Okay, so you’ve just returned from your dream holiday in Ireland. The flight was long, you’ve wrestled the luggage in (including the bag purchased on the last day to hold all the sweaters), tossed your carry-on on the kitchen chair, and flopped down in the living room, contemplating unpacking. “What a trip!” you think, followed closely by “Man, that’s a lot of luggage,” and ending with “I need a [insert favorite beverage].”
This is the crucial moment of your trip. And it is definitely part of your trip. For here is where you may succumb to a common holiday pitfall; the post-vacation blues. It’s a rotten feeling after any vacation. But it’s especially sharp when the blues come after all the greens of Ireland. Not to mention the whites of the smiles, the reds of the trim on the pub windows, and the yellow of the County Clare hurlers’ jerseys.
Which is why I’ve put together, after many years of experience, a handy Guide to Avoiding the PITS*:
*Post-Ireland Travel Syndrome
Just the name “Tip #1” is enough to make any one smile, because it’s so true. But here it is: unpack slowly. It’s a practical instruction, to keep from breaking the turf Christmas ornament, , , 4-pack of Guinness pint glasses, seashells, and snow globe.
It’s also a nice recap of your journey. Unfold all the new t-shirts, hoodies, sweaters, caps, scarves, and jackets. That little shop in comes to mind, the one with the old gent who told you where to find the best trad session that night, where you learned the bodhran without embarrassment and drank in the craic along with the dark foamy stuff. Look at the postcards in the bag (Irish shops have great bags, don’t they?) that you forgot to send, including (breathtaking!), Slea Head (and you thought nothing could top Killarney)… (Maybe you’ll win the solstice draw)…Grafton Street (Ah, that Dublin humor)!
Gather all the paper. Nothing works better as a travelogue. Look at your passport stamp and remember the feeling when you first landed. I’m here. I’m finally here. Gaze at the car rental receipt: your first real encounter with a real, live Irish person…and a real, live Irish accent, when your first words were “Good morning, I have a reservation” and your next were “I’m sorry, what?” Or possibly your first real encounter with an Eastern European-Dublin accent, in which case you just nodded politely, signed where you were told, and read all the papers in the shuttle van. In either case it will bring a smile.
Unfold the map and pat yourself on the back. You really did okay with the whole sit-on-the-right, drive-on-the-left thing after all. Sure, the first few roundabouts were an adventure—especially taking the third exit (what do the parentheses mean, again? Is this the N21? Wait…)—and you forgot to pay the M50 toll for two days, costing you an extra few Euro, but you remembered to move over for the natives and keep to the left on the highway—er, motorway (let’s see…sixth-tenths of a mile per kilometer, carry the decimal…). And the parking discs were fascinating, we should have those here!
Here’s the business card from the B&B, where the phrase “You can settle up in the morning” introduced you to Irish ways, you enjoyed figuring out how to work the shower, and the conversation with the German couple at breakfast was fascinating. Receipts from (was that really Strongbow?) and the Viking bus (I can’t believe I wore that helmet), the tour and the cheese from the artisan market in Cork, and the and Belfast buses. Hey, here’s a bookmark from that place in , now where’s the book…here it is! Some Yeats before bed is perfect.
Upload the photos from the camera on to the laptop. No, do it now. Pile all the laundry while they load. Then click away while enjoying another glass of [insert favorite beverage here]. Doing this helps imprint the little things that happened in the midst of the big things. The pub after and the wits in the smoking area. Hey, here’s those crazy kids jumping into the Liffey. Oh my God, look at Inishmore, where you got that green sweater while your wife wasn’t looking. Notice the difference in your posture and smile as you fell into the Irish rhythm.
By day two you understood that Irish friendliness and was not a Tourism Ireland promotion, it was a reality. By day three you knew that “the tour starts promptly at 4 o’clock” really meant “the tour will start when the guide gets back, he’ll be just a moment” and you just smiled and chatted with the family from Oregon in a voice that had lost its American volume and urgency.
Look at all the pictures with your entire party in them, captured by trading out cameras with travelers from all over the globe. Sometimes it was done by pantomime, offering your camera and gesturing to theirs. But the smiles of understanding and happy agreement made it easy. They’re not any different after all. The vistas of Ireland are stunning in any language. Thank you! Danke! Oh, Stockholm, I’d love to go there! Cheers! Yes, first time here, isn’t it beautiful? Where are you headed next? Doolin? It’s famous for the music, stop at .
Page through the travel book. Unless you booked a coach tour you’ll have a good laugh looking at your planned itinerary, especially your travel time. Smile, and remember next time to include the following in your driving calculations:
- Sheep that stop in the middle of the road and just… look at you
- Stopping at every picturesque little town and hamlet you drive into
- 20 minute roadside conversations with locals about directions (and the weather, hydrangeas, the state of the country, where you’re headed and why, where you’re coming from and why, how you’re enjoying your holiday, and their sister who’s been to Illinois) while they remain blithely unconcerned about the tractors hurtling by with swaying loads of hay piled impossibly high.
Sure, it was shame you couldn’t get to the but it couldn’t have topped watching the argument at the pub about the comparative merits of horse breeding in Kildare versus Tipperary. And you got your taste of Jameson anyway, when you got drawn into the talk and came in on the Kildare side: “Aha! Y’see, Declan! Even the Americans agree with me! Give the Yank here a drink; he’s obviously a man of great taste and refinement! Sláinte!” Besides, after you realize what you just couldn’t get to you have the greatest realization of all:
You have to go back!
Take Gerry’s advice and start planning your trip to Ireland.
Read about Gerry’s own adventures in Ireland.