The thick of night had settled and there was heavy snow falling. The location was Munich and the mission was to scale a medieval castle tower. The team included three fellow Scholars, our adventure tour guide, and a man we’ll refer to as “John” (although “John” is actually the boyfriend of a Mitchell Scholar, you can imagine that we picked him up off the street for added dramatization). We entered the castle armed with a headlamp, some thick jackets, and a serious craving for exploration. After pushing through several empty rooms and passing a rather unimpressive jewel case, we made it to the lower tower shaft. Up we went. Circular staircases turned into ladders and, eventually, our group climbed through a trap door and out onto the roof. It was snowing heavily as we celebrated our mission accomplished with a round of hot chocolate provided by the tour guide.
The next day our small group of explorers parted ways as we all had different Christmas plans. I caught an evening train from Munich to my mother’s hometown in southern Bavaria. Two weeks I spent in Kempten visiting my grandparents, skiing the Alps, and perfecting my Bavarian accent. My German vacation did not, however, take me completely away from Ireland. During my stay, I managed to watch both Michael Flatley’s new production Celtic Tiger and an hour-long Irish travel documentary. New Year’s Eve was celebrated with my 88-year-old grandmother before flying back to Dublin on the first of January.
One of the things that I really enjoy about Ireland is its mild temperature. Germany was frigid and always well below freezing. Stepping off the plane in Ireland was a warm welcome home at two degrees Celsius. After returning to Dublin, I kept myself busy with several academic projects and continuing work on my startup company.
Yesterday, I flew into southern Portugal where I am taking a short surf holiday. The surf shack I am staying at is in the very southwest corner of the country and boasts some of Europe’s best surf. Prices are down as it’s not the high season, but the waves are actually much better over the winter. I booked for a half-week and fly back on Wednesday, leaving myself plenty of time to prepare for Friday classes. Once again, I have found some Irish connections while traveling abroad. Two of the girls at this surf camp are from Ireland and we watched the surf video Step into Liquid that features about half an hour of surf footage from Donegal Bay.
While it’s great that my academic schedule gives me quite a bit of traveling flexibility, it’s not all fun and vacation for me. I usually spend several hours daily working on schoolwork and my startup business even when traveling. I’m always back in Dublin over the weekends and have been happy both with my fire safety program and MBA classes.
In the next month, I’m looking forward to seeing much more of the Irish countryside. I’m hoping to surf some areas near Cork and on the west coast of Ireland. Donegal Bay has some of the best Irish surf, but might be a bit above my level. March has in store both a week of SCUBA diving in Galway with the Trinity Diving Club and a trip to Belfast with the Mitchell Program. Long-term plans include a bike trip around the Emerald Isle and an expedition to Africa over the summer.