I talked a little bit about why I picked Ireland for my 1st out-of-country destination post-France trip in high school. But the reasons run a little deeper than mere heritage or pieces of jewelry.
I've wanted to go to Ireland since I was little. My Papa's family was born there and came over to the US like many Irish families back then did. Like every American, I'm a mish mosh of ethnicities: Dutch, German, even a little Native American. But what I am the most of, and what I've identified most with is my Irish heritage. I wear a claddagh ring everyday on my right hand and I'm working on getting a Celtic tattoo.
In other ways though, I am not so Irish. Up until recently, I'd never even tried Guiness before. I don't drink a lot in general and when I do, it's usually a frilly, "girly" drink and not even beer of any sort. I can swear like a sailor though and those that know me well know I have a bit of an Irish temper. But with that comes a sheer love of people and places, and I like to think that's from my Irish descent.
My Papa used visit Ireland quite frequently. Not just to visit family but just to...visit. My family has told me that he often met complete strangers and made friends with them to the point he would have dinner with their families at home and even stay the night sometimes. This is the picture of Ireland I've had painted for me since I was little. A rainy, wet place whose warmth can be measured only by the warmth of its people.
My Papa died when I was only 6. He had the second of 2 heart attacks from his life time and unfortunately, did not survive it. It's strange how vivid my memories are of him though. More so than my grandpa who died just a few years ago. My Papa also had Parkinson's. I can't remember when exactly he was diagnosed but it seems like he always had it in those 6 years of memories. He was weak and he used to fall a lot. Those of you who know me, know I struggle because of my own disability and I too am weak and fall a lot. I think, even at the age of 6, I connected with my Papa on this. I felt, and still feel, like he's one of few people in the world who can understand what it felt like to have your brain want you to be strong and to do certain things but your body just doesn't follow.
I've already had the privilege of standing on Omaha Beach where my Papa was shot during World War II (he survived). Standing there, I had never felt more connected to him. I feel like going to Ireland would deepen that connection. Going to a place that he not only loved so much and had so many great memories in, but a place that he was tied to by family, by lineage and by blood. I think some of his distant relatives still live in County Cork.
A lot of times destinations are just a pin on a map, a spin of the wheel, or an "I've never been here." For me though, Ireland was a much thought-out and deeply felt choice for my next travel destination. I know my Papa would be proud and wishing he could be here to enjoy a pint of Guinness with me. When in Ireland right?