A Trip with Irish Friends

Edinburgh has been on my bucket list of Mitchell-year travel destinations for a while, and I realized a few weeks ago that a three-day gap I had during the first week of UCD’s spring break would be the perfect opportunity to visit. Mitchell friends and pre-Mitchell-year friends who happen to be in Europe this year were unavailable, and I decided to ask some friends in my master’s program if they wanted to go with me. Our friendship had thus far consisted of an active What’s App group-chat and semi-frequent gatherings, but we had never spent an extended amount of time together, so I was excited when they accepted. We all arrived in Edinburgh with no firm plans (very unlike my normal travel style), and I quickly threw together a Google Doc with a robust list of recommendations from the internet in an effort to make the most of our 2.5 days. It quickly became clear, though, that nobody else shared my expectation that we’d be able to see everything in our short visit. Our time was instead spent fitting in what we could and completing activities without the pressure of a ticking clock, enjoying each other’s company over drinks and very long and delicious meals, and learning and joking about all of the similarities and differences between American and Irish (and Scottish!) culture. It was really special to explore and observe a city with history so relevant to Ireland, because I absorbed far more context from concomitant discussions with my Irish friends than I would have otherwise. 

On our last night, we returned to our AirBnb to grab our bags before heading back into city center for a guided Edinburgh Vaults ghost tour. We were already running a bit late and realized we had missed the bus that would have given us a bit more wiggle room for the 6pm tour. I checked to see when the next bus was coming and began frantically doing the mental math: wait time for the bus + time on the bus + walking distance from the bus stop to our destination. I expressed with concern and some mild panic that we were going to be late (the tour cost €17 and I didn’t want to miss its departure!). Luckily, my maps app had only showed one bus option and another arrived earlier than expected, but I could tell my Irish friends were a bit perplexed and put off by my (unnecessary) alarm. We caught the bus, walked fast, made it to the tour spot at 6:01pm, and enjoyed the next 75 minutes spent underground (for those interested: the ghost portion was extremely cheesy, but it was still cool to see the remains of the old city). 

Despite my effort to, for lack of a more formal phrase, chill out about things like this during my Mitchell year, I clearly have some work to do. While my limited experience is far from a robust or representative sample, the Irish seem to rarely get worked up over things like this. I’m not sure if this is due to a trust in things working out or an understanding that it will be okay even if they don’t—or perhaps a bit of both—but the experience served as a good reminder to try and adopt the same mindset for the next several months, and hopefully in the time after I leave this island as well.

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

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