At the beginning of our year abroad in Ireland, I wrote down a list of what I would like to experience, learn or accomplish this year, what I want to use my time for and what not. Now after exactly one year in Ireland (WTF ???) it’s time for me to strike a balance, even if it’s not over yet.
It’s hard to believe how time has passed, although we were already fully aware that it will pass quickly. Exactly 365 days since our arrival late night in Lahinch have passed to this day. In retrospect however, it feels much more blatant, like a finger snap and – whoosh – one year is over. Phew! It definitely doesn’t seem like a year, more like a half. This is certainly due to the fact that we spent the first half of the year solely with travelling and guests and only after that the “seriousness of life” began a bit. Especially the first half of the year flew by quickly. The numerous excursions are hard to pigeonhole in our heads, everything blurs into a difficult to classify mass of impressions and memories.
Thankfully, we have taken many pictures, wrote a travel diary and documented a lot to retrace it in retrospect and to be able to remember all the details! My biggest fear is forgetting things – that’s why I take so much photos. I can remember everything so much better and in more detail. There are quite fitting quotes about this, which I find very accurate, for example:
„We take photos as a return ticket to a moment otherwise gone.”
– Katie Thurmes
That’s exactly how I see it, and that’s why an important point on my Ireland Bucket List is already ticked off …
🗹 Take a lot of (professional) Photos
It has been very important to me to try out my hobby of photography, in particular of landscape photography, very intensively this year and thus to improve step by step. Of course, new (expensive) equipment had to be bought. So I fulfilled my long-cherished desire to get my dream camera (Canon EOS 5D Mark III) with which I had already filmed and photographed a lot during my studies in college. I had to save for it for quite a long time. In addition, a wide-angle lens, a camera backpack, various filters and anything else you need.
Ireland offers the perfect conditions for practicing landscape photography. Everywhere there are new, surprising motifs, great light, cloud games and many rainbows. Of course, the weather is also a real challenge – you always have to be wary of the next showers or even storms, especially in the coastal regions. The wind easily blows the tripod including the camera, if you’re not careful enough. Incidentally, this was also the case with our recent shoot for the images used in this post at the Cliffs of Moher.
As fun as it is to experiment, it can sometimes be so frustrating to see the pictures of other photographers taking photos of Ireland’s landscapes more or less professionally. Of course, one is tempted to get just as good photos. You forget that these photographers often do this full-time, pre-plan every picture and take a lot of time to wait for the right moment with the perfect light.
Normal mortals usually don’t have that time, you take the picture when you’re on the spot. That’s why the term travel photography might be more applicable to my photos. However, I’ve also taken some photos, I’ve taken more time for. Falk often has had to wait for me impatiently. Most of the time he just went ahead and I ran after him after a while. By the way, he always takes care of the drone shots. If he flies, I have to wait too. 😉
Let us therefore agree that it’s an intermediate thing between hobby travel and professional landscape photography. However, I would love to make a trip or a workshop, where you can specifically plan motives and take lots of time for each photo. I’d particularly like to take pictures of the Northern Lights!
🗹 Operate a Blog
When talking about photos, this point isn’t far off on my Ireland bucket list. It was already clear in advance: We want to run a travel blog for family, friends, acquaintances and anyone else who’s interested. For this the foundation stone was laid before the departure – a name was considered, a domain was bought, a website including the preloader animation was created. And I haven’t regret it!
However, as fun as it is to operate a travel blog, so much work it is. In the first place I never thought that it would be SO complex and time-consuming. Unfortunately you can tell by the fact that I lag behind with the post many, many months. At least that way I can indulge in reminiscences of our year abroad and report about it a year after our return – if not longer!
Even if nobody keeps reading our blog, I don’t regret putting in so much effort. For us this documentation acts as a way to immerse ourselves again and again in this great and unique time. This blog is a kind of time machine for us. The photos won’t get dusty in any drawer or even worse on any hard drive. No, the memories are all neatly processed, ready to be read always and from anywhere. That alone is worth it!
Of course, I still hope to pick up, fascinate or even inspire one or the other with the reports and images. 🙂
🗹 Find our own little Irish Cottage
Actually we could check this point off the list first of all. Just two weeks after we arrived in Lahinch we were lucky enough to find a more or less small, old Irish stone cottage. The location is ideal except for the lack of sea views and the price is fair. We couldn’t have imagined it better!
If there’s someone who’s still new here and reads this post before all the others: There’s a blog post about our house hunt (“The House Hunt”) as well as about our cottage itself (“Our Little Irish Cottage”). Maybe it’s interesting for those who are planning to live longer in Ireland too and who don’t really know how to do the house search or what to expect.
🗹 See something New every Week
Especially in the first few weeks and months here in Ireland, the urge to see new things and to go on discovery tours was very big. As with so many things in life, this urge faded after a while, so that almost daily excursions have turned into an excursion once a week and meanwhile rather a trip every two weeks in average. However, that isn’t because we have enough of Ireland or that we’ve seen everything. First it was due to lack of money, because our savings were as good as used up after half a year in Ireland without a job. Later it was a lack of time, because a full-time job goes with more money, but unfortunately also with much less time for excursions and you don’t have the strength and desire to be permanently on the road every weekend. Of course, the financial aspect is also a topic.
Either way, we’ve seen so much of Ireland – more than many Irish people have ever seen of their own country, as we’ve been told several times. Of course, much has remained undetected, especially in the Midlands, but we are still here. And honestly? We really don’t want to graze everything, otherwise there would be nothing new to discover for our future holidays here. 😉
🗹 Learn how to Irish Dance
In fact, we can also check this item off the list. We’re still in the middle of the dance class though, but since October, so for five months, we go swinging the dance floor (almost) every Monday evening with a motley crew of up to 16 people for one and a half hours. And even if the traditional Irish music with its fiddling and tootling takes some getting used to for the non-Irish ear in the long term and even though the steps and figures are quite different from German standard dances, it’s good craic! What we do, is called Irish Set Dance, not to be confused with the Irish show dance aka Riverdance. Set Dance is one of the social dances that you dance with a partner in a set of 8 people. This set is arranged in a circle and there are many different regionally very different sets that you can dance. We learn three different sets in our dance class – the Caledonian, the Clare Plain and the Connemara Set. So far, we’ve learned the Caledonian set and almost the entire Clare Plain set.
Basically the set dance can be described as follows: There are 4 couples arranged in a circle. Couples facing each other are always dancing at the same time – there are the tops dancing first and the sides dancing second. While one half dances, the other half stands by most of the figures and watches. That’s really good, because after a while you can start to sweat! In some figures and in any case at the beginning and end of each figure all dance together, though. A complete set dance consists of several figures, which are referred to as reels, jigs or hornpipes. These different names indicate different tact and different step patterns. In the Caledonian set, for example, the first three figures are Reels, followed by a jig, then a reel figure and finally the hornpipe. It sounds complicated, but in principle the steps (at least the basic steps without the Irish fine-tuning of the foot movements) are quite simple. The tricky thing is to internalize the sequence of steps in the complex figures and retrieve all the figures in the correct order.
If you want to use the set dance not only in the dance class, but in the “Real Life”, then you have to go to a Ceili, a dance evening, where many, many people in a giant hall dance to live music in sets of 8. That looks pretty interesting. Here a video of a Ceili, where the Caledonian set was danced, is linked. We haven’t been to a Ceili yet, because we don’t even know two whole sets. But in the near future, we really want to know what it’s like and enjoy this atmosphere! 🙂
🗹 Learn a bit of Irish
In addition to an Irish dance class, I also planned to take a language class for Irish. To make it short: I went there once, but then stopped. Honestly? It is too difficult a language for me as a German to being able to keep up with all the Irish mothers present, who at least had Irish in school once or who often hear it from their children. In the class, I participated in once, I was able to pick up a few phrases or sentences and to take them with me. I noticed that this language is written completely differently than it’s spoken. That makes it very difficult.
A small example: For just saying “Thank you” there are four (!) words in Irish: “Go raibh maith agat”.
In addition there are to me inexplicable rules (or not?!) for when and how something is pronounced / written. So one and the same word changes depending on the context.
In addition, the Irish teacher spoke very quickly in Irish and then without a break she went into English, which – if you’ve ever been to Ireland you know what I mean – also sounds pretty Irish and is therefore difficult to be kept apart so quickly for untrained ears. It was a real challenge to even be able to keep up!
The teacher and the attending participants were very nice, but I felt so overwhelmed that I decided against continuing the course. In addition to the little snippets that I already knew, I can now say things in Irish, such as “What’s your name?” – “My name is Verena”, “Can I have a cup of tea”, “Thank you” and “You’re welcome”,”Turn off the light!” or “I’m a graphic designer”. Not that bad!
🗹 Get to know interesting People
Of course, when you move to a foreign country, you automatically get in touch with a wide range of people. As everywhere else, there are warm-hearted and less warm-hearted, likeable and less likeable, interesting and less interesting people.
One of the most interesting people we’ve met so far is definitely an old man, whom we happened to walk into while having a stroll in the huge park of Castle Ward in County Down, Northern Ireland. He told us a lot about the difficult past here and the violent clashes between the English crew and the Irish residents, who haven’t stopped until the 90s. Principally, he told us, strangers, who happened to meet him accidentally, while he walked his dog, half his life story. However, this was so interesting that we liked to listen despite of time pressure. When the time comes, and I write the blog post about this trip to Northern Ireland, I’ll tell more about it.
I think especially the older people in Ireland have seen a lot and have lots of interesting stuff to talk about. Unfortunately, their stories often die out with them, just as the Irish language and the Irish way of living slowly sinks into oblivion …
🗹 Find a couple of good Friends
If you think of your year abroad beforehand, then you think “I’ll find a lot of new friends and acquaintances for life”. After all, it was also quite easy to meet new people and make friends during my studies. Completely open-mindedly and optimisticly, we approached the matter. However, the reality is different – we have found quite a few acquaintances, be it neighbors, dance partners, work colleagues, etc. Friends aren’t made so quickly and so easy in Ireland, especially not in the countryside. We aren’t the only “immigrants” who noticed this. Although the Irish, who come in contact with tourists, are very warm-hearted, cordial and friendly, this looks a bit different in everyday life. If you aren’t a tourist anymore, it’s not so easy to get to them. It usually remains with superficial talks about the weather or the work. If you want to find real friends here, it seems to take a lot of time and just a year just isn’t enough. In addition, the older you get, the more difficult it becomes to make new friends. Most people already have strong circles of friends and no desire or time to integrate some perfect strangers, who are there only a year or so anyway, in it. Way too exhausting! Nevertheless, at least I can now count one person from Ireland to my friends and I’m really happy about that. 🙂
🗹 Go into many different Pubs & taste Ciders
Before we moved to Ireland, we were real Irish pub freaks. We had quickly tried the few Irish pubs that Berlin has to offer and also tasted the cider and beer offered there. Unfortunately there’s not too much choice. So we decided to go to a (new) pub every weekend in Ireland and to go through the drinks menu.
Well, if we’d really done that, we would be two things by now: broke and alcoholics.
Yeah, in the beginning we went to pubs more often to listen to the live music and enjoy a drink or two. We have now become connoisseurs of common Irish ciders and know exactly which taste good, which we can recommend and which not. Soon, however, the money for that was no longer there and also the desire was limited. Of course, when we had guests, we always went to pubs with them. Alone this is only really rare. Too bad, because back in Germany, we won’t find such a beautiful and diverse pub scene anymore. We should make use of it more again, until we have to head back unfortunately!
🗹 Take a lot of Time for Offline Hobbies
In our everyday life in Germany, I just didn’t have time for myself, except for sports. My old hobbies fell by the wayside. For the time abroad in Ireland, I decided to spend more time with my blog and photography but also for my offline hobbies. Playing guitar, reading and sewing, or taking on new hobbies, such as handlettering. When, if not now? That worked quite well. Even though I keep finding myself working on to-do lists and always wanting to do the work before I enjoy my hobbies, I’ve come to practice them a lot more this year. Certainly more is always possible, but I’m pretty satisfied.
🗹 Lots of exercise, e.g. Yoga, Hiking,…
In addition to crafty offline hobbies, I also decided to practice yoga more regularly and to stay outside in nature and to hike, for example.
Since I couldn’t afford to go to one of the many yoga studios in the area, I chose yoga at home. I have rediscovered the love of yoga and often relax wiht it every day. This is really good for my soul and my body (especially my back)!
As far as hiking is concerned, I’ve been hiking a lot more than usual, but walking is much better than hiking on mountains. Somehow I’m not into mountains that much. Could also be due to my anxiety of heights/falling. But there are really beautiful cliff paths or trails through national parks, that we can highly recommend!
🗹 Get out into the fresh air enjoying nature as much as possible
We definitely stuck to this intent. Even though it wasn’t uncommon to be just inside on rainy days, we were so much out in the open air and in nature as we only had been in our childhood. When going outside the door is synonymous with going out into nature, it’s not that hard to stick to it, though. 😉 Our house is surrounded by pure natur on three sides – green meadows full of cows and goats. In addition, a large lawn lot where we often played hurling (Irish hockey-like sport) or just sat outside in the summer, whether to eat or to work. In addition, the Atlantic isn’t far away and still invites us weekly for a walk along the beach. Not to forget our numerous excursions, which lead us into the beautiful, varied nature of Irelandagain and again.
☐ Find a part-time Job
Although we see this year as a break, we were aware that we would certainly need a further income (in addition to my income from my home office job for my employer in Berlin) at some point. At least I decided to look for a part-time job after about half a year, so I sent out lots of applications, hung notices, asked around.
Well, what should I say? Not all points from the list can be checked off. I only received an answer to my applications in exceptional cases and if so, it was negative. Why this is, can only be speculated. My guess is that as an Irish employer, you’d better hire an Irishman or women who will surely stay there instead of a German “immigrant” who will soon be gone again. Maybe it was also because of my gender or my professional field, for which there is no great demand in the country side. Who knows?
While it didn’t work for me at all, I wrote only two applications with/for Falk out of desperation and he got a job directly. And not a part- but a full-time job! Not necessarily as planned … But when does life ever go according to plan? Falk recently said humorously, that on his bucket list actually only one thing has been standing: Don’t work for a year. And he was NOT able to check off this point… Poor Falk! But actually he doesn’t think it’s that bad. The work is mostly fun for him, he has relaxed working hours and nice colleagues, has a lot of freedom of decision and the opportunity to expand his skills.
I would’ve liked that too, but it’s okay. It won’t be that long until we’re back.
🗹 Don’t pressure myself & be happy
I admit, an ambitious and difficult point on my bucket list. Because as a perfectionist, pondering person who has very high expectations of herself and is even her greatest critic, it’s not easy not to be pressured and just to be happy. Nobody is completely happy just because he has fulfilled his dream of a year abroad and from time to time it still hasn’t been easy for me not to be pressured by myself or someone else. Especially when it comes to finding a job or friends, it hasn’t been easy for me to accept things as they are. I had much higher expectations in these areas, which unfortunately couldn’t be fulfilled.
But even with everyday tasks (there they are again, the to-do lists!) I often couldn’t turn off being German. However, I can argue that I can be a bit calmer with setbacks, unfulfilled expectations, or simply things that go awry in my life or put you under pressure. The Irish way of life has taught me that not always everything has to be done immediately and perfectly and that it’s okay to make mistakes or nothing at all sometimes. Still, I am me and can’t get out of my skin. You can’t get rid of some features or habits no matter where you live!
In any case, I have become happier here in many areas, be it in the partnership, in terms of the many nature and fresh air or in terms of time for me. My stress level is so low here – I can’t remember when I’ve ever been so little stressed. I’m not saying that I don’t bother with trivialities sometimes or that I still don’t worry about anything but my soul is definitely better off here. I hope I can take some of this inner balance back to Germany and that I don’t let myself throw off so fast there!
🗹 Eat good and enjoy Life
Here we are already at the last point of my Ireland Bucket List. Especially at the beginning and when friends or family visited, we really spoiled ourselves here. Constantly eating out, toasting almost every night. No calories were counted, we simply enjoyed ourselves! That was quickly noticeable on the scales. As I’ve heard several times, that’s quite normal in a year abroad, though. I would say: checked off. 😉
Yeah, that were the 15 points on my bucket list for Ireland. I had them smeared on the back of a bill at the beginning of moving into our Irish cottage because I didn’t have another sheet of paper (which is why I copied it neatly into my travel journal). During the year it was lying in my bedside drawer, without me having taken another look at it. So I didn’t really remember what I had written down. Honestly, I was a bit scared to get it out again because I thought I was too ambitious and wasn’t able to check off much really. To my surprise that’s not the case! I have achieved almost everything that I’ve wanted and planned for this year. I can be a little bit proud of myself, even if not everything worked out the way I had planned. 🙂
I’m interested to know if I’m the only one who wrote such a bucket list, or if there are other people who love to write lists and tick them off? What’s on your personal bucket list, whether for life or for a stay abroad? And did you have such positive experiences with it as well? I’m happy about your opinions and comments!
Verena (& Falk)