It was mere happenstance that the year I was chosen to represent the United States as our Ambassador for Variety The Children's Charity, we had voted upon Dublin, Ireland as our location for International Convention. Our organization is global; with most of our representation residing throughout the United States and Australia. It seems that overseas locations are voted upon every third year -- 2012, as it may.
I hemmed and hawed about attending our Convention. I am truly honored to represent the USA as our ambassador, but given my limited budget and already jammed schedule, I was not sure that this venture would be accountable or feasible.
Due to the good fortune of my over-savings in my ING "Weddings of 2011" savings account, I was able to financially succumb the expense of the trip. I have heard from all too many friends that their largest regret is not taking the opportunity to travel when given the chance.
Some of my most revealing personal moments also happen when I travel alone.
Our Convention brought me to Ireland, but I made the decision to spend several days on solo excursions throughout the island. As I hiked through the Wicklow Mountain Range, spent moments of solitude peering over the Monastic Ruins and listened intently to local farmers in a Pub in Kilkenny, I realized why this trek to the Emerald Isle was worthwhile.
Certainly, the exposure I shared earlier in the trip through Convention led me to meet and commingle with several hundred International businesspeople and philanthropists, but it was during the moments of solitude and cultural soaking when I felt the most self-reflection.
Many folks on my tour over the Irish countryside were in couples -- paired perfectly to fit our seating arrangement on a loaded tour bus. As our guide came upon me in our count, his words were; "Okay Miss... are you single today?" It took everything inside of me not to respond with; "No... I'm single, everyday." I had restraint, as I had not dabbled in the Guinness, Jameson or wine yet at 9 o'clock in the morning.
I was amazed reviewing the couples on my adventure, as at least 70 percent of the couples rarely spoke or acknowledged one another throughout the day. One couple from Israel; coincidentally colleagues of mine through our charitable work, were one of the few couples who actually talked on our bus, held hands while hiking through the mountains or waited for one another while ordering cappuccinos on a misty corner coffee-stand.
I, meanwhile, was at my leisure to walk where I pleased, dine where I savored, sip where my indulgence prevailed and to take in moments of revelation as they approached.
What I learn about myself while traveling as a single doesn't always come to me while on the excursion. Oftentimes it takes removing myself from the travel to realize what I've learned. My Irish rendition proved to be the case. It wasn't until traveling home a week after my departure, and on the last of three flights home (there are zero direct flights to Iowa if traveling internationally), where I recognized a few poignant points that I shall take along on my life journey.
1. Other than thinking of my father, I did not spend any time wallowing in the opposite sex -- broken relationships, worrying about unreturned text messages or cringing at the thought of sending my wedding RSVP with a guest count of "one." I enjoyed my time, basked in the scenery, and reveled in the mystique of meeting new and charming people.
2. Realization that the hardships which many of us face are nothing compared to that of the hardship of those in historic past. As we rolled through the hills of the Irish countryside and peered over crumbling stone walls which barricaded soldiers hundreds of years ago, I was chilled at the thought of some of these guardians passing as my ancestors.
3. My body reacts kindly to a "clean" diet. For those who have traveled to outside of the United States, you'll understand that we heavily rely on processed foods and garbage -- whereas locations outside of the U.S. are much more clearly focused on eating at the base of a food group; from the ground, animal or vegetation source. Of course; barley being a key ingredient in Guinness (part of the Irish food pyramid).
4. I am more impatient than once thought.
5. Service to others is a gift to the giver.
Outside of what I learned about myself through personal journey, I had the remarkable privilege of listening to Derek O'Neill, Founder and CEO of Spiritual Quotient Wellness, while in Ireland as he was honored with our Variety The Children's Charity Humanitarian Award for 2012. Derek's mission in life and in helping others is: "To re-awaken all beings in the World to their innate goodness by re-introducing unconditional love to them through our willingness to change and learn through service to others, not just ourselves."
Whether on a seven-day excursion... or the grand promenade through life's passport, Derek's mission rings true for all. It is through serving others where we gain the most reflection, understanding and personal growth. I woke up in the middle of the night on the first night of my return with this thought; "There are never unanswered questions -- but rather, a unique perception by each individual given their life journey."
It was through service that I was allowed the opportunity to explore myself in Ireland, and it is with continued service that I will bring what I've learned to my homeland.