Travel That Has Shaped Us, Part 9: The Culture that Opened my Eyes
Updated: Nov 11, 2020
This piece is part of an ongoing series in which we will explore how travel has shaped our lives - who we are and how we see the world. We will include multiple voices in the course of the series, and we welcome YOUR submissions.
When we look over our lives, we can see milestones and events that have shaped us along the way. We can observe the ways they’ve shaped our world-views, our sense of culture, our characters, and shaped the way we look at others who are different from us. Our team is exploring the traveling we've done over the course of our lives so far and how those travels have shaped who we are up to this point. Our hope is that this multi-part series will prompt you to reflect on your own experiences and discern how your life has been impacted by your adventures and journeys.
A Desire to Travel
I’ve taken a few trips over the last few years, enough to grow an insatiable desire to see as many places and visit as many cultures as I can in my lifetime. I’ve driven around the US, been moved by the architecture of Barcelona, and pondered Hungary’s recent history while walking alongside Budapest’s city walls full of bullet holes; but nowhere on earth has shaped me quite like Ireland.
For as long as I can remember, Ireland has been number one on my bucket list. I can’t fully explain why, as no one that I’d known had visited the country and I really knew nothing about the culture or it’s long history. It was simply “in me” to go and I knew that once I got my passport I’d be heading straight there.
The first time I visited Ireland it was a quick stop. We were there for two nights and only managed to explore Dublin which, unfortunately, did not give me the Irish experience I’d been dreaming of.
I wanted to see the rolling green hills and the cliffs, maybe go to a local pub where I could hear the gossip of the town and have a Guiness (which is only worth drinking in Ireland), but that’s not where that trip led us. Instead, we moved on to explore other European countries in a whirlwind experience that I’ll never forget. Still, my heart longed to get back to the country that I felt deeply connected to.
Soon after we landed from that very trip I got engaged. Why is that important? Well, my husband-to-be just so happened to be an Irish citizen and frequently visited the country himself. Call it the favor of God or fate, but I married into a family who could not only take me on a trip, but could also help to immerse me fully in Irish culture and give me experiences I never would have gotten otherwise.
I believe that is why Ireland is the place that has truly shaped me. It’s the place where I learned that visiting another country is only worth the visit if I can connect with the people and, as well as I am able, immerse myself in their culture, allowing it to shape and teach me something new.
Falling in Love with Ireland
From the moment I walked off the plane, hand-in-hand with my husband, I felt like I was coming home. He easily slipped back into driving stick on the left side of the road, the way he learned as a teen, and I became lost in the memories he re-lived as we drove away from Shannon airport. I was thrilled to discover for myself that everything I’d heard was true. The hills really do roll and the color green has never been the same. Who knew there were so many shades??
On our days alone we walked the Cliffs of Moher and drove the Ring of Kerry, soaring down the winding coast line. I fell deeper and deeper in love with my surroundings and, though I’ll always love the land, it’s what I learn from the people that really make it worth the visit. Community, camaraderie, storytelling, and family values are a few qualities worth naming. Everyone is up for a conversation and it’s not uncommon when popping by for a visit that you’ll be served like you were dining at a five star restaurant.
Hospitality can be so rich from the Irish. I have had perfect strangers invite us over for tea; (and when I say tea, I mean cakes, biscuits, jams; various breads, coffee, black tea with milk, you name it)!
All the while they’ll ask question after question about your family or where you come from just because they want to know your history. I’ve concluded that if you visit Ireland and don’t leave feeling like you’ve divulged your life’s story to a stranger then it might be worth a trip back. I hope in all my future trips I bring a little of what I learn home to create a beautiful mix of cultures and change to where I live.
No matter where we go, travel shapes us in ways we could not predict or imagine. The world is so big and full of limitless opportunities for growth and the expansion of our minds and our hearts. We share these stories to inspire you to reflect on how you've been shaped by your own journeys. And what about tomorrow's adventures? How might your future travels develop you, your family, and your circle of friends into the people you want to be? We'd love to hear from you about how you've been shaped by your travel experiences.
Join us on the blog for another installment of our series “Travel that Has Shaped Us.” If you’d like to submit an autobiographical piece for our series, please contact us.
More from this Series:
Part 1: Traveling with my Hubby by Christie Costello
Part 2: Building Relationships Cross Culturally by Christie Costello
Part 3: How I Fell in Love with Travel by Monga Abila
Part 4: Growing Up a Traveler by Christie Costello
Part 5: Moving to the Other Side of the World by Dacoda Maddalone
Part 6: Missions Travel by Christie Costello
Part 7: Fam-cations and Friend-cations by Christie Costello
Part 8: Bali & Growing in Gratitude by Dacoda Maddalone
Part 9: The Culture that Opened my Eyes by Anna Fowler