This one is to Paul, the man on my flight from Philadelphia who told me all about his time in Toronto and how amazing it was, ironically reminding me from the very start how great the place I come from is.
To Aaron, the Australian who took me out for beers my first night in Dublin to make sure that I didn’t fall asleep too early.
To the two Mexican girls in my room who moved to Ireland to study English for a year and taught me about bravery.
To the yellow lines on the road being near the curb and the white ones in the centre, and to all the drivers who didn’t hit me (but probably should have) when I couldn’t figure it out.
To prawn cocktail, roast beef, and goat’s cheese crisps.
To Paul Creane and the Changing Band who made my time in Kilkenny a blast, with a special shout out to Dodo for telling me about what Ireland is like from his point of view.
To the castle ruins, cathedrals, and cobblestone roads.
To Trinity College and its library, that fucking library and the way it just ripped my heart out in the best way.
To Kristina, who came along at just the right time and allowed me to be homesick along side of her.
To the hostel in Killarney, the brilliant people I met there, and the amazing scenery that surrounded it.
To Kevin, the Belgian boy who was just as smitten with Ireland as I was and who shared my love of philosophy, personal libraries, beer, and reminded me how much fun dancing with someone is. Also for showing me that sometimes, people still are chivalrous and walk you home at the end of the night, kiss your hand, and send you on your way.
To Galway and its amazing food, the musical perfection in its bars, and its ability to make everyone fall in love with it.
To Derry and its walls and not shying away from its history, no matter how tough it is to talk about.
To Marshal, the Canadian boy who helped me discover my love for toast and tea as an after-bar snack, who played the chords on his guitar and sung while I strummed mindlessly, who taught me that people still hitchhike, people still love great music, and Canadians are as fantastic as I remembered.
To Belfast and its architecture, murals, walls, and remaining struggles.
To the ancient tombs, artwork, and artifacts that I was somehow allowed to see, touch, and learn about.
To the cafes that always had a scone and personal pot of tea waiting for me when I needed a place to regroup after chilly rain or learning about something that made my heart jump.
To eggs not being refrigerated and authentic Italian or Chinese food always coming with a side of chips.
To the boy from Houston who has been to the Beale Street Music Festival for the last four years and made me smile for more reasons than he’d ever know by talking about it.
To Margaret, the woman at the bar last night from Newcastle, England that made me feel right at home and hugged me when she and her husband left.
To the pubs filled with dancing, singing, and laughing and the perfectly poured pints, all of which you never want to end.
To meeting strangers who become friends and at some point teach you that saying “goodbye” isn’t all that hard – you just have to say it and go.
To finding your heart and learning how to be alone and love it.
To the men who fought, loved, died, and dreamed for this country, and to all the people who have kept their legacy alive so that people like me could learn about them and from them.
To everyone I love back home who let me go, likely more reluctantly than they let on, and who never once stopped supporting me, loving me, and kept their confidence when mine wavered.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
There will never be enough ways to say it.
I’m coming home.