I suppose maybe it's the day that has me waxing nostalgic for Ireland. If memory serves me correctly, it's been 8 years since I have been on the auld sod. Ireland was my first trip out of the US that wasn't Canada. Everything about it was new: plane travel, jetlag, the country, the accent, the food. Little did I know then that what would happen that week would change me for life. For the better, I tend to think.
Matters of the heart had me going back and forth from Boston to Dublin more than a few times a year for the next 10 years or so. Sometimes I would hop a plane on a Thursday night and come back Monday afternoon. After the first couple times, it wasn't so much about what we did as who we saw and how we spent time together. Eventually the "we" I was traveling with became just "me". After so many visits, it wasn't worth my friends' while to go with me. It was more fun for me on my own once I'd established myself there anyway.
I saw Dublin change from a sleepy town where, to me, "everyone was Irish". It didn't seem that immigration to Ireland was terribly popular; why would it when unemployment was over 20%? As the Celtic Tiger was born and flourished, I saw Ireland, and Dublin in particular, lose it's home town charm. It seemed to have more foreigners than Irish. There were more faces that seemed better suited to London than there. The locals I knew and ran into were still the same joyful spirits I remembered, but it was notable nonetheless that the warmth and charm that I felt from the beginning was lost as the country started to climb out of its doldrums. The Dublin I knew went from a city with a single "skyscraper" barely 16 stories high to, over time, more like a proper metropolis with its share of towers, the most notable of which built by U2 themselves.
But once I'd experienced Dublin, I all of a sudden started to take baby-steps further afield. Edinburgh first. Then London. From London to Paris. Then beautiful Italy. The progression continues through eastern Europe, the lowlands and of course, further south to Spain and east to Russia. Making that leap out of the comfort zone of home clearly ignited a wanderlust in me. It made me want to see more. It made me have to see more.
It is funny though, when I think back to what most impressed me on that first and how far and wide I've gone and with that, how wide my mind has opened up. The places these eyes have seen in the 18 years since that first trip may have relegated Dublin somewhat into something not quite as grand as I first saw it, but it has not at all squelched my passion for the town I loved so well.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!