Visiting Ireland had been at the top of my bucket list for the past several years after having watched one of my favorite movies, “P.S. I Love You.” The movie gave me a feeling of enchantment and delight as I fell in love with the greenery, the small village community and a feeling of peace and serenity that made me feel that anything is possible.
As the plane touched down in Dublin, I knew I’d never be the same. The sky was blue, the air was crisp and the smell of rain filled my senses. I was so excited to be in this beautiful place, eager to take in all that Ireland would teach me.
I traveled from Dublin to spend most of my time in the small town of Kinvara, about 30 minutes outside of Galway. The quaint fishing village oozed with colorful homes, historical castles and stores, sheep further than the eye could see, families that had sewn their roots over several generations and quiet bays that gently housed hand crafted boats close to its shores.
I felt like I was living in a fairy tale.
Gort was a small town not far from Kinvara that was equally charming with an old fashioned appeal and streets lined with “mom and pop” stores. I even found myself hand selecting lamb chops at the town’s local butcher and then walking two stores down into a local bakery where I enjoyed a cup of coffee and a danish.
I quickly learned that Galway was going to be in the finals for their most loved sport; Hurling. I had never heard of it, but before long I knew more than I ever thought possible. It had been well over 20 years since Galway had been in the finals and it was their time once again. The locals were ecstatic and they wanted to be sure that every person visiting was a part of the thrill.
The sense of “community” and the feeling of support and togetherness was felt more than I had ever felt before.
As the time grew closer to game day, people began buying their team shirts, hats and scarves. Families displayed signs of support in the windows of their homes, while businesses did the same in their stores. Flags were hung outside of houses, barns and on the outside of cars while the local bakery began preparing Galway-themed sweets.
And, it all paid off. Galway won. It was a historical moment. Every pub in town and beyond was filled with families, tourists (like me) and anyone that just wanted to be a part of the excitement. Everyone chanted and cheered as Galway scored point after point, clinching their long awaited title.
It was magical. It was real. It was history. And, I was there.
I couldn’t believe it. Was this real? Was I really in Ireland? Did a place like this really exist? I thought I only read of such charm and a simplistic life. Of small towns that stuck together never allowing their faith in community to be broken. But now I was standing in it, surrounded by an unimaginable feeling of completeness, of calm and fulfillment.
I knew that my trip to Ireland would be unforgettable, but what I learned will be with me forever.
- We are all the same – Everyone is treated with respect, dignity and kindness. Whether you’re a local or a foreigner, you have money or you don’t, you are one race vs. another or your religion is different from the next, you are a human being. And, genuine concern and care is offered freely.
- Be “grand” and step away from the negative – In the United States, we often say that we are “fine” when asked how we’re doing. In Ireland, they use the word “grand” instead. Although the sentiment is ultimately the same, they actually live it and they demonstrate it outwardly in their interactions with others.
- Smile – As simple as this may seem, when people smile at one another, it makes for a more pleasant interaction and positive outcome, building relationships that will last a lifetime.
- Take time to enjoy the beauty that surrounds you – Although we don’t have Ireland in our backyard, we each have our own form of “Ireland” somewhere in our life. Go to that place. Spend time there. Embrace it and let it speak to your heart.
- Live your dream – The people of Galway and the surrounding towns believed in their team during the big Hurling event. They supported one another and they “showed up” in every way possible. No matter how big or how small your dream may be, do it. Live it. Don’t let anyone or anything stop you.