger. He offered to take me on a tour of the Beara Peninsula instead of Dzogchen Beara that night and wanted me to stay in Glengarriff at his cousin’s bed and breakfast so he could show me his town he loved so much the next day. How could I say no? The hairpin curves separating verdant undulations and turbulant swells were endless and thrilling. We finished the evening back in Glengarriff enjoying live Irish music over ciders and beers. Everyone knew each other in this small village, and I felt warmly received and was excited to meet other traveling Americans at the pub, the first I had seen since coming to Ireland. He left me at his cousin’s bed and breakfast to sleep and returned in the morning to take me for a boat ride out to Garinish Island, where an Italian-style mansion and gardens of exotic beauty are preserved. When we said our good-byes at the Buddhist retreat center, I felt blessed to meet this generous soul who loves his country so much that he wanted a stranger to love it as well.
I will never forget this journey and will consider it one of my best. Never has it been more apparent to me that human beings can be truly good, that when you believe and trust in their goodness they will give you so much more than you could have ever expected.