Dianne Newcomer | Monroe News-Star
Get ready, folks, because March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day, the most popular national holiday in the world! Think about it: we don’t celebrate Bastille Day with the French, Saint Theodore Day with the Greeks, and they don’t care about our Thanksgiving Day. Yet, this Thursday, from New York to New Zealand, people will be wearing green, drinking green beer, dancing in the streets, and spending the green to honor St. Patrick, Ireland’s most beloved saint!
Some say this international affinity for all things green is because there is a little Irish in all of us. The idea that has nothing to do with bloodlines but, instead, evolves around our innate desire to root for the underdog. Quite clearly, history has shown us there is absolutely no such thing as the “luck of the Irish.” Finding a “pot of gold” while digging for potatoes is total irony. Even the “lucky ones,” who fled the potato famine and escaped to America were discriminated against and treated very badly. Success had nothing to do with “good luck, ” but, rather, their tenacity to persevere.
Luckily, a merciful God rewarded their hard work and gave the Irish an amazingly beautiful country to enjoy–for free–along with some of the finest and friendliest people you will ever meet in your travels. If you stop and ask directions on a country road, be prepared to chat. Start up a conversation in a pub, and you will probably be singing into the wee hours of the morning with some new friends who celebrate every day like it was St. Paddy’s Day.
Despite a high tech and thriving modern economy, the rat race seems to have escaped the Emerald Isle. Life, especially in the countryside, moves at a much more relaxed pace than what we are used to experiencing. For Rob and me, an Irish vacation was so very different from anything we had ever done–and it truly had nothing to do with driving on the “wrong” side of the road.
Ireland was actually very easy to navigate. To be such a beloved player on the world scene, it is really quite small. In fact, the entire length of the country can be done in less than a day and the width of the country in just a few hours, but who ever would want to do such a thing? After all, this is the homeland of River Dance, rolling green fields, quaint old pubs and happy little red-headed gents. It is much more fun to get into the rhythm of the island, go with the flow and enjoy the green.
Our trip was in early fall. Daylight hours were still long; the weather was quite mild, and just as unpredictable as we had expected. Sunshine was very often chased away by the light mist of “soft days,” the gift that keeps the Island lush and green. Our journey started in the bustling capital city of Dublin, where we visited the Glansnevin Museum, saw the treasured Book of Kells, shopped Grafton and Nassau Streets, and, of course, experienced a couple of evenings in the rambunctious pub district called Temple Bar.
We appreciated everything the city had to offer, but it was the Irish countryside that won our hearts. We loved the quaint little villages where we enjoyed home made scones and afternoon tea, watched dogs herd sheep, saw molten glass transformed into elaborate works of art at the House of Waterford Crystal, visited the Rock of Cashel’s dramatic hilltop hodgepodge of church ruins, roamed the medieval lanes of Kilkenny, cruised the Dingle Peninsula and the Ring of Kerry, stopped at delightful fishing villages like the harbortown of Cobh which was the Titanic’s last stop, kissed the Blarney Stone of Eloquence, toured the Burren, walked the shores of Galway, and listened to achingly beautiful bagpipe music on the Cliffs of Moher.
Ireland was such a great vacation destination, and, for us, St. Patrick’s Day is the perfect way to remember our special journey. Yet, this year, as we sit on the sidelines watching another week of man’s inhumanity to man in Ukraine, I cannot help but wonder if some of you might be thinking travel is too risky– maybe too much of a guilty pleasure to even consider a destination as far away from the action as Ireland–so let’s chat.
As a travel agent at Monroe Travel Service, I would like to remind you that travel is all about connecting. When we travel into a foreign setting, we usually feel strange, displaced, and a little uneasy, especially at first. We are unsure about what to say or how to act, but, then, after a few days, we relax and begin to realize how similar we are. Foreigners no longer seem foreign when we learn their history, daily routines, foods, beliefs, and what they do for fun. We may not speak the language, but we connect. Differences become less significant. Strangers become a part of our human family, where membership requires us to care more about their well-being.
Travel is our way of leaving a footprint on the world. It takes away the “them” versus “us” mentality. Right now, Ukraine is hurting, and we must be generous with our prayers and our money, but we also need to realize everything the Ukrainians are fighting for–like the appreciation, understanding, and the opportunity to connect to one another–is exactly what travel embodies.
We must continue to travel and become citizen-ambassadors for our country in the eyes of the world. We must not let a madman like Putin squelch our desire to go, do, and see whatever, wherever, and whenever we want. Travel is a ray of hope for understanding each other better. I think learning and exploring the wonder in our world is the best way I know to peacefully protest Putin!
Dianne Newcomer is a travel agent at Monroe Travel Service. For your next vacation, please call 318 323 3465 or email INFO@MONROETRAVEL.COM. We would love to send you away.