A year and a half ago, I had one of the most fulfilling opportunities of my life; I was able to take a ten-day tour by bus and foot of Ireland. It had always been one of my dreams to visit the country, as it's the homeland of both sides of my family. The chance had never presented itself, though, before this school-sponsored trip; with the generous help of some wonderful family members, I was able to go with the hopes of documenting the trip. And document it I did; I kept a travel log for each day and took, over the course of those ten days, fifteen hundred photos. It was the single time in my life when I most wanted a DSLR, but my trusty HTC Incredible 2 camera certainly held its own.
Finally, after eighteen months, I've managed to sort through those photos and pick what are in my opinion the best. It's taken a while--I started this past summer--but I'm very happy with the results. None of the photos are altered in any way (filters, noise reduction, etc.) and if you're interested the image files themselves should still contain the GPS metadata; you can see almost exactly where they were taken if you'd like! I considered writing descriptions for each photo or at least each day, but as the selection continued, I decided not to, for several reasons. Mostly, I don't want my verbal skills to mar what these photos deliver. The countrysides, cities, and natural features of Ireland speak for themselves, and they do so best in graphic form. If the adage is true about a thousand words, then Ireland wrote me novels she let me pass through. There is a certain amount that I do very much wish to say, though, and so I have condensed it here.
Ireland is, traditionally, a picturesque country. It is the stereotypical haven for lush green fields, hills that roll on to the horizon, mysterious, foggy, and ancient ruins, and vistas that can stun the eyes and mind. This is, at least, how it is portrayed in travel brochures. Unfortunately, they do not do it justice. There is a certain disconnect that occurs for foreigners like myself that are visiting, because you can step off a bus and be seeing something that your mind automatically classifies as a calendar picture, something filtered and enhanced--except it isn't. Though it seems impossible, the land has an unearthly beauty that more than anything else I've experienced commands your attention and can make you halt all other thoughts, leaving you to simply bask in the stunning landscapes. But at the same time, this is a country very much alive and quickly moving. Our time in Galway made me feel as though I was in the most progressive of American cities, and for some reason I appreciated the full range of culture in our species much more in Ireland than in America; perhaps it was seeing in the span of a few days mohawks in Galway and rustic bed-and-breakfasts in Glencollumcille. Dublin gives off exactly the vibe it should as the capital. Surrounded by and interwoven with centuries-old history is a city that doesn't sleep and buzzes with energy.
Despite all of this, my time in the country saddened me somewhat. This was not in any way because of Ireland itself, but instead, how much vague concepts have been bastardized and exploited. The myriad of tourist shops that spring up in almost every town was evidence enough, some filled with tacky memorabilia or mountains of t-shirts with miserably overused sayings in Gaelic typefaces. I noticed that the gifts that carried the most meaning to myself and my peers were not these cheap tokens of utilitarianism, but more authentic, non-tourist-oriented items: a hurley bought from a sports store or a sweater that smelled of actual sheep.
On the plane trip home, I made a vow to myself that I would one day return and stay for longer, bringing with me those close who long and deserve to again see the country. Ireland changed me and showed me the insane beauty that nature can bestow upon part of this planet as well as displaying to me a culture that seemed in many ways more mature and humble than ours. Since then, though, a worry has haunted me; I am afraid that the gross inflations of cultural gimmicks will some day overshadow the quiet, breathtaking might of the land that was so hospitable to me.
The link to the photo gallery is in the site navigation bar. I hope that you enjoy it, and more importantly, that it can transfer to you a fraction of the inspiration it did to me.
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