My places page remains mildly pathetic compared to those of other travel bloggers. I always sheepishly admit that I’ve only been to 28 countries – like that makes me a lesser traveller or something, or as if that number isn’t large in comparison to those who don’t do this for a living.
But I’ve always believed that if you find a place you really love – and I mean truly, truly love – your owe it to your soul to go back, over and over again.
Of course there’s always the risk that things just won’t be the same. That you’ll come back and have a different experience, or a worse experience, and you’ll leave with a bitter taste in your mouth. When I boarded the Bus Eirann from Dublin to Sligo a few weeks ago, I was full of nervous, anxious energy. I bought a book but couldn’t concentrate. I obsessed over my route, worrying if I’d get off at the right stop. I hadn’t seen Julia, one of my best friends, in nearly a year. And then my bus pulled up at the stop in Strandhill and there was my tall, blonde-haired leggy beauty waiting for me. We hugged so hard, a man walking by paused and smiled. “Well, isn’t that a lovely sight,” he said.
Maybe he was being creepy. Who knows.
I’ve been to many places, but there are only a handful of destinations to which I am truly committed. Newfoundland is at the top of the list, obviously. I will always belong in Newfoundland. And Bosnia and Herzegovina, for the sheer surprise of it all. Then there’s Sligo, Ireland’s little adventure capital that’s become my second home.
It had been over two years since my last visit. I had assumed by that point my old Sligo friends would have forgotten about me. Nobody had forgotten me. The hugs I received were as genuine as me returning home to Canada. The most bewildering of them all: I walked into an old haunt and an elderly gent immediately said, “I know you, you’re the Canadian girl.” I had met him on my first visit, in the same place, and we had talked for hours about life in Canada and my ancestral research. He had worked in Canada many years ago, and missed it dearly. I was floored. That was over two years ago, and he had not forgotten. He sang me Newfoundland ballads.
Julia and I stayed with our friend Art in Strandhill, and his three other roommates I had not met my first time around. In just two days we had a whole new little family. Meals were cooked for us, barbecues hosted, drinks bought. We were basically mooching off these people for an entire week, and not only did they not want anything in return, they went out of their way to do stuff for us. Some of my favourite memories stem from just sitting around the kitchen table with a pot of tea after all the nightly shenanigans were over, chatting and laughing and listening to good music. I’m still itching to play the fiddle.
Every night we’d head out to see live music, and we’d run into friends from years ago. The fiddler from Rackhouse Pilfer, one of my favourite bands, recognized Julia and me and came to chat after the show. Then we’d dance all night and come clawing home at sunrise. Happiness is a pint of a Guinness and an Irish trad session in a cozy pub. That little sense of community is the kind of thing I yearn for in Newfoundland: teenagers, handsome bearded men, punkish folks, and older women all joined together in music.
On one of our last days we headed out with David from SUP for all to check out his new digs. A lot had changed since our first paddle with him. We boiled the kettle, made tea, cracked open a beer, and lounged by the fire. (Why does tea always taste so much better when the water is boiled over a fire?) Some of the men cooked burgers. Children ran about, paddling on Lough Gill, pushing each other into the water. Then we all paddled out to the Isle of Innisfree, where David’s young daughter perfectly recited the entire W.B. Yeats’ poem with the same name. We trod barefoot through the muddy trails, buoyed on nature and Irish air.
You know a place is special when you return to Berlin – one of the coolest cities on the planet – feeling dejected and depressed. When I headed for the midnight bus on my final night in Ireland, one of my Sligo pals embraced me and said, “This is your home.” There were tears. I’ve never been anywhere, not even in Newfoundland, where a community has accepted me so readily.
At one point in my life I vowed never return to the small town lifestyle. I love Berlin madly and am thrilled to spend a year here, but I know it’s a temporary home and I’ll never be completely happy in a city. I love the anonymity, but I miss the sea.
I made a promise to my Sligo friends that I’d be back, and I will be, once my time is up here. So where is the shame in revisiting the places you love? Do we limit ourselves by not going further? Or do we latch onto those special places, in case we never find them again?
Are you in the habit of revisiting?