My dear Ireland, I know I haven’t been home in a while, but I know you remember me. It’s been nearly two years since I have been back so I thought I owed you a letter.
Young people leave home to travel the world to see what else is out there, to grow and learn not only about different cultures and places but to learn more about themselves. We go to find work, we go for love, we go for family and we go for ourselves.
I didn’t realise how lucky I was to be able to do this until I went to Kenya, where most of the people I met and got to know, didn’t even own a passport.
Villages and towns I went through in Colombia, Panama and Guatemala were so small and rural there were families there that had never left where they grew up. Sometimes it’s because they cant leave, but sometimes its just because they don’t want to, they are happy where they are and have everything they need.
I grew up nearly my whole life in Ireland, a country where we are encouraged to be curious, we are encouraged to learn and to be adventurous, to explore and wander, to become nosey.
I was able to get a job waitressing in a restaurant at the age of 17. I worked weekends there for nearly four years while during the week I finished school and got through University, and just that gave me enough money to save and leave for the states, leave for Africa, central America and South. It gave me money to pay for dentist appointments, car bills, petrol, trips here and there throughout the year. It made me appreciate hard work and saving, reaching goals and making things happen. Young people all over the world will work far harder than I ever did to never reach what I did, and that’s just because I grew up in a country and with a family that allowed me to be able to do that.
The world is very unfair, from war struck continents, to years of poverty, infertile land, drought, flooding, natural disaster after natural disaster; the list is endless. I sometimes forget that I grew up in a country where I feel safe and secure, when there are so many places around the world where young children wake up and don’t know when their next meal will arrive, women are scared that today they will be raped again, old men and women are worked to the bone, villages live in fear they will be attacked or bombed, I don’t know what any of this feels like.
I have seen some of the most beautiful things in my life within these two years. Bright red lava exploding from one of the most active volcanoes in the world; hearing the explosions and loud roars throughout the night. A sunset in the Maasai Mara Kenya, the cloud forests of Costa Rica, Tyrona National park Colombia, Lake Atitlan Guatemala, the tropical waters of Bocas del Toro. But all of these wonderful things also make me appreciate the simplicity of Ireland’s beauty. Vast stretches of lush green fields, the endless coast, the Wild West and its millions of beautiful untouched beaches. Rainy days in Westport Co. Mayo, eating cheese toasties in the pub. The drive to Killary Harbour, winding around the long flat roads beautiful scene after beautiful scene and picking mussels off the rocks down by the water, bringing them home and eating them for dinner.
I miss Dublin city, its lively streets packed full of cute cafes, fancy bistros, live music seeping out of nearly every second pub, the cobbles streets, the art, the buildings, the parks. I appreciate it all so much more now, it’s so easy to get around, so much to do and so much to see. The literature, music and art of the country is built into the city and pours into the atmosphere.
Then there’s Greystones my wonderful little home town, for me it is the most beautiful little town on earth. I have endless memories and endless stories from that town. Some of my first memories are biking around the park with my childhood friend Sarah Juul Jensen. That time we picked an enormous amount of daffodils for my mum and when she saw them she lost her marbles at the thought of her darling daughter pickling flowers from the park. I believe we tried to tell her how these horrid young men came and kicked them all down so we were merely saving what was left of their beauty…did you really believe me mum?
Going to Hommans café for their chicken tikka sambo, hot chocolate in The Happy Pear with the girls, walking along South beach with my dogs. St-Patricks day parade, turning on the town Christmas lights, catching the last dart home, knowing nearly every friendly face that passed me on the street.
Greystones isn’t Antigua, it doesn’t have stunning arches that bend high over the old streets, it doesn’t have ruins on every corner, it doesn’t have the markets of Ngong Kenya that stretch beyond the seas, there’s no rainforest or tropical archipelago, but for me it’s home and it’s the best place to return to after a while away. It’s safe, it’s friendly and there’s a real sense of community there. In fact, that same sense of community runs throughout the whole country.
One of Ireland’s greatest attributes is the real sense of togetherness I feel it has. When we win we win together, when our athletes succeed we succeed with them, we celebrate together and we come together in times of sadness, that’s what I love most about Ireland. I know every arrival gate at every airport in the world holds a essence of wonderfulness and love, but Dublin airport arrivals gate is extra special.
I don’t know when I will be home, I don’t know if I will ever live there again. But I do know that I will be going to Ireland for years to come, more excited to return each year because that tiny little country is something to be really proud of and I’ve never seen such beauty in the place I grew up, since leaving two years ago.
I wish I could nip back for just a day, see my old work, see the house, see the dogs and the beach and my family and friends. But I am so far away and it’s just not worth it to go back, but that adds a little magic to the whole idea I think.
The moment my little pink trotters touch Irish soil again will be a very emotional and wonderful day.
To see the ocean from my bedroom, that wild grey sea with its harsh shores and endless waves. Those endless days of rain that make it ok to wear your slippers and drink 959382 cups of tea. The howling winds in October, spinning leaves of amber, bright orange and brown into the air. And then there’s those once in a blue moon scorching hot summers day, when every park is full of business men with their brown O’Brien’s sandwich bags, there is no summer like a hot Irish summer.
I think of these moments all the time and I really believe in this case for me, absence has truly made the heart grow fonder.