Traveling: A Retrospective

I meant to write this post, oh, about five weeks ago, but time got away from me as usual. However, this is probably all for the best, because instead of a litany of “we did this and this and this,” you’ll get a retrospective of some of the highlights of a trip I took this summer to Ireland and Scotland. My beloved came with me, as did my mom, my auntie, and my youngest brother.

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On the northern coast of the Isle of Mull.

Visiting another country is one of my favorite things to do because it makes me ask questions about everything I always take for granted at home. These are a few of the things that have really stayed in my mind since coming home.

  1. In Ireland, at least in most of the places we traveled to and through, nobody bothers with grooming their front  yards. Behind glorious piles of haphazard-looking yet somehow stable rock walls, wildflowers and weeds and tall grasses flourish at will. Gardens are irrigated just by rainwater running through shallow ditches running between rows of plants. The people who live in those houses have found ways to coexist with the climate in their habitats.
  2. Almost everyone I talked to seemed genuinely proud of their town, their local artisans and musicians and agriculture and businesses. This translated into spectacularly delicious local food in almost every town we visited…such as these really amazing lobsters from Scotland. We stopped at the local fishmonger in the morning and asked if there were any lobsters. Sally, who was running the shop, told us that they’d sold out the day before, but that she would try to get some for us through the local fishermen. The result: five of the most scrumptious, freshest, thickest-shelled lobsters I’ve ever seen!

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    Lobster from Tobermory Fish Co.

  3. The music in Ireland is an infectious, whirling, gleeful, sometimes sober and haunting, but very personal, sound. Groups of friends would show up and play song after song, calling out to other friends or family who came to the pub for a pint and a session. The tin whistle, the bodhran (Irish drum), the uilleann pipes (Irish bagpipes), the accordians and guitars, the singing, the stomping of feet and the clapping of hands, the whooping cheers and the dancing were truly amazing to behold. Each night we visited a pub, I sat in a corner (probably with an idiotic grin on my face) and watched communities coming together. It was beautiful.
  4. The ‘unremarkable’ things…like this castle. We were staying in a little cottage about 2 kilometers outside of the town of Clifden in Connemara, Co. Galway. Every day we walked into town to see what was going on, poke around, and buy groceries. One day, we heard about a castle on the other side of town. My mom asked where it was, and the person giving her directions was very confused. “You know there’s no tour; no gift shop, right?” Why would we want to visit a castle without a tour and a gift shop? As it turns out, this ‘unremarkable’ Irish castle in ruins was one of the loveliest sights we saw on the emerald isle. The walk to get to the castle took us up a hill on the other side of Clifden, overlooking the town, and then down a long and winding dirt road. Not another person was around. Situated on a steeply sloping hill above a silvery-grey sea, the castle used to guard an inlet to the town and the harbor. Now, it serves as a pasture for sheep and nimble white and dapple grey ponies, and ivy and birds have taken over the halls.

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    Clifden Castle ruins, Connemara, Co. Galway

  5. The quality of the air. And I’m not talking about particulates or EPA-type regulations, but rather about how the light and the air interact with one another, and how the air looked and felt. The very atmosphere was visibly, tangibly different than it is at home. It was manifested in the breathtaking sunsets, in the color of the evening light and the gentle brightness of the morning light. The air and the light, at times, glowed with their own vibrance. In such interplay of air and light, how could one not be grateful and happy?
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    Sunset from Glengorm, on the north coast of the Isle of Mull

    Love, peace, and thoughtful traveling,
    Sumiko

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1 Comment

  1. Diane

     /  July 22, 2013

    I find it absolutely amazing how long it takes to boil water here in the states. Maybe it has more to do with waiting alone for it to boil as opposed to waiting with wonderful traveling mates!

    Reply

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