I am finally seeing Ireland in all it’s glory. A week ago, Chewy and I drove through an area called the Ring of Kerry. I had to keep stopping the car and gazing at the beautiful rocky mountainous backdrop. The pictures just don’t even begin to capture the true essence of Ireland’s beauty. As a child I remember seeing pictures of green mountains and steep cliffs that jut out into ocean enveloped by the powerful waves. Now, seeing it finally in the flesh is almost surreal. It’s like I walked into the paintings from my childhood. I guess that is why I travel, there is such a contrast between viewing something in person versus looking at photographs. Sort of akin to watching someone eat instead of savoring the flavors myself. It doesn’t just add depth, it is actually a different experience entirely. Feeling the breeze against my skin, inhaling the flavors of the air, provides a truth within the experience that leaves no room for question. I become part of the environment instead of just the observer. Even the smallest of interactions with others affirms the ties that connect me to the present moment. It is incredible what I am able to take in when I just surrender and enjoy.
Being able to see this amazing country provides a good diversion while I’m away from the UK. I miss Joe. I plan to post some pics of us soon. I’ve had several requests for this and I am normally much more mindful in remembering to take photos. However, when I am around Joe I am so busy indulging that snapping a selfie is the furthest thing from my mind. What an incredible feeling it is to be so captivated by someone.
Driving in Ireland is a bit different than other countries. The roads are not very good, but not in the ways you would expect. Normally when I am on a rough road I look out for potholes or obvious imperfections to avoid the contact with my tires. But when I drive here, the roads look smooth most of the time. But my car will suddenly lunge up and down as if I have just driven across a huge wave. I don’t feel the sharp, short jolt if my tires have hit a hole. Instead it’s more of a series of tight small hills. To avoid this, I now drive looking more at the edge of the road. It’s easier to see the hilly dips along the dotted yellow line on the left side of the asphalt. If I had to guess, it looks as if the ground wasn’t leveled before the asphalt was laid down. Producing an even and consistent dip every hundred meters or so. Despite the roads being wider with less curves than in the UK, I find driving here challenging while generating more wear on my car. On the good side, I don’t have to worry about being honked at by the driver behind me. Besides its extraordinary beauty, Ireland has some of the nicest people I have come across while traveling. The Irish are always there to chat, lend a hand while enjoying the process entirely. Don’t get me wrong, people are very nice in the US and the UK. But here the Irish are very genuine. They want to connect and masterfully do it in a non-threatening and relaxed way. They often give friendly waves to others in acknowledgment for giving the right of way or just saying, Hi. Not just lifting a few fingers up from the steering wheel; like actually arm out, hand flapping, proper wave. It makes me smile. The accents are so curious, very strong, yet flowing like a song. When I hear people speaking Gaelic/Irish it sounds like they are quoting poetry or song lyrics with perfect rhythm. Which is another incredible thing here, the music. I wasn’t so much into Irish music before traveling here, but it is growing on me. Most towns I travel through have live music in one of the pubs most nights of the week. In fact, the pubs in Ireland are struggling right now. This is mainly due to new regulations put in place recently that tightened down on driving under the influence of alcohol. The penalties are so severe where even a first offense when driving over the drinking limit would invoke a three month license suspension. An unfortunate consequence to this is that the local pubs are suffering. They often provide trivia, board games, and live music to bring in the business. I just attended a board game event last night with my new friend, Sam whom I met on Couchsurfing.com. Ireland has been my introduction to couchsurfing. It seemed a little scary at first not knowing the person at all before sleeping in their house, but overall I think it’s a great way to connect with people and the culture of the area. It helps that I only consider hosts that have references and a common tie. With Sam, who is 26, we share a love for music (he plays the flute) and board games. We met at a coffee shop near his home and it was like chatting up an old friend from college. Sam is actually my second experience with couchsurfing. About a week ago I stayed in Carlow with a woman, Deirdre, who is also a Star Trek fan 🙂 along her 10 year old daughter, Lainey. I had such a good time walking, eating, and playing board games with them. I learned so much about Ireland. Did you know that Halloween originated in Ireland? Here I thought Halloween was basically the Mexican Day of the Dead with an American twist. I had no idea pumpkin carvings originated from turnips! As always I am ever grateful for my experiences and listening to my inner guidance. I am very particular at who’s home I choose to stay in. I have had a couple of shady characters come into the periphery with odd questions and requests that may initially seem subtle, but I don’t question it and just move on immediately. Listening to my gut is ever so important in any type of host/guest accommodation. If there is ever even an inkling of doubt about someone’s character, I rule them out automatically.
Chewy and I are staying with Sam a few more days before we make our way back to Dublin again. I am hoping that when we cross back over on the ferry, my passport will be easily stamped once arriving back on British soil. Oh how I long for the days when I no longer have to worry about customs and border crossings. As an American, I really didn’t understand how difficult and nerve racking it can be to do this. “What if they ask a question I don’t know the answer to?”, “I just paused when I answered that, is that suspicious?” I now truly understand this obstacle right alongside the rest of the world. It feels wrong to keep adding borders globally, pulling people further and further apart, instead of looking at our fear head on and surrendering to it.