The Things I’ve Done For Luck.

If you’ve traveled anywhere, I can guarantee you have been told that by touching something, swimming in a certain body of water, or doing some odd activity will bring you luck and good fortune. I was thinking about a few things I did on a recent trip to the Caribbean that was supposed to be healing for the body and it reminded me of all the things I have done since beginning my travels in 2010, some silly, some scary, and some just plain gross. So I thought I would compile a list of the moments that stand out for me in terms of doing something because it was considered lucky or “rejuvenating”.

The Gift of the Gab

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The land of the Irish is filled with stories based around luck and good fortune, leprechauns hiding their pots of gold and fairy rings that should you step inside the ring, you’ll be cursed by fairy protectors or transported to a land of supernatural beings or forced to dance until exhaustion and death (nice things, fairies, aren’t they?). But most importantly, and often boasted about, they believe in the gift of the gab. The ability to talk your way out of anything or being a smooth talker. For those of you interested in being blessed with such a gift, you can take a ride on up to a town called Blarney, just north of the city of Cork.

Here, you’ll find Blarney Castle and the famous Blarney Stone, or the Stone of Eloquence. Up the tower you climb until you get to a human-sized hole. It’s in this whole, a rough back bend down, that the Blarney Stone sits in the stone wall. At 90ft. above the concrete, I lay on my back and put my life in the hands of a grey-haired old man. With his hands gripping my calves, I leaned my upper body backwards and down into the hole, hanging on to the bars mounted on the stone wall. With a quick glance at the concrete below, I kissed the Blarney Stone and shot back up to safety.

Eternal Beauty

On the Isle of Skye, Scotland, there is a particular river that I’ve forgotten the name of. Flowing under a bridge, we pulled up beside it and sat around listening to a legend of the most beautiful girl in the village. Many, many years ago on her wedding day, this girl was riding her horse across the river when the horse lost her footing and down tumbled the bride-to-be, smashing her face on a rock with a pointed tip. A gruesome event, the poor girl had an eyeball hanging from its socket, her face mangled. No longer was she the most beautiful girl in the village. Determined to be married, she popped her eye back in place, though not well, and hid her face behind her veil. I Do’s were said but when the groom pulled back her veil to kiss the bride, he recoiled in disgust and, being the superficial man that he was, refused to marry her.

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Humiliated, the girl ran back to the river, where she met a leprechaun.. or perhaps a fairy. After hearing her story, the leprechaun told her that all she had to do was dip her face in that very river for no less than 7 seconds and she would be eternally beautiful. As you can imagine, we quickly lowered ourselves down and dunked our faces into the ice cold water and counted to 7.

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Clear Skin in Trinidad

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Many bodies of water around the world are said to have healing properties, rejuvenating qualities, etc. On a recent trip to Trinidad, we stopped at Pitch Lake, a “lake” filled with pitch. All of the major highways around the world use the asphalt from this lake and every time, the lake renews itself, filling again and again with asphalt. Black and smelling of tar, you can walk on the lake as the top layer is hardened, a slightly squishy surface. Certain areas of Pitch Lake are filled with small pools of water, some green in color, others black as Coca-Cola. Locals come to the pitch lake to bathe in one of these small pools as it’s said to aid in healing psoriasis and arthritis due to its medicinal properties.

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Another pool of water in the Pitch is said to be safe to drink a small bottle cap-full once a day as it’s said to keep the skin clear from acne. After playing in the water a little bit, two of us were brave enough to fill up our bottle caps and shot it back.

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The Sai Sin Bracelet

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Thailand has more symbols and amulets for luck than anywhere I’ve been. You ask any vendor on the street what the symbol on a ring, image, or other piece of jewelry means and they’ll tell you it’s for luck. You can often tell a backpacker in Southeast Asia by the collection of bracelets adorning their wrists and ankles, but there is one bracelet in particular that is said to give the wearer great luck. The Sai Sin bracelet. Up on Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I knelt before a monk and a shaman as he blessed the piece of white string before tying it to my wrist and was told that it would bring me luck in my travels, my health, and my prosperity. Whatever you do, don’t cut these bracelets off. Rather, they must break naturally from your wrist when the time is right. If you do cut it off, all the luck it was supposed to bring will be gone.

Three Wishes at the Trevi Fountain

On our very first night in Rome we found ourselves at the Trevi Fountain. There’s a number of legends about the fountain, which started many years ago. It’s said that originally, tossing in a coin or taking a drink from the fountain would ensure good health. Today, the Trevi Fountain has become a mecca for tourists from all over the world. We were told by a traveling family that you could make three wishes, on three different coins, of three different currencies. Swapping coins with one another, we each had three coins of different currencies and, with our backs to the fountain, tossed them in over our left shoulder, one at a time. Each coin had a different wish and, though I’m sure you’d like to know my wishes, they will forever be a secret.

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The Cursed Tomb of Alexander Stewart

Despite all the things I’ve done for luck, my reckless self also did something that is said to curse the individual for as long as they live. In the small Scottish town of Dunkeld sits a cathedral. Within that cathedral, is the resting place of the Earl of Buchan in 1812. After leaving his wife and six children, he was excommunicated and, as a result, he burned two towns to the ground. They say that anyone who touches his tomb will be cursed with bad luck for the rest of their lives. Whether this is true or not, perhaps the many things I have tried for good luck outweighs the curse. Either way, whenever I get a bout of unluckiness, particularly without explanation, I blame Alexander Stewart.

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These are just a few stories of the things I’ve done around the world in the name of luck and beauty. For more stories, you can read about swimming in Tobago’s Nylon Pool for rejuvenation, rubbed Juliet’s breast for luck in Verona, and doused myself in mud in St.Lucia for soft skin and healing properties.

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On Falling In Love With The World

Three summers ago I fell in love. Not with a man, as expected at my age. That hasn’t quite happened yet. Instead, I fell in love with the world. I dreamed of spending my life living in new countries, exploring the continents, learning new languages, embracing new cultures and meeting new people.

Two summers ago, my heart was taken again, by Thailand. Still a part of the world, but a bit more specific. A lot of the young travelers who arrive in Thailand are there for the parties, the cheap prices and the beaches. Throngs of young people migrate to particular areas in each city and on each island to drink buckets of Sang Som, attend Full Moon Parties and see controversial ping-pong shows. While the cheap prices are certainly an added bonus and the parties are indeed some of the wildest I have ever been to, Thailand is so much more than that. I fell in love with the people there: the men and women working hard at a street stall, children zigzagging through the crowded bars trying to sell roses to drunken foreigners. I volunteered and became passionate about something I knew very little of before I went. I got my priorities straight, realized just how lucky I am, and learned about a new way of living that I’ve tried to integrate into my daily life at home.

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Thai streets

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With a love of travel comes a sacrifice and for each individual making travel a priority, their sacrifice is unique to them. Some may sacrifice romantic relationships, friendships, wealth, or material possessions. Some might sacrifice the idea of a career or a family all together. But with that sacrifice comes something that many travelers yearn for. An indescribable feeling that comes from a mixture of ultimate freedom, terror, empowerment and lack of control. Travel isn’t easy. It can be hard, but it’s both the good and bad that make me love it. I haven’t gone as far or seen as much as many but I have gone and seen more than some. I am both thankful knowing that I have been born into a lifestyle that allows me to continue to see new places and grateful for the things I have already seen.

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Each destination I face brings out a new reaction. I am disappointed by some, others I enjoy but will never return, and a special few steal pieces of my heart. It feels as though every time I fall in love with a new city or a new country, a piece of my heart is left behind with it. It takes a special place to do that but it is because of those special places that each time I come home I feel as though I’m being stretched farther than before. There is something beautiful, yet terrifying, about that feeling. Having your heart belong to so many places already, feeling the intense pull whenever you hear its name or see a photo.

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Laughing in Trafalger Square, London

Abbey Road!

Travel isn’t for everyone. I don’t believe that you have to travel in order to be cultured, aware, or a better human being. A traveler is not better than anyone else. A businessman or woman is not better than anyone else. For some, travel can only happen in the summers. For others, travel is their lifestyle. Either way, travel is something more than a vacation. It’s more than five-star resorts and parties on a beach. It’s forcing you, especially as a backpacker, to trust. That’s something people don’t seem to have a lot of these days.  It’s becoming as fully integrated into the local culture and way of life as you can get yourself in the time that you have there. It’s exploring parts of a town that few tourists have. It’s befriending the music students in the park, the lady at your favorite smoothie stand, or the homeless child on the street.

looking out over Chiang Mai, Thailand. One very special place.

As it is now, I feel my heart scattered across the world in Thailand, Canada, England and Ireland. Four places, so far apart from one another. Travel is so many things: invigorating, fun, tiring, terrifying, spontaneous, and enriching. But why do I do it? I travel to push my own limits. I travel to find something that I wasn’t aware that I was looking for. I travel to connect with people, nature, myself, the world in general. I travel because it is what makes me the happiest. I travel because I can’t imagine not.

So, for all of you readers who also travel, why? What does it mean to you?

Sunday Snapshot: Galway

Ireland was like a breath of fresh air to my life. This photo was taken on one of my favorite days spent in Galway. After a day of sightseeing the Connemara National Park and The Burren, some new friends and I relaxed with a few beers at our side, at this spot overlooking the River Corrib. Galway is a beautiful city. Charming, friendly and inviting, it certainly is not a place that I will ever forget.

Do you have a photo you would like to share for Sunday Snapshot? Submit it to whirlwindtravel@hotmail.com to see it here the next week!

the travel bug.

I have tried this once before, writing a travel blog I mean. It turned out to be alot more work than I was willing to put in and I created a whole three blog posts before never returning. It’s not that I don’t enjoy writing or reminiscing and sharing my personal travel stories, it’s just that finding the time to do so is pretty difficult. Believe me, I will talk to whoever will listen about my travels, endlessly! But when it comes to sitting down and writing about it? It just never seems to happen. Hopefully, this will change and I will keep this up. So, welcome to my travel blog!

I had always dreamed of travelling when I was growing up. When I graduated high school in 2009, I decided that it was time to do just that. I worked two jobs, lived in my parent’s house and quit all my beloved activities that I knew I couldn’t afford if I wanted to do this trip. My destination of choice was Europe, a popular first time backpacking destination, especially for those of us who prefer to travel solo. In March of 2010, at eighteen years old, I hopped on a plane that would take me to my first stop: Dublin, Ireland. Let me tell you, the last few days leading up to my departure was not smooth sailing. The evening before I was to catch my flight, I severely sprained my ankle, was told not to put any pressure on it for at least a week and was sent home with two things: a pair of crutches and the advice to postpone my trip. I was appalled at the thought of postponing my trip at all, and so the next morning I left my crutches at the airport and went to Europe anyways. Stubborn, I refused to let my ankle slow me down and, rather than elevate and ice my ankle each day, I took to the streets of Dublin as if I had never walked before in my life.

Perhaps this wasn’t the best decision(even today, my ankle will ache if I’m sitting cross-legged for too long), but I suppose that’s what the travel bug does to you. It makes you become irrational, stubborn and not willing to let anything stop you from discovering the new treasures of a city. Ever since that day, I have dreamed only of travelling. It is, as I have mentioned many times, my one true love.  I hope to be able to travel to a new destination every year. Even as a poor university student, I hope to make that happen one way or another. This blog will document my stories, inspirations, recommendations, thrilling and frustrating moments as I make my way around the world.

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