One of the moments that impacted me the most from our trip to the West was a conversation I had with an old man in a pub on the Aran Islands. He told me in a coarse but animated voice, “You know what I find funny? When my pal came over and took a tour a few years ago he came back and said, ‘when you come over to Galway I’ll be sure to show you around our graveyards.’ You guys come all the way over here and we show you the graveyard! HA!” I left this conversation feeling puzzled, how could he not care about the rich history from which he lives? I speculated over my confusion on the ferry. Being a tourist is like being a kid again, you notice the small things and revel in the history of a place in a way you could not at home. I am interested in his home and culture because it is different from my own, and he is not because it is what he has always known.
There are so many pieces that differ in the norms of cultures around the world and they all fascinate us differently. The one most powerful experience that I believe captivates everyone without bias is nature. We all feel the immense splendor and humbling power of nature standing atop the cliffs of Moher. There is a moment of stillness in your mind when you face such a scale of space and beauty; you simply re-set for a moment and realize the insignificance of your problems. I found it hard to fully register the beauty, bombarded by cameras and friends. This made me think back to being a tourist: the enchantment behind tourism is that you are free to explore while at home you are full of obligations that deaden your senses to each moment. The camera’s and chatter amounted to a dulling of my experience until I was able to get away and simply sit. My favorite experience in Ireland so far has not been the nightlife, tours, or laughs with new friends; it was those few minutes that I took for myself sitting atop the cliffs of Moher.
– Erin Silver Wheeler