This blog entry is about open arms. Or, rather, about the truest meaning of being welcomed with genuine, sincere, honest hospitality.
I flew from Edinburgh, Scotland to Dublin, Ireland late on Sunday evening. Hands down, Europe runs circles around North America when it comes to ease of transportation. I’ve already blogged about how enjoyable the trains are. Planes too… discount airfare is REALLY actually cheap. There are many discount carriers, all competing to fly you around Europe cheaper than their competitor. It’s actually crazy: my ticket [from Ryanair] was free. Yes, FREE. Certain flights booked at certain times have zero fare charge, I presume to fill the plane. I only paid tax, which came to about 23 Euros. Wow.
Near midnight, I crossed over the sea to the fabled island of leprechauns and four-leaf clovers (oh, and Guinness… that’s a fable unto itself…)
And, I quickly found that even greater than the country’s many charms was the mind-blowing hospitality of my hosts Izabella and Sabina. Furthermore (as I will write in upcoming blogs), their spirit of welcome proved to be a consistent trait among my hosts throughout the rest of my time touring Europe. This was the point where I was transitioning from backpacking around England and Scotland solo to staying with family and friends.
And I couldn’t believe what an open reception I had.
See, I had never met my hosts Izabella and Sabina before [they are first cousin-in-laws once removed (or something like that) from Poland who went to Ireland to work, study and live], and it was only through family I have in Canada telling them I was visiting Ireland that they probably first learned who I was, and immediately suggested that I come stay with them as part of my Europe travels.
This same scenario [someone tells someone I’m visiting Europe and they invite me to stay with them] repeated itself a few times, and suddenly I went from visiting Europe completely solo to bouncing around between generous hosts in Ireland, France, Poland and Netherlands.
So, by visiting (or, rather, by LIVING WITH) relatives and friends on the other side of the world, I learned the truest meaning of welcome. I quickly discovered how wonderfully true the stories of other travelers were: that when staying (as opposed to simply visiting) others in their homes/their countries, you reach an entirely different level of how much you learn about them/their country/their cities/their customs/their foods/their drinks. They open their arms to you, their homes and really open themselves.
So, while the last little bit of traveling solo on my own whims was really enjoyable and a great transition from life on the ship, staying with hosts added in the dimension of hospitality.
And with that hospitality, it will come as no surprise, that staying with local hosts affords a traveler a different and deeper perspective than a tourist can get. As much as I relish exploring on my own and the fascination of what I stumble upon in a new city, you just can’t see things the way that locals do.
In Ireland, Izabella and Sabina immediately acquainted me with their favourite parts of Dublin. The hustle and bustle of downtown’s Grafton Street area, the calm of St. Stephen’s Green. Sabina met me after work and took me by train down the coast to the seaside village of Bray and up Bray’s Head peak for an incredible vista of Dublin and the rolling Irish countryside in the distance. There’s no chance I would have found something as special as that on my own – proving the value of local hosts yet again.
I’ll sum up by saying that by far the greatest value of local hosts is when it comes to discovering the coolest places to go in the evening. Izabella and Sabina started me off with the oldest pub of all: Dublin’s Brazen Head.
And yes, EVERYONE in the bar was drinking Guinness. Everyone.