This is my partner’s first international trip and I think I may have over planned a bit. You see, I have mild agoraphobia. Contrary to popular opinion, this is not the opposite of claustrophobia; it’s not the fear of open spaces. It’s actually the fear of being trapped or in a situation of helplessness. A number of people with severe cases of agoraphobia never leave their homes, since this is the only location they actually feel safe. My anxiety picks up if I get lost (GPS is literally a lifesaver), so exploring new places is both a form of therapy and incredibly nerve-wracking at the same time. I have angry panic attacks, meaning I tend to lash out aggressively, so an exciting adventure can turn sour if I don’t have coping mechanisms.
I typically compensate for the anxiety by being overly prepared. I know you can’t exist in the world and control everything within it, so I have conditioned myself though being as educated about locations as I can be and having contingency plans in place. These basically default to “control what you can control,” which means in a real emergency, I call my insurance people (personal property, not travel – I have a policy that covers my stuff wherever it is) and wait. (Gods forbid I ever get framed as a drug mule – I’ll die in prison.) I do a lot of research about the attractions I want to visit, much of which comes from accounts of people who have been to the area before. I do and have things that make me less of a target or a mark: pick-pocket resistant handbag, hidden pockets (not around my neck or waist!), no tennis shoes/trainers etc.
In contrast, if someone that I trust in control of the schedule, I can be extremely flexible in my planning and leave the responsibility up to them. B is the type of person that likes to pick a list of things that seem interesting an whatever seems the most interesting when we look at the list is the next agenda item. That worked great when we went to DC, because we were in a central location and most things had similar open and close times. He had a list of attractions, their locations, hours and any notes of interest (like you have to get to the Washington Monument for tickets early in the morning). We were able to have an open agenda without a lot of stress for him or anxiety for me.
In Ireland, we are planning 3 days in Dublin and a 3 day road trip outside the city. While in Dublin we have a looser schedule that is mostly dictated by what days the attractions we want to see are open. The catch is the road trip involves not only attraction hours and notes of interest, but travel times in an unfamiliar country and staying in a new place each night. B doesn’t know if he will be comfortable driving in a country with cars on the wrong side of the road (he doesn’t know if it will “click” in his brain or not), and the car rental is 50% more with two drivers on the contract. Since I’ve driven in England before, granted this was ten years ago, I’ll be the one on the contract. This means I’m responsible for the road trip portion of our vacation. Cue my need to over plan every hour of the trip.
We started by making a list of all the attractions within 100 miles of Dublin that we were interested in seeing. I’d map out the time to the sights and add 50% travel time to what Google calculated (we’ve all seen the sheep in the road postcard – it’s apparently not uncommon). Ireland also has an amazing resource in Heritage Ireland, which has information like hours and locations, but also estimated visit lengths. With this information, I was able to create a tentative agenda for our road trip. Over the long run, this wasn’t as smooth as I’d hoped, because B couldn’t remember why he added things to the list and prioritizing them because difficult. Luckily, he has a good friend who has traveled to Ireland multiple times, so I shared my tentative agenda with him and got some good suggestions on what to keep and what to add. While I’m not following his agenda exactly, I did modify my original agenda based on his recommendations.
So, without further ado – our road trip agenda:
Day 1: Pick up rental car at airport, Gelndalough Cathedral, Ferns Castle, Tintern Abby, flat in Waterford
Day 2: Viking and Medieval Museums in Waterford, crystal shopping, Jerpoint Abby, Kilkenny Castle, B&B in Cashel
Day 3: Hore Abby, Rock Of Cashel, Old Millifont Abby, Newgrange/Knowth, Manasterboice High Crosses, room in Swords
Day 4: Malahide Castle before returning the rental car at the airport
The above doesn’t reveal the level of detail my version has, but I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out. I’m also super excited about an 11 hour layover in Heathrow on the trip over. B will get to see the Tower of London and we’ll take a walking tour of the South Bank, Big Ben, St. James Park, and Green Park/Buckingham Palace.