Why I Travel

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” -Lao Tzu

with my dog, Roxy Star

When I first decided to leave my job in the States and head to Ireland in search of a possible way to live there, I did some serious research and planning. Since Ireland had always eluded me (while being one of my most desired destinations), I wanted to make sure I made as much of my time and money while I was there. I searched the Internet and bought numerous travel guides…while flagging and highlighting them all (color-coded based on category, mind you) within an inch of their lives. A lot of good it did me because shortly after I arrived I threw most of that meticulous planning out the window.

It was day three and I had arrived in Kilkenny after a very loud train ride while nursing a slight hangover. I instantly loved the “feel” of the quaint town. And you can easily see all of the sights in one day. And I did. But what the travel guides don’t tell you is there’s much more to learn from visiting a city or town than just seeing the sights. And only personal experience can teach you that.

You see, the hostel owner told me I was very lucky as Thursday nights are the best nights in Kilkenny if one enjoyed traditional (trad) Irish music. He told me I must head down to Ryan’s Pub as they are the best place around to enjoy a good trad session. So, at his insistence I headed down there early to ensure I could see (and hear) all of the action. When I walked in the pub just after half-seven, there were only a handful of other people enjoying a pint at the end of a beautiful, sunny day. I walked up to the bar, plopped down right in the middle and ordered a glass of Smithwick’s. Turns out I was sitting next to an American expat who now called Kilkenny home. After a short while the musicians started to set-up and people began to pour in. I was thankful for the advice on getting there early since I had what can only be considered a prime seat for the show. I was right in front of the band while conveniently located at the bar.

As the night went on I made dozens of new Irish friends. I learned that the upcoming Sunday was the All-Ireland (hurling) final – and Kilkenny was playing rival powerhouse team, Tipperary. Kilkenny won the previous three years and were poised to win their fourth championship game in-a-row. Not really knowing exactly what hurling was, the locals described the importance of this particular game as the equivalent of the USA’s Super Bowl. Needless to say it was a pretty big deal. Everyone tried desperately to convince me to stay as the excitement (and post-win celebratory partying) would be unlike anything I’d ever seen. Everything in me wanted to stay and partake in the festivities but I was to arrive in Kinsale the next day and had reservations at a B&B for the next two nights. Too late to cancel without losing quite a bit of money.

at the canals in Amsterdam

I ended up going to Kinsale…and I definitely loved my time spent in the seaside town. While I was there I made some more friends and even had a nice couple buy me a fantastic dinner while doing my laundry at their flat! But, I learned a valuable lesson: while it’s good to research and have an idea of what you’d like to see and do, it’s just as good (and fun) to not have everything set in stone. You never know who you’ll meet or what cultural experiences you’ll find in the smallest of towns.

So for the rest of my trip I toured Ireland (and the rest of my European tour) a bit more casually – listening to advice of friends and locals, still reading and researching, but most importantly, going with my gut on what to see next and how long I should stay. Sometimes you just need to slow down and take in all the nuances of the people within the town. You can take away just as much knowledge and enrichment from them as you can from the towns’ historical sights and landmarks.


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