Summer is travel and adventure season. It’s a beacon of light around which we plan our happiest days – major celebrations, vacations, a little time to escape and forget.
While we’ve started to ease out of lockdowns and once again tempt fate by making plans, this “new normal” isn’t so new anymore – and it’s getting downright depressing.
But there’s always hope, and today it comes in the form of uncertainty and fear being conquered with a one couple’s temporarily-happy-ever-after on a tiny uninhabited island.
Hope? That’s so last year…
Last year, we were all living life as usual.
We were making plans – some of us looking to move, some hoping for new love, some looking for a change of career… others just contently moving through the days and thankful for the simple things.
We kept our positive outlook and our dreams alive, oblivious to a virus making its way through China, believing it wasn’t our problem because human beings like to think we are invincible.
If you’re a frequent reader of Proud American Traveler (and you should be, because we bring you all the important travel news with facts, fun, and a dose of sarcasm about what’s going on in the world), then you’ll remember a story we brought to you about what has to be the best job posting ever.
On a small, remote island in Ireland, caretakers were wrapping up their season and ready to make a change in the upcoming year.
Alice Hayes and Billy O’Connor wanted to hand the reins over to another couple to live and work on Blasket Island off the Dingle Peninsula, so they put out an ad looking for replacements for the season.
The position offered room, board, a little pay, and the adventure of a lifetime. It also offered peace, tranquility, isolation, and a chance to slow down and experience a simpler time.
Thousands and thousands of responses poured in for this dream job (they’re still coming in), and the couple that was chosen were obviously perfect because of their unique response…
Annie Birney and Eoin Boyle sent a lovely handwritten letter with a physical photo of themselves for consideration. (Take note, millennials: The old school ways are often still the best.)
They seemed to be the perfect fit as new caretakers for the island’s tourist season starting in April of this year – and they found out they were chosen for this romantic adventure on Valentine’s Day (ahhhh, swoon).
The couple quit their jobs — he as an outdoor enthusiast who worked at the Dublin Zoo and local farms, she as a museum staffer with expertise in local folklore and archaeology who had fond memories of visiting the island as a child (perfect for this position) – and packed up their apartment and prepared for the experience of a lifetime.
They transitioned to a temporary flat in Dublin to make final preparations and learn their new trade from Hayes and O’Connor.
Well, you know what happened. It happened to all of us…
Like millions of us all over the world, life came screeching to a halt. Sure, some of us were lucky to keep our jobs and only had to deal with the inconveniences of sticking close to home and keeping our kids from eating us alive.
But for others, jobs were lost, fortunes were destroyed, plans were cancelled – and doubt, frustration, and fear crept in.
Birney and Boyle (a great name for a little Irish folk group, by the way) found themselves locked down in Dublin, sending letters back and forth to Hayes and O’Connor to determine what their future would hold.
No money, no jobs, no idea of whether their dream was still within their grasp or floating away on the Irish winds when they were so close.
Little Blasket Island isn’t much to some, but it is enough to others to survive on tourist dollars from renting the tiny cottages and running a small coffee shop for those who ferry over from the mainland to bask in the scenery for a day or two.
And tourism was dying all over the world at the hands of this invisible enemy in the form of a virus, and an all-too-visible enemy of government officials keeping us under lock and key.
It seemed as if their dream plans were doomed, and they had left their old life behind for the time being.
Limbo is never a good time, unless you’ve had a few drinks and are flexible enough to get under the bar without knocking it over.
This pandemic has reminded us all of that classic Bill Murray film. Get through the day, get up and do the same things over and over, rinse, repeat.
But like Punxsutawney Phil, we’ve been able to peek our heads out of our holes ever so slightly to catch a glimpse of the sun.
Will it be six more weeks of lockdown, or can we get on with our lives already?!
After a hand-wringing few months, Birney and Boyle got the go-ahead to move to Blasket and start their coveted caretaker positions.
Local tourists were ready to emerge from their burrows again, and the island proved to be the perfect social distancing opportunity.
The couple has settled in and it truly is everything they imagined it to be – the breeze off the water, the sunrises with a hot cup of coffee in hand as the fog dissipates, the sunsets after a good, long day of physical labor, and the chance to experience something thousands of others desperately wanted to.
They missed half of the season they had intended, as their positions were to only run through October.
But they’re living the dream on Blasket Island right now, filling their souls with the history, the folklore, and the importance of what they’re a part of.
We’ve all lost something this year.
Plans, routines, security, and sanity. Even freedom and life itself.
But Birney and Boyle, beaming with pride in their isolated corner of the world, are proof that better times are ahead.
It is all perfect? Of course not. There are the freezing cold showers, rationing of food, and blood-sucking midges lurking in the grass. (Sort of like mosquitoes, but worse, and you don’t see them coming.)
There’s also the knowledge that dreams don’t have to end just because they’re put on hold for a while – something the rest of us should keep in mind when the world is turned upside-down.
It’s a good lesson I don’t mind learning over and over again.