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As my foot graced the asphalt and the brisk, humid air twirled my curls in its fingers, my mind raced trying to comprehend my surroundings. As I glanced black, the words “American Airlines” remained colossal behind me. The glance didn’t last more than a second until I took my first steps onto this foreign land; a land only my name was familiar to. The frigid air seeped through my sweater, but I couldn’t feel the cold.

I remember the few minutes I spent in Dublin airport, itching to have a meet and greet with the misty air, the abundant grassy fields, the sheep grazing in the distance. As I continued towards those revolving doors my adventure beyond I stifled a giggle at the accents I heard around me, they sounded even more alien in person.

Upon reaching the rental car that was to take me around the entire country, I was shocked to discover that almost everything was opposite; the steering wheel was on what would have been the passenger side in an American car, and we were directed to drive on the left. My father and I struggled to follow the foreign safety signs, and prevent an accident from happening. Unfortunately our inexperience led us to crashing the BMW x5 that was lent to us, and totaling an Irish man’s car. We were sure to take care of the inconveniences we caused, and walked away with few scrapes and bruises.

This obstruction ultimately forced me to travel throughout the country as a true backpacking tourist, with no immediate form of transportation with mere duffel across my body. I had few maps and few plans, just the generosity of the Irish people to guide me.
Following the accident, I found myself stranded in a small town called “Old Castle” in County Meath. After a long night of reconfiguring our plans for traveling, we found ourselves in need of a big cup of coffee to wake up our sleeping minds. After walking the streets bombarded by signs shouting “KEEP MEATH LITTER FREE!” and “NO DUMPING!” we finally came across the words “coffee bar” and were overwhelmed with gratification. Upon entering, we instantaneously realized that this “coffee bar” did not primarily serve coffee drinkers, but those in search of something much stronger. I sat in the plush lounge benches that bordered the walls, and requested a cup of coffee from the bartender before being greeted by the melodious beats of MGMT playing from the jukebox, and four drunk Irish college students attempting to play pool. Most might have been bothered by these circumstances; I was fascinated. It was only ten in the morning and these all-nighters still had enough energy in them to run a marathon…with a pint of Guinness in hand of course.
Naturally, my father wished to escape from the bar, and once again we set out on our journey. We had learned of a bus route that traveled all throughout the country of Ireland, and were eager to make this caboose our transportation for the remainder of the trip. We hopped on just a few blocks from the coffee bar, and decided to travel to County Donegal, where our family emigrated from.
It’s hard to describe what I saw on that five hour bus ride; it was all so green and pure. The hills glistened with the morning dew, as the sun began to melt the frost from the leaves of the trees and the weeds in the meadows. Here, one could drive for miles without one fleeting glance of civilization. It was freeing, the separation from billboards advertising the latest technology; all extras one does not need to survive. It was difficult to care about my $300 cell phone remaining unused in my bag, and my material objects awaiting me at home. In Ireland, the bracing breeze and the scent of life were the only prerequisites for survival.
Immediately following my arrival in Donegal, my last name, Dougherty, was everywhere I turned. It seemed that almost anywhere I went, people knew of someone with my name, had my name, or claimed that I must have been a relative of such and such person. It was difficult to examine the lifestyle of those people and compare it to my own; to see the similarities that existed and the possibility of them existing in my family tree. Nevertheless, I was thrilled to be connected to this area of immaculacy; it was here that I could identify the person emerging from within me.
On the bus ride back to Dublin, the sites were said to be the same but altogether looked like a whole new world to me. Each new patch of landscape was a mystery; it possessed such qualities that were indescribable. I arrived back to the hustle and bustle of the republic’s capital, and still remained in awe of the culture that remained in this area following great oppression, famine, and hardships. I was in awe of the Irish dancing that occurred along the sidewalks of infamous O’Connell Street, as well as on the counters of The Temple Bar. The laughter, the despair, the music, the silence, the life, the death…it was simply everywhere. One could smell it as if it were the most potent stench in existence; yet it left me wanting, craving more.
I’ll never forget that trip to Ireland, a land so overlooked but beautiful in all its forgotten aspects. When I left that last day, I felt a part of myself remain there. However, it was an exchange; because now, I will always carry a piece of Ireland within my heart.





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