Back Home

May 5, 2009 - 9:07 pm 2 Comments

Descending over Newark, the familiar landscape was nauseating. Haze blanketed colorless, boring apartment buildings and industrial structures. Even the grandeur of Manhattan’s skyline was dulled by familiarity.

Everything was nauseating. The gate we arrived in, the little restaurants, the brand-name retail stores, and even the people walking around in the airport all looked depressingly familiar. Whenever you lose yourself in another country for a few days, coming home is always a bit of a jolt, no matter how much you prepare yourself.

Ireland is a beautiful country of velvety green grass, medieval ruins, and rusty bacon. I’m amazed with what we did and saw in six days. Everything went like clockwork. Definitely the smoothest vacation I’ve ever taken.

Getting the car was key. We were able to drive at our own pace and stop for snacks or a photo whenever we wanted. The roads are narrow and slow, but the distances are short and the traffic is light. The late sunsets (didn’t get completely dark until around 10pm) made it easy to get most of our driving done during daylight. And the GPS was a godsend.

Traveling east to west is definitely the way to go. On our trip, each day was better the last, with the sights getting bigger and better and the scenery getting greener and wilder every time we stopped the car. At the end of our trip, winding down in the quieter towns of Galway and Ennis was perfect.

And we completely lucked out with the weather. It was raining when it didn’t matter and sunny when it did.

The Irish people are a genuinely friendly, confident, talkative, and happy, with a quick tongue, a great sense of humor, and wonderful little expressions like “That’s grand!” or “He wouldn’t beat an egg!” Stef loved the accent, falling in love with every Irish guy who spoke in her general direction.

A few of the locals mentioned to us that Ireland is in pretty serious economic trouble, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by the way they carry themselves. The Irish have an easy, laid-back, no-stress attitude and enjoy the simple pleasures in life like talking and drinking and laughing. This a happy people who take nothing for granted.

And there are no losers or dicks in Ireland. Everyone seems to respect each other. Liam was a tall, gawky kid who actually plays an accordion, and he was a confident, polished speaker. And the bartenders and bouncers and cops and taxi drivers, generally arrogant assholes back home, are all friendly and helpful.

Still have no idea where all the tourists were. The attractions and roads were virtually empty. Is spring the off-season for Ireland?

B&B’s are everywhere. In some neighborhoods, every other house is a B&B. TripAdvisor was immensely helpful, allowing us to sort through hundreds of listings and pick out the best and more affordable ones only a day or two before we came into each town. Each was pleasant and homey, with small bedrooms having clean beds and a tiny TV mounted high on the wall or on top of the wardrobe.

Staying in a B&B every night starts to get a bit expensive, but such is the price of luxury. With the cheap flight, average meals and drinks, and a good price on the car rental, I’d say it was a fairly priced vacation overall.

Part of the reason we were able to do and see so much in six days was that we were flexible. The key to flexibility is knowing your options. We had a basic idea of what we wanted to do, but due to research we did before the trip and a few minutes here or there on the laptop, we were able to make educated decisions on the fly that allowed us to cram in as much as possible into each day. It’s amazing how everything worked out.

Do we have any regrets? Maybe some small ones, like the fact that we didn’t get to catch a traditional Irish dancing show or that maybe we stressed a little too much trying to cram as much as possible into our tight schedule. But like I said, everything went so smoothly that it’s hard to complain about anything.

Despite the various leg injuries, Stef had a fantastic time. It was really the first time she has taken a big trip like this, and everything was new and fresh for her. I’ve done quite a bit of traveling, and new places are surprising me less and less, but one thing I never get sick of is being away from home.

Stef loved how un-American everything and everybody was. It’s a more familiar experience for me, but Stef began to see that America really is backwards in a lot of its habits and attitudes for the first time. After a few days, Stef was saying that she wanted to move to somewhere like Ireland. After few more days, she said she wasn’t going home.

Maybe it really is time to live in another country. It’s an idea that I’ve been kicking around for a while, but perhaps it’s time to really start looking into it.

For now, we’re back in America, where guys piss everywhere in the bathroom except in the urinal, where slow drivers drive in the fast lane, where turn signals make the drivers around you accelerate, where cars honk loudly and often, where people are afraid to make eye contact, where fat people are unhappy but beautiful people are unhappier, where we need too much and need it yesterday, where one flavor of Coke isn’t enough, where we need it faster and bigger and louder but not better, where news and advertising is about fear and urgency, where everyone moves too fast or too slow but nowhere in between, where people push other people but not themselves, where people hate their jobs but whine when they can’t keep them, where no one’s interested unless they’re getting money or sex, where no one takes responsibility, where no one even tries to be articulate, where courtesy is a courtesy and not a standard. I’ve made most of these observations in the past, but international travel really brings them out in relief.

So what’s next? Got some potential trips in the works. Maybe a long weekend in Yellowstone, maybe Israel, maybe Rio for New Year’s. My Mom is even talking about taking the family on a Mediterranean cruise. We’ll see what happens…

    2 Responses to “Back Home”

  1. Jörg Wansing Says:


    jus by accident came across here. What beautiful pictures you have taken!
    Did you do some post-processing on them? I really love them. Is it okay
    to save them from your site for my personal pleasure?

    I’ve been to Ireland some years ago and your pictures really show the beauty
    and the colors of this island. A quality that I only used to see in books!

  2. Jeff Says:

    Thanks, appreciate the compliments! Yes, lots of post-processing…

    I will send you some of the photos by e-mail.

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