According to Oscar Wilde, my spring break was filled with some of the most rare, beautiful “living.”
I spent ten days traveling throughout Ireland and England, experiencing the cultures where some of my favorite literature comes from, stopping on almost every street corner to appreciate the local live musicians, and immersing myself in the beauty of the blooming spring that constantly surrounded us.
Our time in Ireland was spent appreciating the culture rather than making sure every moment of each day was filled with something to do. It was because of this relaxed attitude that we found ourselves in pubs dancing with local Irish dancers and drinking Guinness while enjoying the local live music of Dublin. It was also because of this attitude that we found ourselves slightly stranded in the Galway bus station trying to avoid a lonely Armenian man…but it all worked out because we eventually found our way back to our Airbnb in Dublin around 5 in the morning! In between each live musician, field of tulips, and iconic place of literature, we experienced many a sleepless night on a ferry, in a train station, on a bus and in an unexpectedly terrible airbnb. The perks of traveling as a broke, college study abroad student, but don’t worry Oscar Wilde, these moments only made us appreciate the great ones even more to ensure we were fully living and not simply existing.
Our very first day in Ireland we ventured to a small fishing village called Howth where we enjoyed the best fish and chips I had the entire weekend and soaked up all the nature that surrounded us as we watched the sun set over the island.
The following few days were spent wandering the streets of Dublin, enjoying moments in the Dublin Castle, Trinity College, and several Irish pubs. We finished our stay in Ireland with a tour of the Guinness storehouse, where we became certified Guinness pourers, something I will make sure to include on my resume as one of the many things I learned while abroad. Also quick shoutout to the Guinness company for being an amazing company and supporting environmental programs around the world that have given millions of people access to clean drinking water. Anyone who knows me at all knows that a company that supports clean water initiatives is automatically near and dear to my heart…the good beer didn’t hurt either.
After finishing our pints of Guinness, we started what would end up being a long journey to our final destination of London. By the end of our spring break trip we figured we had taken every possible form of transportation: a ferry, train, tram, metro, taxi, bus, and airplane. Our first sleepless night was spent journeying to Liverpool, England, the home of the Beatles and the Magical Mystery Tour. After seeing the homes where countless classic songs were written and the bar where the Beatles first performed, we headed for, what we thought would be, a nice, comfy bed for the night. Needless to say our airbnb that night was anything but nice and comfy. The following day, after escaping our rather unpleasant airbnb and checking into a much nicer place complete with clean sheets and all, we were ready to explore all that London offered. Our first true taste of London began with a free walking tour led by a local, born and raised in London, with extensive knowledge of the history and stories behind all there was to see and do in the beautiful city. He explained the story behind the giant thumb in Trafalgar Square, the large pillar with an unimportant general on top, and the importance of the buildings of power throughout London. We filled our day with all the big sights of London, stopping only for a quick fish and chips and the occasional street performer singing Ed Sheeran’s new songs.
Saturday we each wanted to do different things throughout the city so we split up that morning and went in different directions. I headed toward the Notting Hill neighborhood, in search of Portobello Market and also secretly hoping to run into Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. My day consisted of moments of peace and time for self-reflection as I strolled through the hundreds of vendors selling unique antiques and knick knacks. I came across a vintage copy of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities that would later be my reading material as I enjoyed the beautiful spring weather in the Kensington Gardens. It was a strange moment for me when I realized I was wandering the streets of a foreign country completely alone yet at ease. I’ve never been more content to walk through the enchanting London streets, all blooming with flowers, the numerous parks and gardens, and the markets and the stores of Harrods.
Finally, our time in London concluded with Easter Sunday mass at a beautiful church, followed by a nice Easter brunch to keep with tradition, and then my most favorite part of the entire trip: the Charles Dickens’ museum. My friend Katie and I made our way to this quaint, little museum situated in one of Dickens’ old homes where he wrote several of his novels. We practically had the museum to ourselves and so took our time to read every inscription and detail about his home and life. It was entirely mesmerizing walking through the same house where so many literary pieces of work came to life. The perfect day ended with the perfect cup of tea and scones as we reflected on the beauty of our lives in that moment.
While traveling during these past ten days and throughout the semester, I came to a realization about my sense of home and comfort. This realization was sparked by something our tour guide in London kept saying about the changing identity of England. He mentioned this changing identity of England several times, in reference to their history and their future as the country begins to find a new identity after Brexit. There were several times throughout the semester I had to remind myself I was in a different country, hours and an ocean away from all that I had known and was comfortable with. Now don’t let me fool you, those cultural differences, and often language differences, were always present but never overwhelming. I realized that no matter where I travelled there were always the same constants you can rely on with any human being. I always ran into other tourists, enjoying their experiences in a different part of the world than where they are from, or locals going about their daily lives. Always similar people with similar struggles and challenges and hopes and dreams. There is something beautiful in the way human beings are able to connect based on these shared desires, despite any language or cultural barrier that may be present. It is these connections that have made this experience what is has been and has shaped and changed my own identity. I’m very ready to see my family and be home in a few weeks but these experiences will continue to influence and shape my life, especially as I begin for the next journey.
Sending prayers to all those I love and miss at home, can’t wait to see several of you very soon.