When I Travel I Don’t Magically Become a Perfect Person

“When I die I want to decompose in a barrel of porter and have it served in all the pubs in Dublin.” J.P. Donleavy

Still reaping profit from sales from his 1955 novel, The Ginger Man, at 87 years old, Donleavy lives a secluded life on his beef cattle farm in Ireland’s County Westmeath. You can read more about what he’s up to in the Irish countryside in this article from the New York Times.


James Joyce also claims lasting ties to Dublin: “When I die, Dublin will be written in my heart,” Joyce wrote.


In my Irish language class I learned that Dublin comes from two irish words, dubh which means black and linn which is pool. Like many other place names in Irish, the name refers to a geographic marker. In case of residents in the 1100s, the defining marker of their settlement was dark pool of water in front of the Viking’s Dublin Castle where the Poddle Stream met the River Liffey. Thus, the name “Darkpool” was born! Since then, Dublin has adopted a more modern name, Baile Áth Cliath, which means the “town of the ford of the hurdles.” This tributes the convergence of four of the country’s major rivers where a wood arched structure of some sort emerged from the water at low tide.


When I went to Dublin this past weekend, none of these historical or literary associations were even remotely close to being in my brain. I went to the city to find fun at an Alt-J concert and go to a few pubs with friends. I think this is how a lot of people approach studying abroad, especially American students studying in Europe.

Steps for Traveling Appropriately

1. Read your guide books well.

2. List your top 100 places to visit before you kick the bucket.

3. Jet to Europe

3. Go see lots of those places and do fun things in them.

3. Take pictures and post them on Facebook/Twitter/your choice of social media.

4. Tell everyone at home how much more perfect your life is wherever you are.

5. Experience and destroy all feelings of discomfort, disconnection or apathy.

Why do we do this?? There are real challenges that come with traveling which a lot of people (myself included) like to sweep under the carpet. I don’t want to knock the bucket list either. I’m in the process of crafting one now! And there is nothing wrong with wanting to see the world either. There is so much beautiful and good in the world to experience. I think the problem comes with a certain mindset about traveling. If we are traveling only to consume views of foriegn landscapes and capture them as emblems of our happiness in those places, then we will travel so that we will remain the same. But if we travel more deeply and more wholly, we can acknowlege that we are imperfect and improving as we move through new places and meet new people.


If anyone has further thoughts on this subject, let me know. It’s something I’m trying to work out as I’m living it–like all things I guess!




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