September 8, 2016
As far as last days go, today is one of the best. Usually I’m up at o’dark thirty to catch a taxi or a bus to the airport for a too-damn-early flight. Today I catch the airport express at the civilized hour of half past one, and arrive at the airport with plenty of time to walk the concourses before my 6:45 pm flight to Malta.
I can sit all day at a computer, but something at sitting in an airport drives me absolutely crazy. Walking the concourses is a good chance to get some exercise and daydream about other destinations. I like checking out the terminal artwork and the advertising signs for stores and restaurants. Most important, walking the concourses gives me a chance to think.
Right now, I’m thinking about these last three months in Ireland.
I came to Ireland because I wanted to take a break from house-sitting this year, and to find a place where I could rent an affordable apartment instead. I came because Ireland is not part of the Schengen convention, which means I could spend the summer in Ireland and spend the fall in Malta without applying for a visa.
I came because I wanted to see more of Ireland than the house-sit I did in Dublin two years ago. I wanted to come in the summer, when the weather was warmer. And I came because a summer of lying low in the Irish countryside sounded like a good idea after the financial upheavals of paying my taxes.
Looking back now, I have to laugh. Most (though not all) of these assumptions went sideways in some way. I did rent an affordable apartment, but did not expect the complications that arose with the apartment in Belturbet. I never felt as at home in the apartment as I do when I’m house-sitting for someone else. I missed having a cat to look after, although I did enjoy the freedom of going away for the weekend without needing to arrange for a sitter.
As for the weather being warmer than my last visit in December, that was certainly true. Most days we had at least some sun, and some days were brilliantly sunny from morning ‘til night. But I often sat with a blanket over my knees as I worked at my desk, and that wasn’t the summer weather my body craved.
I wouldn’t say that I “laid low” in Belturbet over the summer, either. I suspect that if you add up the round-trip bus tickets to Dublin and back, it would have been just as financially affordable to find a place on the outskirts of Dublin as it was to live in the tiny town of Belturbet. I did like Belturbet, especially the walking path along the River Erne and over the island.
One thing did turn out much, much better than expected, and that was my desire to see more of Ireland. In fact, looking back on the Ireland posts I’ve written (23 in all, including this one!), I’m amazed at how much my knowledge of Ireland has expanded in the last few months. There’s still a lot I don’t know, and that I may never know. But I have a flavor of Ireland now – geography, infrastructure, people, history. I even have a small sampling of those for Northern Ireland.
Gaining that type of understanding and knowledge is the primary reason that I choose to live for extended periods of time in one country or one community. And in that sense, this summer in Ireland has been a success.
As I turn back up the concourse and make my way to my gate, there’s one question left to answer: if I could live in Ireland, would I want to?
I ask that question about every place I visit. Sometimes I have to think about it for a while, and other times the answer is clear. In this case, the answer is crystal clear: I don’t want to live in Ireland. Not in Dublin or the north of Ireland, anyway. The jury’s still out on Cork – I quite liked what little I saw of it, and it may be a place that could in time feel like home.
It’s time to board my plane to Malta. As I pull out my passport and boarding pass, a thrill of excitement shivers down my spine. I can’t wait to see Malta again: heat, sunlight, soft breezes, and a Mediterranean so blue it almost hurts my eyes.
As the plane takes off over the Dublin Bay, I indulge in one last look at my summer in Ireland.
Up next: Hello Malta! It’s good to be back.