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Julie Jay: ‘My inner aul wan says no to volcanoes’

The comedian vowed ‘never again’ after a high-jinks hen holiday in Central America, but having found her passport, she’s giving it second thoughts


Julie Jay

Julie Jay

Julie Jay and Fred Cooke

Julie Jay and Fred Cooke

Julie Jay

Julie Jay


Julie Jay

I was always a great woman for crying over an ex while abroad, or, as it is more commonly known, travelling. Of course, I’m just being facetious – it is also referred to as “running from your problems”. On more than one Tinder date I have sat across from a guy telling me he had gone to Peru “to find himself”, when surely by merely asking his former girlfriends he could have found out he was a raving narcissist and saved himself the air miles.

That said, in decades to come I look forward to channelling my inner Peig, surrounded by close family friends and a lingering German academic, and telling them of my Noughties back-packing adventures: of getting robbed in Colombia thrice in one week; evading credit card fraud in Honduras (the slíbhín in question was from Roscommon); and acquiring cheek fillers as a souvenir in the Czech Republic (the practitioner told me she was also a psychic, but sadly her clairvoyant powers didn’t predict my face swelling up like a testicle).

However, now that we can at last go abroad again, holidays are much more Place in the Sun than Ibiza Uncovered.

Gone is the time when my friend group spent so much money on local beverages that we had to resort to sharing a single roll-on deodorant with four other girls in Croatia for 10 days. Now, when I do venture abroad, my first-aid box would rival Real Housewives Lisa Rinna’s for all the bases covered. Wasp sting? I’ve got cream. Contraception? Here, have my spare diaphragm. Amputation? Thank God I packed this neat surgical knife – now stand back while I make a tidy incision.

What really expedited my progression to full-on aul wan had to be my last girls’ holiday, when I and my fellow buddies, at age 33, decided to backpack around Central America. The people were as lovely as the last time we went gallivanting, the hostels just as bawdy, but we swore never again. Nothing made us realise it was time to get a real job and health insurance more than sitting on a yoga mat hurtling down a volcano in Nicaragua.

An experience? Absolutely. But halfway down, my mouth full of dust, I thought back to Junior Cert history and Pompeii. Had we learned nothing? It was almost as if the Junior Cert had been an utterly pointless exercise. Suddenly, I fancied nothing more than a nice coffee with those lovely sugar biscuits on the side.

We saw turtles, of course, but when you’ve seen one turtle, you’ve seen them all, and by the end of our trip we were chomping at the bit to gatecrash the room of our hospitalised mate, who was being treated for sunstroke (we really were peak aul wans on tour).

Having forced ourselves to get dolled-up for a Full Moon Party, our bedraggled buddy messaged us from the private clinic across the road to say she was enjoying air conditioning, cable TV and, the golden goose for any 33-year-old, a firm mattress.

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At this stage of the trip, we were all more than willing to shift our own mother for a bit of back support. A game of rock/paper/scissors decided the lucky person who got to have a nice lie down in the medical centre with our mate, while the rest of us trundled on to the hostel bar, where our collective age convinced fellow revellers we were undercover cops.

Needless to say, the sight of sunburnt Irish 30-somethings asking for lemon with their G&T did nothing to earn us brownie points with our fellow bunk-bedders, who viewed us with the utmost suspicion.

The final straw came when my gang of fellow aul wans, still clinging to the threads of youth, convinced me against my better judgment to go diving in a cave.

On our descent into said cave, the English girl beside us broke her leg, but had to hobble out on her injured limb anyway because, like the rest of us, she had voluntarily jumped into a cave.

We watched her, one-legged, broken and repeating the words “I just want to go home” through snotty sobs. It was a rendition that rivalled that of Bubba’s tragic demise in Forrest Gump, and would have surely stirred even the most stubborn of well-travelled hearts.

As we waited for the English girl to be loaded on to our minibus, my best friend at home sent me a picture of her newly alphabetised spice rack.

“That’s my kind of craic,” I said to myself, and vowed never to be dragged on an activity by a group of well-meaning adventure fiends again.

It is a promise I have managed to keep, even when activities are hen-related; in fact, it is a promise I have managed to keep especially when activities are hen-related.

Last week, I went to buy storage boxes on the Ikea website and found my preferred colour in stock. The adrenaline rush was up there with cave diving, turtle spotting and volcano boarding.

But it was when I went to pay that my oxytocin really went into overdrive – it turned out the price I thought was for one item was actually for three, so I treated myself to a cactus and a new tea towel, because carpe diem.

Yet last night, rummaging for my elusive good scissors, I happened upon something even more elusive: my passport. I suddenly found myself yearning – for turtles, for volcanoes, for plans that come undone as you jump into Central American caves.

It is madness, of course, to take a leap into the unknown, to simply surrender to the gods of adventure, but this, my friends, this is living.


Julie Jay is currently touring her play, ‘Oops, This is Toxic’, nationwide. Details on linktr.ee/juliejay

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