Tonight while Sarah was at work teaching a class, I spent some time reflecting on our recent trip to Ireland. Just me, my music, and a sink full of dirty coffee mugs. I asked myself what I learned during my time in The Emerald Isle and gave it some deep thought. Here are some of the answers I found:
1. AMERICA HAS WAY TOO MANY BILLBOARDS
I actually didn't even pick up on this until I got back home and BAM, they really stood out. Those things are all over the place here - Buy This! Call This! Sign Up For This! Eat This! This Is Bigger And Better! After being away from the barrage of colors and exclamation points for a week, it's almost a little overwhelming coming back to it. Stop yelling at me, already.
2. I THOUGHT I KNEW WHAT GREEN WAS, BUT I DIDN'T
I'd heard Ireland was green. I'd seen photos and video. But I didn't realize just how green a landscape can be until I saw it first-hand. The green there is vibrant. It's beyond vibrant, it's Crayola green. You know the green green color in a box of crayons that kids color with? Grass can really be that Crayola green. As we rode back from the airport I couldn't help but notice that even grass that is green here looks kind of brown-ish in comparison.
3. STOP LOOKING TO BE ENTERTAINED
We were staying in a small town called Adare while we were there and frequented a couple of pubs, each owned and operated by a pair of brothers. The Pat Collins Bar and Restaurant and the Sean Collins & Sons Bar. I got to talk to Sean Collins a few times and during our last night in Ireland I talked about how much we'd enjoyed getting to know the people and finding out about them. "That's just the thing," Sean told me, "People come here looking to be entertained. Talk to people. Just go up to someone and start a conversation, that's what it's really about." I know it sounds cliche to encounter the friendly bartender who sprinkles life lessons, but just because it's cliche doesn't mean it's not true.
4. PEOPLE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN THINGS
The people we encountered there really had their priorities straight. Relationships took precedence over materialistic ideals. It's not about who has the most things, it's making the most of the relationships you already have. Who cares if there's a crack in the living room wall, how are things between you and the guy next door? It's easy to be happy on a sunny day; can you find a reason to share a smile when it's raining outside? Street signs are hard to find; house numbers are almost non-existent. That's because people know who you are and, as a result, they don't need numbers on a mailbox to find you. I just couldn't help but get the feeling that people matter.
5. I FORGOT HOW MUCH I ENJOYED THE SMALL THINGS
When we were hanging out in Dingle, a small seaside town, we started seeing a lot of people walking around enjoying ice cream cones and it made us crave them, too. We stopped in a small grocery store that was selling cones; a simple vanilla cone with a stick of chocolate stuck in the top. And it was delicious. Afterward, Ashlea pointed out that she'd forgotten how much she missed ice cream cones and I had to agree. Somehow society has managed to make something as simple as ice cream overly-complicated. Don't get me wrong, I love Maggie Moo's and their plethora of flavors to choose from and endless list of toppings, sauces, candies, nuts, and other goodies to mix in. But in the meantime I'd forgotten how good a simple plain ice cream cone can be.
So..there you go. Just a few thoughts I've taken away from our time in Ireland. I can probably be accused of over-romanticizing the whole thing and I'm probably guilty. What can I say? You can't travel to another country and not come away with an insight or two. And, from my brief experience, you can't travel to Ireland and not come away with a new outlook on life; One that looks for the upside of situations and puts up the "Lemonade for Sale" sign when life gives you lemons.
Ireland was good. Is good. I'd go back in a second. There's a familiar saying over there that's common to pubs: "The first time here you're a stranger. After that, you're family."
I like that.