Brendan Farrell is The Wandering Irishman who is currently traveling all over South America. You can follow his wanderings at his blog Strolling Notions: www.StrollingNotions.irish
As I write this I am sitting in a house in El Tigrito, Venezuela. It is a beautiful country, despite its current economic and political troubles. The weather is always hot, the food is always delicious, and the landscapes are absolutely astounding.
Three months ago, I was in Peru, planning my departure after having travelled from city to jungle to city again. I went from being a tourist to teaching English in a remote mountainside school, then working at an animal reservation in the Peruvian Amazon.
Before that, I was in a small town named Sant Feliu de Codines just outside of Barcelona. A classic Mediterranean place; olives and chorizo coupled with wine and sun — the kind of serene tranquility that is difficult to find anywhere else.
Next week I will be in Bogota, Colombia, and who knows what will happen there?
My name is Brendan, and I am a wandering Irishman.
You can go anywhere on this planet, and if you look hard enough, you will find someone from Ireland. I can guarantee that some of you reading this now were born in Ireland, while many others of you have Irish descendants.
The Great Famine in the 1800s was what first drove us spread across the globe in such large numbers, though that initial exodus was the result and cause of so many deaths, with millions dying of starvation, and more still dying on the appropriately named Coffin Ships, while trying so desperately to find a better life.
Yet even today, in the modern thriving country that Ireland has become, her people still leave their homes and country in search of something; maybe not searching for something better anymore, but at least something different, something adventurous.
There are Irish communities all over this planet, from New York City to Hawaii to Australia, and I think that is a wonderful thing.
It is a testament to the Irish spirit, the fact that no matter where we go on this planet, we can make a home for ourselves, and not just be content, but thrive and grow.
There is a phrase I am quite fond of repeating, it goes like this: there are 4.6 million people in Ireland, but there are 10 million people of Irish descent on this planet.
I cannot speak to the truth of this, but it appeals to my sense of national pride nonetheless.
I often wonder why I began to travel, what it was that finally made me take that all-important first step towards something extraordinary.
Sometimes I think maybe it was the nine-to-five routine that was beginning to grate on me, but then I realize I had a job I enjoyed. Perhaps it was the Irish weather, but then I realize one of my favourite things is the sound of rain.
Perhaps it’s the fear that one day I would wake and realize I had no more time left to fulfill all those promises I’d made to myself, that I would be condemned to mediocrity.
I like to think, though, that I travel for one very simple reason.
I travel because I am Irish.
I believe we have a wandering soul, an inherent desire to see the world; such a small country can’t hold characters as big as us, so we move. We move and we make friends and see new places; and everywhere we go, there is a smile and welcome waiting for us.
Some of us might not hear our wandering soul, or some of us might choose to ignore it, but it is always there.
When I left Ireland, I expected that at some point I would suffer from culture shock, or begin to sorely miss my country and home, but something strange occurred — this never happened.
I would love to see my family again as soon as I can, but instead of missing them, I look on the memories and experiences of my home with a certain sense of nostalgia and a smile. No matter where I go or how long I am away, I will always have those memories, I will always have my family, and I will always be Irish.
This is the kind of mindset that encourages traveling, remembering that wherever you are, home is always home; and I like to think that this is an intrinsic part of the Irish mind, an aspect of our culture and people that clearly defines us for who we are.
I am fiercely proud of my country and my heritage, and no matter where I go or who I meet or what I do, I take a piece of Ireland with me always.
So remember, wherever you are or wherever you’re from, be proud.
And the next time you meet someone from Ireland, give them a smile and a welcome.