I came home a lot sooner than expected. My first 24 hours in Ireland were marked by meltdown after meltdown. The rug had been pulled out from under me and I sat in Dublin airport for hours, explaining the situation to my friends and family via FaceTime and iMessage before I caught my bus to Limerick, not knowing what the days ahead would bring.
All of my plans involved me being gone for a minimum of three months. I expected to come home in June at the very earliest. I thought I’d spend Bloomsday in Dublin. But I wasn’t allowed three months. I had a thirty-day limit, but within 24 hours of touching Irish soil, I knew I was going home, and soon.
I didn’t want to cover the costs associated with thirty days of traveling without a host, and if I’d stayed thirty days, I wouldn’t have been able to prioritize my work as much as I needed to. I’d be busy, I’d be tired, I’d be on the go, wifi might get spotty, and if I’m being really honest with myself, I don’t think I’d want to be bothered with chasing work and tinkering with websites and Facebook posts and content if I knew I only had thirty days to enjoy Ireland. Flight prices were looking dodgy, and were already going to cost me a lot more than I’d wanted to spend, so I booked a flight home for the fifth of April and headed to Galway, determined to enjoy the hell out of that city and its surroundings, and I did.
I made the most of my short week in Galway. I saw the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren. I went to Connemara twice. I caught a fantastic band that brought the whole Latin Quarter to a standstill. I got wonderfully, peacefully lost in the labyrinth of makeshift paths between medieval stone walls on Inis Mor. Yes, I drank some locally brewed pints and listened to Irishmen weaving their famous verbal tapestries. I did not see so many things. I missed most of the country. I didn’t get a feel for day-to-day life and culture in Ireland, which is what I wanted, but on my first day in Galway, soaked to the bone on a long walk far from my lodging, I made peace with that, with the trip that was happening, and said goodbye to the one that apparently never was going to happen.
When I first started planning this trip, it was equal parts a desire to see Ireland and a desire to be far, far away from Florida for as long as possible and as dramatically as possible. Ireland’s cool, green countryside seemed as far removed from Fort Lauderdale’s burning heat and party strips as I could be. Though they were linked at some point in my case, there’s a difference between a desire to travel and a desperation to be anywhere other than where you are. The latter is what drove me to Ireland in the first place, even though I eventually departed from Rochester and not Fort Lauderdale.
The fact that I wasn’t escaping a personal day-to-day hell made my unexpectedly short trip a lot easier to swallow. It made coming home a bittersweet moment rather than a crisis. I was crushed when my plans changed because it was a shock, a disappointment, a blow to my ego, and represented a lot of major mistakes in spending and planning. Luckily, though, I’d left Rochester wanting to travel, not wanting to escape. I didn’t do as much traveling as I’d planned, or wanted, but it was okay.
As soon as the plane’s wheels touched the runway in Rochester, I felt the warm, familiar peace of knowing I was home, the strong embrace of my heart’s hometown. I felt it every time I came home from a trip the last time I lived here. I felt it every time I landed for a visit when I lived in Fort Lauderdale. It never fails, and it never gets old. I am always so, so happy to come home to this place.
Jeff met me at the airport with a bag of kale and can of Genny Bock and my roommate’s dog met me at the door with happy growls and tail wags. My friends and coworkers all separately expressed a mix of guilt and joy that I was home. A handful of them had an eerie sense of partial responsibility because they’d been privately bummed that I would be gone all summer. I’d felt much the same due to the cataclysmic jitters I had before I left.
The next day, my roommate came home and smiled and winced when he saw me, not sure he should express any happiness at my return. “Good to see you?”
I laughed and waved my hand. “It’s okay,” I said, “I’m over it.”