Last weekend marked the beginning of festival season in Cuyahoga Falls with my favorite festival leading the way– Irish Fest. I made my way down to the Riverfront each day to eat, drink and enjoy some really rockin’ music.
I ended up alone on Friday night after a series of missed phone calls, changed plans and late arrivals, but I enjoyed myself just the same.
There is nothing like a culture-driven festival to inspire the outfits, hairstyles and behavior of what I would consider to be an unmatched evening of people watching. From oddly paired couples to dancing hippie mothers to creepy kilted men, I was more than happy to sit alone in the front row listening to the bagpipes and bass while watching the surrounding antics.
At one point in the show, just as I was starting to pay attention to the music, I began to think how much I wished I were experiencing everything with someone else who might understand why I was tearing up and catching my breath. In the midst of a rock anthem tribute to Whisky in the Jar, it really hit me.
I really, really miss Ireland.
I think about it a lot, but every once in a while it really seems to hit me hard. I can’t believe it’s been four years since I lived there– since I took my first international trip, all alone, to live in another country for six months by myself. I try not to be that person who’s always recounting all their travels to everyone. I get annoyed when other people do that to me. But sometimes I can’t help but want to tell people about how that experience changed my life, forced me to grow up and really shaped the person I am today. I want everyone to travel, and I have had some incredible trips during the past four years, but it always comes back to Ireland.
I don’t know if it’s just because it was my first experience and the longest I’ve been in another country, or if it’s because I have Irish blood from both sides of my family, or maybe because of the people and places I was able to meet, visit and really get to know beyond the typical cursory tourist perception. I really think it was just learning a new way of life and finally taking the time to just enjoy the craic. I promised myself when I came home that I would not go back to being a typical American— that I would stop and help people, that I would sit around and just get to know people, and that I wouldn’t be in a hurry.
I think I succeed at some of those things some of the time, but I’ve not held up my end of the bargain with myself to the extent I had originally intended. As much as I feel like living in Ireland was only a moment ago, it’s been too long since I practiced the lifestyle I learned to know and love. It’s time to force myself to slow down and enjoy life again.
Hopefully some day I’ll go back and revisit the places that made an unalterable mark on me while exploring new areas I wasn’t able to experience the first time around. I can’t wait to go back– I think about it a lot. Until then, I’ll try to keep a piece of Ireland with me.