There are few things in life that are actually as amazing as they are made out to be in books, movies and fairy tales. Yet, despite our better judgment, we cling to idealistic images and dangle all our hopes in unrealistic dreams because reality is just so drastically unpleasant.
Recently, I was lucky enough to live a dream that I’ve been harboring since I was only ten years old. I traveled to the place that was at the center of my identity: Ireland.
Ireland is the setting for numerous romantic comedies, the backdrop for fantastical stories and inspiration for some of the world’s greatest literature. And it’s no surprise why. Its rolling hills are coated with an unbelievable emerald, sprinkled with the purple and yellow of native plants. Waterfront towns with thatched roofs litter the coast while country villages sprawl out in between more urban cities.
I experienced the Emerald Isle, explored my heritage and made new friends. I ate and drank what I can only assume is the equivalent of my body weight in Guinness and fish and chips. But most importantly, I learned.
Here are what eating fish and chips and guzzling Guinness on my dream-come-true trip to Ireland taught me.
I learned to be damn proud of where I come from
My ancestors, the beautiful Celts that they were, contributed to a drink that’s nearly created a culture, or at least one of it’s token hallmarks. And let’s face it — Guinness is pretty much an alcoholic coffee milkshake. Not to mention the magical landscapes, ancient castles and wonderful people. And, of course, you can’t beat it when you pair it with fish and chips.
I learned to love my beer baby (and the rest of me).
We all know the feeling. When your belly bloats to what feels like three times its normal size after one too many beers. But, in my opinion, Guinness takes the crown for biggest bloater. It’s thick, rich, sweet and dark. It’s a meal in a beer. It took me some time to adjust to the constant bloat in my belly.
Until one evening, in what all ironies was an American pub, I realized that everyone around me had a pooch over the belt. What was even more amazing than that was how beautiful everyone was. How happy everyone was. How everyone seemed indescribably radiant. Suddenly, I felt all my American insecurities wipe away. For the first time, I felt beautiful.
I learned a little of what it means to be Irish
There’s a stereotype that the Irish are extremely friendly and hospitable. Let me tell you, it’s a stereotype for a reason. There’s very rarely a moment when the Irish who surrounded us weren’t smiling. They were welcoming and chatty, excited to talk to my obnoxious traveling group.
Music is another integral part of Ireland’s culture. There was hardly a moment when a song wasn’t streaming through the background. Pubs were filled with drunken melodies and even hiking trails were littered with awesome harpists.
These things only scratch the surface of what it truly means to be Irish.