freedom found in ireland

To travel. To live. To experience. To be freed from everyday life, to let go.
I hope and pray each of you know you deserve those liberties.
This life is so short. I long to live every second of it. I am tired of leading a life that is restricted.
I am free. You are free.
This semester I have truly learned the importance of freedom.
In the city I am captive. To society, to the constant restraints that goes along with living out of my element. Despite this I have found my way, my secret places of joy and peace. I have found my nature in a cold, dark city. To me, all cities are dark for they are devoid of the freedom that nature brings. As wonderful as cities can be, eventually they all blend together. At the core all cities are the same. Though I am so thankful for all the opportunities I have had to travel and explore Europe, my home is in the wilderness, where I am free, where I am connected to God, earth, and to myself. The last six days have been my escape, my freedom, my revival, as I have been in the nature filled country of Ireland. Last semester my university group and I had an educational field trip in Sicily which I previously wrote about. This semester, our educational trip was going to be to Turkey. However, by some twist of fate the trip was changed to a visit to Ireland.

I have always longed to visit Ireland and to see her beautiful untouched green landscapes. I did not, however, know how much this trip would impact me.
From the moment I stepped off of the airplane, I was in love with Ireland.
I became enthralled with the true untouched beauty of the earth in the country.
Though I had quite a busy itinerary, I feel more at peace than I have in months.
Being in the city (Florence) has drained me of life and health in many ways. I have been struggling with various health issues this entire year I have been abroad. Yet, when in nature my spirit is given life and a sunny, peaceful glow. My trip to Ireland has been so special since I have been able to ground myself and allow nature to heal me.

While in Ireland I explored Dublin, Clonmacnoise, the Athlone Castle, the Connemara region, the Kylemore Abbey, the Glenloe Abbey, the Cliffs of Moher (Burren region), and Glendalough in the Wicklow Mountains. We also visited Trinity College and this morning I took a trip to the Guinness beer factory here in Dublin. I am so blessed to have been given the opportunity to have all of these special experiences and I will not take this gift for granted.
My favorite moments in Ireland were the simple ones.
Like climbing a tree and taking the freshness of the wooded region that surrounded the Kylemore Abbey. Or sharing a deep, meaningful conversation with my sweet friend Julia as we hiked around the Cliffs of Moher as a rainbow kissed the beautiful, cool, damp sky. Visiting the cliffs was so special as well. The beauty was overwhelming and fantastic. Everything just seemed right and the earth seemed so happy which gave my soul so much peace. Another memory I will cherish was the stunning hike in Glendalough with Jaqueline and Julia. I am so thankful for my sweet friends, they are so precious to me. I am also thankful for the beautiful drives we took through the countryside, especially through the rocky, untouched Burren region. With green, uneven, rocky lands grazing sheep, costal views and soft sunlight, I was in constant awe as we drove through the majestic land towards the Cliffs of Moher.
The beauty I beheld as I looked out at the countryside as we drove by rolling hills, sweet grazing sheep and small, quaint homes was something I will remember and cherish forever.

There is something about Ireland, something special. It’s not the cities or lights that makes Ireland so special, instead it’s her simplicity.
It’s the sweet countryside, the adorable cobblestone streets of Dublin, the fun, lively pubs, the loving people, the great culture, all of it come together and make the country such a wonderful place. I am determined to return to Ireland someday and live there for a time in my life. For it would be a dream to live in a country that seems so untouched, wild and free.
The beauty of the country does not end at the scenic landscapes but reveals itself in the hearts of the people here as well. The love that is so freely given here is so unique and unlike anything I have ever experienced.
What I love the most about Ireland is that the Irish people are not only kind to other people but also compassionate and loving towards animals. The driver of the coach bus that my group was transported in throughout this trip even spoke to me about his love and respect for animals. He (John) told me about a sweet donkey sanctuary in Cork and he claimed that ‘nearly everyone in Cork is a vegetarian’. This high value for animal life is refreshing and it warms my soul. Who knows maybe someday I will volunteer at the sanctuary with the sweet donkeys. I sure hope I will be given the opportunity to do so at some point in time.
My time in Ireland was a dream. A happy, lovely dream.
Though I didn’t find a leprechaun, I did find my freedom and so much overflowing joy. I hope you too can find the freedom that I feel and I hope that you too can experience the beauty that Ireland has to offer.
Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.

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navarra

Throughout my travels in Spain thus far I have been traveling through Basque Country, in Navarra. Here is a brief history on the region:
Navarra, a French and Spanish influenced culture, is a mountainous region in the northeast region of Spain. The main languages of this region are Spanish and Basque. This region of Spain has various small medieval villages, is mountainous, has various valleys, vineyards, and many green pasture areas. Navarra used to be controlled by the Roman Empire and thus was originally inhabited by the Vascones, mostly in the northern mountainous regions like the Pyrenees. The Vascones, a pre-Roman tribe, have definitely left their romanesque mark throughout the region.
One can see the Vascone’s impact in many of the Roman-influenced buildings and aqueducts throughout Navarra. Historically, the southern region of Navarra is a place that various Muslims resided in. The Muslim’s conquest in Spain was in 711 AD, the Christians, however, over the next 700 years worked on pushing the Muslims out of Spain in the Spanish Reconquest. Pamplona is now the region’s capital and this city played a large role in the Reconquest of Spain. Pamplona is now famous for the Running of the Bulls, a festival that takes place in the city streets. Passing through Pamplona was so interesting, especially knowing that authors including Hemingway once walked the same streets in Spain.
There are many medieval villages, castles, and fortresses throughout Navarra because of Navarra’s location. As a border of France, Navarra has various monumental buildings and defenses, however, many of these buildings were destroyed in various fights, including the Spanish Reconquest. The Kingdom of Navarra is considered to be one of the most historically Christian regions in Spain. Navarra’s culture is extremely diverse. From Navarra’s famous wine to their midday naps called siestas, their bull runs in Pamplona, and their various religious carnivals and holidays, this all contributes to Navarra’s unique French and Spanish influenced society.
In meeting various individuals from Navarra I have found that they are kind, generous, and hospitable individuals. For example, when I lost in Pamplona on the Camino various kind individuals took the time to guide me in the correct direction. Even the locals in the small towns that I passed through when walking on the Camino would never fail to smile and wish me a “Buen Camino”.
I definitely noticed that Navarra is extremely different than Madrid. Madrid, a large, somewhat modern city was not as intimate as quaint, scenic Navarra. Though the individuals I met in Madrid were kind, those throughout Navarra seemed to be more laid back and approachable. In Madrid, the culture of late nights, loud noises, and tapas was overwhelming for me, and can be contrasted to Navarra’s beautiful mountain ranges, quiet countrysides, and high quality wine and food. I loved the time spent in Madrid, but it was too fast paced for me, the small medieval towns, mountains, rolling hills, and fields of Navarra are more desirable to me. The time spent in Navarra was wonderful and I cannot wait to return to this gorgeous region of Spain in the future. Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and Love.