“To have come from Ireland no matter how long ago is to be of Ireland in some part forever.”
Two-and-a-half months of magic on this island is more than most people could imagine, and I’m well aware of how incredibly lucky I am. To say it stole my heart is only partly accurate. Since I claim some Irish heritage, I think my heart was already in Ireland, I just didn’t know it until I got here.
I know I’ve written a lot about it already, so here are my Top 5 Takeaways from my time on the Emerald Isle:
Hot potato! The Troubles may officially be over, but there is still a lot of history (800 years worth) and resentment. It’s always simmering on the back burner. Every person I spoke to had a different take on it, often depending on where in Ireland they called home. For example: Is it the Republic or South Ireland? Is it one country or two? Is it Northern Ireland or Britain? Can you use the Irish flag in Northern Ireland? So much to remember! I quickly learned it was least offensive to just refer to city names. Unless, of course, you are talking about Derry/Londonderry.
PRO-TIP: For the love of God, do NOT bring up BREXIT!
Yep, hot potato. And for the record, I still stand by what I said about Belfast being one of the safest places I’ve ever lived, so don’t let its troubled past deter you from visiting. I loved it so much it’s on my short list of places to call home.
POT O’GOLD VS. MELTING POT
Ireland is still a (mostly) homogeneous society, so the concept of ethnicity being different from nationality isn’t always easy to explain. For example, I’m from Hawaii but not ethnically Hawaiian. I’m ethnically Japanese+ but am an American by nationality. And when we Americans go to Ireland and proudly proclaim being 1/8th Irish, they look at us like we’ve lost our spaceship since they don’t differentiate between the two. Take my advice and just order another whiskey and move on to the next topic.
MUSIC MUSIC MUSIC MUSIC MUSIC! Music is the heartbeat of Ireland. It’s central to almost everything. I can’t tell you how many times someone new would ask if I could sing, play an instrument or dance as part of the “getting to know you”‘ introduction. (FYI, my stock answer of only after I’ve had whiskey didn’t cut it.) I think the Irish must be born musical, and music will always be synonymous with Ireland in my heart.
PRO-TIP: when asked about your favorite Irish song DO NOT answer Galway Girl, which is American, despite being sung in the pubs on repeat.
Ireland has a stunning landscape full of beautiful beaches and mountains to hike, giving my beloved Scotland a run for its money. And it is indeed worthy of being called The Emerald Isle since it IS as green as all those Instagram and Pinterest photos make it out to be. I can’t imagine the homesickness the early Irish emigrants must have suffered when I’m already feeling wistful and nostalgic about it. (I may have ended up at an Irish pub my first Friday in Vienna.)
The real magic of Ireland comes from its people. I’ve never met a group so consistently friendly, warm, and with such a zest for living life. (And I grew up in Hawaii where we invented that!) No matter where I was, people went out of their way to be helpful. But beyond that, they were genuinely concerned that I was having a good time. LIVE NOW isn’t just a philosophy or life goal, it’s in their DNA and is part of who they are. It’s no wonder I fell so madly in love with them.
Ireland gets under your skin. I can’t explain it, but it does. When my friends left to return to the US back in October, I laughed at how emotional they got about it. Well, karma remembered that. Fast-forward to my eyes leaking at the airport as I waved good-bye. Two-and-a-half months wasn’t nearly long enough. I’m not sure two-and-a-half years would be long enough. If you ever get lucky enough to check it out for yourself, do it.
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.
BONUS – WHISKEY
Distillation of uisge beatha, the water of life, was created and refined here (although Scotland hotly debates this). And there are some beautiful whiskeys here that are, sadly, not available in the US. Let me know if you’d like some recommendations for your visit. Who knows, I may even join you.