I have lived in Southern California for my entire life. Although I can’t deny the blessing that is our year-long perfect weather, the crammed freeways, dry summers, and busy lifestyle can make even the most loyal of Californians crave a change of pace. During the summer of my freshman year, I was able to experience much more than just a change of pace. An unforgettable trip to Ireland revealed not only incredible sights, but also an eye-opening culture.
I remember the flight in so vividly; looking down upon Ireland from the sky, all I could see below was miles and miles of lush green countryside, which I would later know to hold magnificent fields of wildflowers, hundreds of free-wandering sheep, and the occasional romantic cottage. This was just the beginning of the natural beauty that Ireland had to offer.
A rain-soaked trip to the Giant’s Causeway expanded my awareness of that beauty. I arrived at the Visitor’s Center in Bushmills, clueless to what I was about to see. After receiving vague directions, I trekked down the rocky slope of the ocean hillside. The furious wind forced miles of tall grasses to hunch over, and the gray sky gave way to a mist of raindrops; to some it might seem like frightful weather, but I was enamored. California had never seen weather quite like this, and I was excited to experience it. After a good twenty minutes of walking, I rounded the curve of the mountain. Hidden there was a crescent-shaped beach whose blue waves kissed a shore of smooth black stones. Pillars of charcoal-colored rock, somehow each hexagonal, hugged the sea collectively as mountainous walls. Taking care not to slip, I easily climbed the natural steps of the pillar-formed cliff. With ocean stretched as far as the eye could see, the green mountainside seemed suddenly small. There, hundreds of feet over the gentle ocean below, I had a strange sense of calm; with such a landscape all around me, my worries and stresses were nowhere to be found.
Another day offered to a trip to Dublin, Ireland’s capital. Initially, I wasn’t too excited to visit the largest city in the country; in my head, I pictured the somewhat cold attitude of Los Angeles or the overcrowded bustling of New York. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised–fascinated, even–with Dublin’s atmosphere. There, the city’s rich history mixed with only the occasional modern fixtures to offer an exciting day of exploring. As I walked the brick-lined streets, I noticed that Dublin carried a tone of warmth–as if the city hugged you when you entered. Unlike nearly any city in California, this place held a lighthearted, perhaps even carefree nature, yet still one of purpose. Here, constant diligence and status was not the main focus as it was back home. Here, more than material success was celebrated–things like handmade art, historical tradition, and friendly interaction were treasured, and such was certainly apparent once dusk fell over the city. Hundred-year-old pubs glowed with life. Live music played by the city folk drifted through the streets. Locally-owned shops closed down for the night so that their owners could go home to their families. A local artisan offered her handmade origami cranes to passersby. By the time I left later that evening, I missed the warm hug of the city.
That trip to Ireland is one I know I will never forget. Especially as I soon go off to college and beyond, it is important that my trip to Ireland continues to remind me to take a look around and enjoy what life has already offered me.
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