20 years later

Twenty years ago I arrived in Galway, Ireland for a semester of study abroad. A small group of us went to Ireland from my University and we brought a professor with us. We lived in student housing about a kilometer from the school and two kilometers from the center of town. We had lots of trips around Ireland and at the end of our semester we were handed a 10 day Euro rail pass to backpack around Europe. It was a most amazing semester. I have so many memories of travels, of Ireland, and of Galway even more specifically.

I was twenty years old and turned 21 while abroad. I dyed my hair purplish while there (the top picture is in the midst of dying it again with the help of my flatmates). I had bronchitis many times while there but it didn’t keep me from experiencing as much as I could. I remember late nights in pubs and traveling to a new town every once in a while where people are welcoming and friendly. I had two classes at National University of Ireland Galway and had to take two classes that our professor who we brought taught and we had some weekend excursions where he would teach us as well. I ate fish and chips from the best place in the center of town and loved to wander the city of Galway. I had my fav coffeeshops and cafes, bookshops and places to get treats.

After my retreat at Corrymeela, I returned to Galway for a few days last week. It was a flashback into a time I loved and while I could see that some things never change, it was fun to go back with a more adult lens and see what was changing as well. I chose a cute little hotel near the center of town this time and found pubs I loved, places I went to, and found new coffeeshops since my fav one closed just last year. I took a walking tour just because and another day long tour out to the Cliffs of Moher. When I took the walking tour the tour guide had worked at my fav coffeeshop so we reminisced together and that felt fun. I hung out with some older Irish guys in a pub one night while listening to music and an American couple the next night while listening to more. I ate fish and chips at the same place I loved when I was 20 but also found another new local spot that served me the best seafood ever.

It felt important, maybe as important as spending time at Corrymeela to reflect and listen, to touch base in Galway again. As a new life is about to join us in just two short months, it is good for me to remember some of what I loved in that place and where I found some of my independence as a young adult.

Ana and I have been talking about how people were surprised that I was traveling alone and while I wished Ana had been part of this trip some of the time, it felt good to have my own experience and to reinforce the person that I am. To have that space. It is something important for us plus to miss each other every once in a while is kind of nice too. It is then all the sweeter to return back home to where she and the dogs are waiting to welcome me in.

20 years later and some of it felt exactly the same and yet I have changed and so has the city in some ways. There are some new structures and it felt smaller returning as a 41 year old. I used to remember the walk from our village housing to the center being forever and this time it felt pretty close to walk from the campus back into the center. I didn’t walk out to our housing because it was renovated and while we lived in Corrib village, our life happened in the rest of Galway.

Where are the spaces you have returned? What did it feel like? Did you revisit transformative places? Was it important?

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