Be The Change You Wish To See In Tourists With Large Cameras
When we arrived in Dublin, our program directors, Aoife and Martin, told us the first two weeks we were allowed to be tourists. To take numerous pictures of the city, stare aimlessly at maps from the tourism shop, and travel in large packs that made us seem like a scared, American mob. After that phase we were expected to behave more like locals and attempt to become one with the people of Dublin. Aside from the linguistic challenges that presented, we were faced with the task of accepting a couple of truths.
1. Just because you’re carrying a large camera, doesn’t mean you have to be obnoxious.
Having a compulsive need to document your travels does not give you a right to become oblivious to the regular citizens trying to go about their lives. I feel biased about this one because I experience it in my hometown, Chicago, quite often. If you see something you want to take a picture of, walk quickly ahead of your group, move to the side where you are not blocking anyone’s path, then take your picture. As a personal preference, I sling my camera across my body and tuck it under my arm when I’m not using it. It doesn’t totally camouflage your foreign identity, but I believe it makes you seem more distinguished in your adopted country.
(With friends at Dublin Castle)
2. Relaxing is for the weak, at least at the beginning.
Downtime may seem desirable after the stress of moving to a different country, but it is not always the best thing at the beginning of your trip abroad. It gives your mind time to wander, possibly inducing homesick-ness while depriving you of the bonding experience others will be having while trying to ignore it. It easy to relax into your uncomfortable dorm bed and kickback while your new friends go enjoy the city. Beware of the thoughts that tell you to take time for yourself, fight them off and forge on. Without this thought process, I would not have gone to the Dublin Castle, the Wicklow mountains, Kilkenny, and to the Causey Farm all in one weekend. I’m sure there will come a time soon where relaxing won’t fill me with guilt and fear of missing out, but sadly I am not there yet.
(An authentic Irish farmer and his Iphone at Causey Farm)
3. Don’t go to Temple Bar.
Or do, but deny that you were there if anyone Irish asks what you did last night. Temple Bar is the only place I feel comfortable advertising the fact that I’m American, because everyone there already expects you to be naive. In that radius, feel free to wear your fraternity letters, American flag backpack (my roommate purchased an American flag backpack the third day we got here, we’re friends so I’m allowed to make fun of him), and perpetuate as many stereotypes as possible.
(Tim and I at the Wicklow Gap)
In my short time in Ireland, I’ve been in awe of its beauty and by the people that inhabit it. Almost everyone I’ve met has been more than willing to assist me with whatever I’m in need of. At the end of my exchange with the Irish Customs officer I asked, “Am I good?” The officer smiled, handed my passport back to me and replied, “As far as I’m aware.” The Irish manage to be helpful yet not overly earnest, which in my eyes makes them trustworthy.
As far as natural beauty goes, Dublin is in close proximity to scenery I’ve only dreamt about or seen in movies. I mean that literally, the county Wicklow is featured in numerous films and Daniel Day Lewis lives there, which counts for something. Hollywood, a town inside of Wicklow, has a makeshift Hollywood sign that was erected by a local farmer. Our tour director said he reckoned it could have been made a bit bigger.
(Nice day for a walk in the park, Kilkenny)