A month has come and gone since my last post, and for that, I’m very sorry. I find that when I’m doing a hefty amount of traveling, I can’t seem to settle down long enough to post anything of worth. That being said, the obvious reason for my disappearance was that I’ve spent the better part of the last thirty days traveling. At this point, I’m sure you’re imagining me in exotic locals, like the colorful markets of Morocco or the storybook streets of Germany. Yet, I was somewhere much more special: with family and friends in the United States of America.
The first stop on my American road trip was Detroit, Michigan to visit my sister, Melissa. I’d never been to Detroit, so having this handy tour guide was a must. Melissa lives in an area called Birmingham that is so full of charm and suburban wonder that the Detroit stereotype seems much more imagined than reality. The reality is that Detroit is a struggling city, but areas like Birmingham make up for it. While I was there, my cousin Dan came in town to visit, I met Melissa’s boyfriend, and I just relaxed as much as possible. We had a great time introducing me to true Detroit culture.
While in Detroit, I made the short trip to Saline to see my Aunt Jen, Uncle Phil, and my cousins Maggie and Jack. They only live about an hour from Melissa, so she’s lucky enough to get to spend loads of time with them on a regular basis. It had been at least two years since I’d seen them, so I went out to catch Maggie and Jack’s soccer games and to hang out at their house for a visit. Melissa joined us for most of the day, during which time we spent most of the time playing Taboo outside on the deck. The next day, my Aunt Jen took me to Ann Arbor to see the University of Michigan and to have lunch. It was really special to get to spend some extra time with all of them, even if I would be seeing them again later in the week. After two days in Saline, though, it was back to Detroit to spend a couple more days with Mel before the next leg of our journey.
From Detroit, Melissa and I traveled to Arizona to see my cousin Katie get married. And we weren’t just spectators – we were bridesmaids! Katie’s immediate family lived in Dallas when we did, and all of the kids are close in age. So we spent many weekends getting into trouble with our awesome cousins. Fast forward to the present day, one of us getting married, and all of us there to take part. The wedding was held in Sedona at an amazing resort called L’Auberge. From breakfasts outside along the creek bed, to the stunning backdrop during the ceremony itself, this was a wedding not to be forgotten anytime soon. Every single detail was planned to perfection and by the time she walked down the aisle, Katie looked as stunning as any bride could get. There was a great amount of joy and love in the air, from sentimental and hilarious speeches to time well spent with family. My favorite moment during the weekend? A moment that lasted a few hours – getting ready with all of the girls. And I mean ALL of the girls. Katie invited all of the women to stop by during the day, so aunts and cousins and grandmothers and friends flooded the room, creating such wonderful memories all day.
After a whirlwind weekend, I was off to Dallas. I wanted to extend my trip to visit with my immediate family a little longer and to see my Dallas friends. I may go months without seeing some of these people, but when we do get together, it’s like nothing has changed. For instance, while playing Catch Phrase with a group of about fifteen friends at a Mexican brunch on Sunday at the end of the weekend, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia. I can’t count how many times in college that my friends and I would slowly wake on a weekend, gather together, and find food to replenish our energy, whether it be at Pei Wei or The Diner or some other greasy joint. There is also nothing like hanging around the house with my parents during the summer, swimming in our backyard pool, and popping down to the McKinney Square for a burger or bowl of pasta. That is what home should feel like: familiar and comfortable.
Alas, my time in Texas came to a close and the last leg of the journey was upon me. As excited as I was to continue my travels and see Matt after three weeks, I was overwhelmed with sadness to leave. Yet the show must go on, and the final leg of the trip was New York City. This wasn’t originally part of the plan, but when I’ll Have Another won the Kentucky Derby and then the Preakness, Matt was adamant that we travel to the Belmont to see the Triple Crown race. While Triple Crown hopes disappeared with the sudden injury of I’ll Have Another (and I must say, this made for a very upset boyfriend), we made the best of the weekend and enjoyed New York and the Belmont for what they had to offer. We saw Times Square and strolled through Central Park. I took a ride on the merry-go-round and we had a beer while watching the motorized boats on the lake. We walked down Madison Avenue and did a bit of window-shopping, ate some pretty incredible food both evenings, had lunch in Battery Park and went to the 9/11 Memorial. This last activity took my breath away and was quite sobering, especially when we came across a family mourning the loss of a victim. One cannot truly put into words the feeling of being at Ground Zero.
As for the Belmont itself, the crowd was still rather large considering it was no longer a Triple Crown race. We bet the races leading up to the big event, and Matt (the horse racing guru) won a lot. The big race was exciting nonetheless, with a last-second victory by Union Rags. The weather was perfect – just slightly overcast so that there was a continuous breeze, keeping the temperatures down and the enjoyment up. On Sunday, Matt flew back to London, followed by me on Monday, and together we finished the journey to Gibraltar on Tuesday.
While I’m happy to be back with Matt and at work again, there’s really nothing quite like going home again. When you move abroad you make new friends, create a home for yourself, and do everything possible to create a normal world in which you can feel happy living. However, new experiences and new places do not replace the friends and family back home, rather they add to your happiness. The same could be said after I left Ireland and the friends and “family” I created there. I try not to think of it as leaving behind anymore, but instead, making anew. That being said, I don’t forget where I come from or the people that have impacted my life along the way, so going home – whether it be Dublin, Dallas, Cincinnati, Norman, Indianapolis, etc. – means reconnecting with those that I love and the country I’m proud to be from.