I rendezvoused with my father, sister and youngest nephew in Dublin for a week of road-tripping through the Irish countryside. We rented a car (a beast of a van — I was lugging extra luggage from Switzerland) and ventured west along the The Wild Atlantic Way, Ring of Kerry and the towns of Galway, Killarney, Cork and Kilkenny.
Emerald, scenic pastures were the norm and picturesque, rustic landscapes perpetual as we drove back roads instead highways whenever possible. We differentiated the regions we passed through by their relative surplus of sheep, stone walls or tour buses and supplemented our scant Irish history with information brochures procured from drive-through tourist information kiosks, guided tours and taxi-driver interrogation.
I had never been to Ireland before so exploring the sites and diffusing the culture was (as always) a fun challenge. The people we encountered were universally garrulous, forthcoming and helpful and surprisingly to me willing to volunteer aid in the form of directions or recommendations. I would even describe the Irish people that I met and interacted with as warm — an adjective I have never before bestowed upon a European. Having spent three months in Switzerland, the homey feel of the Irish pubs we frequented along with the cold pints of Guinness I quaffed were a welcome change.
A highlight of the trip was having a private excursion with a falconer. My father has taken up bird watching in his retirement — a hobby we both exercised in Boliva last year. Normally I find birds boring — most of them I see are small, brown and boring (aka “Boring Brown Birds” or BBB); but it turns out that birds of prey are freaking awesome. Our falconer, Jurgen, introduced us to multiple varieties of owls and hawks and described their different, unique adaptations useful for murdering. My family and I were each given our own spirit raptors which coincidentally seemed to match our personalities and physical attributes. Being from Wyoming, dad had a Barn Owl. My sister, a feisty White Faced Scops Owl named “Scotty”, my nephew a small, south american owl named Tiny and I was given charge of Wolf — an Eurasian eagle-owl. Afterwards we followed Jurgen around and watched one of his hawks fly around the premises and return to his hand. We also watched the same hawk narrowly miss exploding a wild pheasant that happened to be stationed nearby — the hawk missed by just a meter or so.
I found my week driving through the Irish countryside was as much an exploration of my own family as Ireland. My sister and I are separated by an eleven year age difference and my dad is getting old. My nephew James is ten. I’ve spend much longer living apart from all of them than around; between the location and age separation without intentional effort the natural forces differentiating us have engineered a drift.
Tossing a Frisbee with my nephew is more fun than any number of ruinous castles I saw. Having a Guinness with my dad better than a tour explaining the history of British occupation. My sister and I had a lot of fun rolling our eyes alongside each other as we shared little nuisances inherent in travel that I usually endure alone — that was cooler than the Ring of Kerry. This all amounts to the re-realization that family and experiences in an environment are more important than the environment. So why is it that I keep changing my environment?