Friday, November 24, 2017

"No, Victoria, They Do Not Celebrate Thanksgiving in Ireland."

"No, Victoria. They do not celebrate Thanksgiving in Ireland."

This is my oft-quoted response to many of my American friends who are convinced the entire world celebrates Thanksgiving. But they don't. Particularly in Ireland.

Thanksgiving is an uniquely North American affair- a day of gratitude born from the sweat of a new nation. Yet many Americans - and Canadians too in that both countries celebrate their own holiday - continue to believe Thanksgiving is marked globally.

Yet despite the distance, this day-of-days continues to be one of my favorites. And as an immigrant gone now for over 35 years, it is one that I miss most deeply. I miss it for its (usual) simplicity; for its lack of commercialization that has hijacked other holidays such as Christmas; because it is a day of family - of overeating, over-loving, and perhaps too many football games. 

In my posts I have often remarked that the life of an immigrant can be a daunting one. If you're thinking of uprooting your life, do remember that you'll be leaving behind many of the threads that form your cultural tapestry.

Thanksgiving is only one of them.

Yet You Can Still Celebrate the Day

Yet here in Ireland, far from my nation's shores, I find that re-creating this day - while not completely satisfactory - can be done. In fact, many American immigrants I know work hard to celebrate Thanksgiving as they would back home. 

Yes, the Irish raise Turkeys. Lots of 'em. Which means getting your hands on a large feathered friend is quite easy. Stuffing might be a bit different - some ingredients you treasure may not be readily available here. But we do have bread here, and sage and thyme, and the good ingredients that make up the basics for great turkey dressing so who's to know the difference except you?

Yes you can get Yams here. But never ask for a Yam. In Ireland they're known as Sweet Potatoes and they're abundantly available. The country is, of course, also chock-full of Spuds so basic carbohydrates to fill a Thanksgiving (Irish style) dinner plate will never be a problem. And yes, they sell cranberry sauce in many stores (cranberry is loved by Irish folk at Christmas time and it's usually in-stock by the fourth week of November).

Appropriate pies can be a bit of a problem. Libby's Pumpkin Pie filling is not easily available (though some specialist shops stock them in Dublin). But apple pie can suffice just as well, if not better, and we've piles and piles of cooking apples available in store.

Coming up with a Traditional North American Thanksgiving Dinner is, therefore, not a real problem. In fact, the Irish eat pretty much the same meal at Christmas. (Which means, of course, that if you've a mind to, you can have Thanksgiving Dinner twice in Ireland: once on the day itself, and again at Christmas. What a bonus we immigrants enjoy here!)

And yet - some elements of the holiday can be sorely lacking.

No, you won't see the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade (NBC, which broadcasts the Parade, simply is not available at least not as part of my Sky Cable package). While you can catch parts of it over the Internet, NBC does not stream it in its entirety in real time on this side of the pond, and even if you try to access it, you can't for legal reasons. (There's a work-around if you use certain secure IP infrastructure but often it's a pain).

No, you won't be able to see your favorite football games, though you may catch highlights a few days later, and well after you've digested your turkey.

But most importantly: no, your North American relatives and friends will not, in all probability, be paying a visit (unless they've chosen to fly in especially for the day). This can be a source of great sadness because after all, Thanksgiving is about family. You can, of course, fly over to see them. But it's not exactly like climbing into your erstwhile Jalopy to go visit Grandma a few hours away. Distance can bring heartache to immigrants, particularly on a day like Thanksgiving.

And yet: the American immigrants I know in Ireland - including yours truly - do our level best to keep the day. Most of us, anyway. We do so because, no matter how long we've been in Ireland, we are at heart still American or Canadian. We do it because we treasure the memories of years gone by when we were 'midst loved ones in our own countries.

We do it to keep this tradition alive, and we do our best to hand it down to our Irish-American kids and grandkids.

So no, Victoria. Ireland does not celebrate Thanksgiving. But on the fourth Thursday of November, tucked away in cities, towns, and villages country-wide, you'll find those that do. And they celebrate the day with the same sense of thankfulness and gratitude that those in North America do.

And perhaps our celebration resonates on an even deeper level. Because like the original Pilgrims, we too are recent immigrants. We too have had to discover new ways to survive. We too are thankful that we've somehow managed to safely make the crossing.

After all, Thanksgiving was originally celebrated by immigrants as a way of expressing gratitude for life in a new country. In Ireland, those of us who are immigrants do the very same thing.

Happy Thanksgiving.


If this blog interests you and you want to learn more about Ireland why not consider purchasing A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland 2017 Edition. Are you thinking about living and working in Ireland? Would you like to move to Ireland? Do you want to know how to get an Irish work visa in this country? Do you need to know how Brexit and Trump policies may affect your plans? If so, consider purchasing the 2017 edition of A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland by Tom Richards. Now almost 90,000 words long, this book could make the perfect gift for  those interested in this wonderful country. Over 14,000 people have now learned how to live, laugh, and drink like the Irish by reading this Kindle ebook. I hope you enjoy, and my very best - Tom

Monday, October 9, 2017

Just in Time for Trick or Treat: The Ancient Irish Festival of Samhain, the Origin of Halloween

Carved Turnip -
a Jack-o'-Lantern Irish style
Recently, a dear American friend of mine - a wonderful woman who also happens to be absolutely crackers about all things Halloween - sent me a puzzling question. She asked:

"Tom, do you have Halloween in Ireland?"

I had to laugh. Not only do the Irish celebrate Halloween - in fact Halloween has its very origins in ancient Irish lore and pagan practices. So, for my friend Jackie and all who love Halloween, below find a bit of a primer on this spooky holiday, its origins in Ireland, and how the Irish celebrate it today.

The Gaelic Festival of Samhain

Let's go back, shall we, before the Celtic Tiger, before Irish Independence. Back to the day of the ancient Celts approximately 2,000 years ago. In those days the peoples of the world hoped to explain the inexplicable with a variety of traditions. As the days turned darker, the ancient folk of Ireland had much to celebrate but also much to fear. They celebrated a good harvest knowing it meant survival during the winter months. But they also dreaded the long nights following Equinox when the division between day and night was at its thinnest.

During this season of Samhain, dreaded spirits as well as the souls of the departed could pass through from the Netherworld into the present world threatening ancient Irish peoples with all sorts of mischief and mayhem. While the Irish invited the ghosts of their ancestors home to be honoured, they did what they could to ward off the evil ones, hoping their actions would protect them from harm.

The ancient Irish donned costumes to confuse the spirits.They lit massive bonfires to light the darkness and cleanse the air from terrorising ghosts that populated the night. During the Festival of Samhain - the feast of the dead - malevolent spirits were appeased with gifts. Those who did not offer such sacrifice were sure to be visited with bad luck in the coming year. 

During this time of darkness, this close divisional boundary between the worlds of the dead and the living, and almost any boundary, was deemed dangerous. People avoided crossroads and even the boundaries to their neighbour's land. During this time, devilish magic was also at hand. Should an Irishman visit a graveyard and walk three times around a plot they may be given a vision of the future but risk being captured by the Dark Spirit. Similarly, a woman looking in a mirror might see the man she would eventually marry but could also be caught up in the claws of darkness.

With the rise of Catholicism in Ireland, the Church - hoping to absorb pagan traditions - made this period of Samhain its own. Today, All Hallows Day (now known as All Saints Day) is celebrated on November 1st. All Souls Day closely follows on November 2nd. Both days honour the dead - a reflection of ancient times.

Fortunately, many of the traditions and customs of the Festival of Samhain have been incorporated into the contemporary version of Halloween which many enjoy to this day.

An Irish Halloween

Today many of the ancient traditions of Samhain are still practiced in Ireland (and around the world) though few know it. "Trick or Treat" is a modern derivative of the ancient Irish practice of warding off dark spirits with the benefit of gifts. Bonfires are still lit throughout Ireland though today this is usually part of general merriment rather than an attempt to clear the skies of unwanted ghosts.

Yes, the Irish today carve pumpkins though in times recently passed they carved turnips into Jack-o'-Lanters (try it - it's almost impossible due to the dense texture of the turnip but most Irish households did so nonetheless. Pumpkins simply were not available in Ireland until recent times).  

An Irish Bonfire brings light into Halloween darkness
On Halloween night, kids rush through Irish cities, towns and villages, collecting treats from friends and neighbours. Today they wear expensive costumes, much as they do State-side, though when I moved here most people dressed their kids in black bin-bags which had the benefit of being much less expensive but just as fun.

Throughout the day some people try to avoid walking on sidewalk cracks (much as they avoided 'divisions' such as land boundaries in the old days), fearing bad luck. Children will attend Halloween parties. There they will revel in ghost stories and duck for apples. A Halloween Brack (a dense cake) will be served. Hidden within are a variety of treasures.The lucky one who finds a coin will have a year's good luck. If you find a ring then marriage is imminent! 

And at midnight, a few brave and hardy souls will foolishly venture to the graveyard in hopes of welcoming home the ghosts of their dear ancestors while doing all they can to avoid Satan himself.

So to answer Jackie's question: Yes, Jackie, we have Halloween in Ireland. In  fact, your love of this season - this dark division between night and day, and good and evil - is due to the practice of long ago Celts.

As it turns out, if it hadn't been for the Irish there would be no Halloween at all.


If this blog interests you and you want to learn more about Ireland why not consider purchasing A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland 2017 Edition. Are you thinking about living and working in Ireland? Would you like to move to Ireland? Do you want to know how to get an Irish work visa in this country? Do you need to know how Brexit and Trump policies may affect your plans? If so, consider purchasing the 2017 edition of A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland by Tom Richards. Now almost 90,000 words long, this book could make the perfect gift for  those interested in this wonderful country. Over 14,000 people have now learned how to live, laugh, and drink like the Irish by reading this Kindle ebook. I hope you enjoy, and my very best - Tom

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Can You Find Happiness in Ireland? Find Out with The Ireland Happiness Index Quiz

Rather recently - in fact since the results of the last US presidential election were announced as well as the UK's decision to leave the European Union - I've been inundated with reader questions about moving to Ireland. 

"Can I qualify to get a job and live in Ireland, and how?" is possibly the most frequent. This is closely followed by "What are the employment prospects for (enter professional trade or other qualification here)?"; "How do I search for a job in Ireland?"; and "Is Ireland as cheap to live in as I think it is?"

While these are all logical, well-formed questions, no one has ever asked me what I consider to be the most important question of all which happens to be:

"Will I be happy in Ireland, assuming I'm allowed to live and work there?"

That, I think, is a good question. It's one I never bothered posing to myself before moving to this grand country and I suffered a variety of consequences as a result. But if you're truly thinking of moving to Ireland it's a question I hope you'll spend some time considering.

After all: it's one thing to climb on a plane and come over for a visit. Quite another to climb off that plane knowing you've made a life-changing decision.

Will you be happy living in Ireland? Let's find out.

What Makes You Happy

Everyone has a different definition of personal happiness, of course, but oddly I find that few people truly think about it. Or if they do, they rarely write those thoughts down or verbalise their dreams. 

However, what makes you - and all of us - happy will significantly impact on your ability to live the life of an immigrant. Therefore, before you spread your wings, it truly is important to figure out your 'Hierarchy of Needs', as Maslow puts it.

So what makes you tick? What's your personal profile? What, after all, really makes you happy?

Does your life revolve around a particular trade / career path? Does making  a pot full of money matter to you, or are you a "Less is More" kind of person? 

What's your risk quotient? That is, are you fairly conservative when it comes to planning for your future, or are you willing to throw caution to the wind to get what you want?

How old are you meaning: are you a young buck with years stretching in front of you and enough time to make a few mistakes - and recover - if things don't go to plan? 

How material are you? Okay, be honest. How important is it to you to have a big house, a big car, a big - almost everything? Do life's 'little pleasures' make you happy or are you in it for the big payoff?

How flexible are you? Are you willing to do almost anything at all, or does adapting to new and sometimes challenging situations scare you silly?

Do you have kids? Have you considered how a move abroad will affect them?

How important are local relatives and friends? Have you considered how life will be living far away from them?

How important is your local culture / customs / traditions? That is (assuming you're an American, as an example): would you go nuts if you could no longer celebrate Thanksgiving the way you have for years? Would you be willing to adapt a bit? 

How good are you at listening? Do you enjoy listening to learn new things? Are you a quick learner? Are you adaptable, or do you get frustrated and impatient when confronted by something new and unknown?

Having considered the above let's start the quiz.

The Quiz

(Warning: the following quiz is written as a bit of fun and is in no way scientifically constructed. Enjoy it!)


Part 1

Directions: mark each question 1 (do not agree at all) to 5 (highly agree)

1. I have traveled extensively and thoroughly enjoy new peoples and cultures

2. If I left the country of my birth I would be able to cope very well without friends and family

3. While I love the country of my birth I will be able to get along just fine if I move away

4. If I have to pay high taxes it won't bother me, though I'll grouse about it all the time just like everyone else

5. Having a lot of savings in the bank isn't too important to me

6. I'm willing to take a pay cut or adapt my skills to fit new opportunities

7. I'm willing to go back to school / college / university to succeed and survive

8. I'm willing to take huge risks to succeed and survive

9. I'm adaptable. I can fit in with just about anybody and anyone's way of thinking and believing

10. I'm a good listener. I can learn quickly 

11. Though I love what I know about Ireland, I won't be disappointed if I discover when I live there that it's not exactly what I thought it would be

12. I have children and education is a very, very important consideration no matter where I live

13. I've spent a great deal of time researching Ireland: its history, culture, peoples, and opportunities there

14. Right now - right this second - I know what jobs and skill-types are in demand in Ireland

15. I currently have friends and / or family living in Ireland, or I'm married to an Irish citizen

16. I'm the child or grandchild of an Irish citizen

17. I think I am a very, very open-minded person and willing to accept and adapt to change

Finished? Okay, add up your score. Now continue to Part 2:

Part 2

Answer the following questions (and no fair looking at Google for the answers):

A. The Republic of Ireland is a) a politically independent country or b) a principality of Great Britain

B. The Republic of Ireland is composed of how many counties?  a) 10  b) 26  c) 32

C. The Republic of Ireland is a member of the European Union a) Yes b) No

D. The Republic of Ireland is a) more expensive  b) less expensive  to live in than most other European countries

E. The Republic of Ireland is currently experiencing a shortage of homes to buy and homes to rent    a) Yes  b) No

F. The HSE is the government organisation that manages what?  a) Housing  b) Health c) Schools

G. Who is the current Taoiseach of Ireland?  a) Leo Varadkar  b) Charles Haughey  c) Myles Dungun

H. The Republic of Ireland uses which currency?  a) the Irish Punt b) The Irish dollar c) the euro

I. Northern Ireland is part of a) The Republic of Ireland b) Great Britain

J. What is the Republic of Ireland's official language? a) English b) Irish c) both a and b

K. What does Muinteoir mean in English?  a) Men  b) Lavatory c) Teacher

(answers below)

Give yourself 1 point for each correct answer, above. 

Now total all of your scores from Parts 1 & 2. That's your Grand Total Score. Your Irish Happiness Index, if you will. 

Your Results

Frankly, the results don't really matter. All I was trying to do was to get you to simply THINK about what would happen - what you may encounter, experience, and feel - if you moved here. As I've written elsewhere in this Blog, being an immigrant is often a trying, complex, and challenging experience. Moving to Ireland without thinking about it - which is what I did - makes immigration that much more difficult.

In other words: you may have a great deal of trouble simply coping. 

That said: it's decidedly unfair of me to give no guidance on a score. So with that in mind have a look at the following:

Total available points: in total, there are 96 points available. That is, if you gave yourself a maximum of '5' for all questions 1 through 17, and answered all 11 questions correctly, your total would be 96 points. So ... here we go:

Your Score:

80 - 96 points - welcome to the club. You'd be able  to Survive in Ireland  just as I have. That said, if you move here you will still experience occasional periods of doubt, loneliness, and downright insanity. But don't worry! If I did it you can too. After all - I didn't think about my move here. You have! 

50 - 79 points - okay, life is going to be somewhat more troublesome for you if you move to Ireland. You'll be more likely to get homesick. You may not be able to adapt to the country as well or as quickly as you'd like to. You may be troubled by its expensive economy, and grow frustrated by the seeming lack of opportunity into the highest echelons of this country's working environment. Too, you may be unwilling  to take the risks required to survive in Ireland as you'd like. That said - if you're determined to move here I suspect you'll do just fine as long as you work your bloody arse off and keep your nose to the grindstone.

0 - 49 points - Stay home!

Answers to Questions:

A - a
B - b
C - a
D - a
E - a
F - b
G - a
H - c
I - b
J - c
K - c

Discover More
Do you qualify to work and live in Ireland? Find out here.

If this blog interests you and you want to learn more about Ireland why not consider purchasing A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland 2017 Edition. Are you thinking about living and working in Ireland? Would you like to move to Ireland? Do you want to know how to get an Irish work visa in this country? Do you need to know how Brexit and Trump policies may affect your plans? If so, consider purchasing the 2017 edition of A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland by Tom Richards. Now almost 90,000 words long, this book could make the perfect gift for  those interested in this wonderful country. Over 14,000 people have now learned how to live, laugh, and drink like the Irish by reading this Kindle ebook. I hope you enjoy, and my very best - Tom





Thursday, August 24, 2017

Surviving Ireland Longlisted for Ireland Blog Awards 2017. (Did they make a mistake?)

It's not often your erstwhile writer has good news to share of a personal nature. Usually, Posts are confined to How to Survive in Ireland - one way or another. However, on this occasion I'll throw caution to the winds to announce:

The Surviving Ireland Blog has been long-listed for the 2017 V by Very Blog Awards Ireland (by the way: V by Very is a Littlewood's Ireland exclusive clothing brand now sponsoring the awards).

As I understand it, this is a rather big deal because the awards are "the biggest blogger event on the calendar in Ireland." 

And I must say I'm chuffed. Though this is only a Long-list, I know Surviving Ireland has joined some good company. But I can't help wonder if the jury has somehow made a mistake, humble blog that this is.

So here's to the Awards Jury, 

As well as to the almost 150,000 visitors to this Blog - thanks so very much. We could not have achieved this without you. After all, why write if no one's going to read?

With all my best and wishing you a smashingly Surviving Ireland day,

Tom

If this blog interests you and you want to learn more about Ireland why not consider purchasing A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland 2017 Edition. Are you thinking about living and working in Ireland? Would you like to move to Ireland? Do you want to know how to get an Irish work visa in this country? Do you need to know how Brexit and Trump policies may affect your plans? If so, consider purchasing the 2017 edition of A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland by Tom Richards. Now almost 90,000 words long, this book could make the perfect gift for  those interested in this wonderful country. Over 14,000 people have now learned how to live, laugh, and drink like the Irish by reading this Kindle ebook. I hope you enjoy, and my very best - Tom

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Coming to Ireland? Don't Be Trumped.

If you're about to embark on a trip to Ireland, and particularly if you're an American, here's a friendly warning: do not bring the divisiveness currently found in the United States with you. 

Otherwise, you could be Trumped.

Let me explain. This small Post attempts to provide you - as a possible visitor or immigrant to Ireland - some advice on what to say, or not, when you're confronted by Irish people regarding Mr. Trump's present term of office.

What? I hear you say. Why, as an American, would I be confronted about the President? 

Answering that question is rather straightforward. You see, the Irish are by and large political animals. Most love discussing politics. To many, domestic and international politics are a huge game, and bets are placed all the time about who's going to win or not win, who's going to be stripped of office or not, and who's going to find themselves cast into the political wilderness.

Local entertainment, at least to a large extent, consists of political grousing. And grousing includes international politicians, including The Donald. 

And don't think Irish people are politically ignorant or naive. They're not.

Many spend hours reading newspapers and watching television to fully understand the ramifications of policy. And when I say fully I mean exactly that. So if you meet a fellow at the local watering hole dressed in dirty dungarees and clutching a thick pint, and obviously just back from a day in the fields, don't underestimate him. He'll in all likelihood be as politically astute as any Jeopardy contestant. And if you choose to get into a political argument with him know you'll likely lose because he'll know the facts much better than you do.

Assuming you believe in facts. However....

Most Irish have no problem at all expressing their opinion about politics and politicians - particularly if policies affect them. And right now they're gunning for an explanation regarding how Mr T managed to get into office in the first place, much less why he still resides in the White House. 

But why the interest, you might ask?

You see, America has long held a special place in Ireland's spiritual heart. It was - and in some ways still is - held on high as a bastion of freedom and a harbor of safety. During Penal times and the famine, thousands immigrated to the United States not only in hope of a better life, but to simply survive. As the years passed, America continues to represent what is good about democracy to most folks here. The torch of freedom and opportunity held high by Lady Liberty is not just a symbol to the Irish. Rather, most here consider it a promise from the American people which continues to light the world.  

In some ways - perhaps it's because the Irish contributed so much to the development of that great country - the people here have a sense of ownership. On some levels, and if you delve deeply enough, they see America and the values it espouses belonging not just to Americans but to the Irish too. 

Which means that when the light from that lamp is diminished even slightly, some Irish can become annoyed. Very much so.

So. If you are visiting or immigrating to Ireland, be warned. Most people here (not all, of course) do not like Donald Trump. Since the election my Irish friends have thrown the following descriptors at me regarding the man: 

"Arsehole", "Fool and a flagrant liar", "A mighty gobshite," "A fuck-head," "The red-haired monster," "A miscreant," "A flamboyant eejit," "Completely beyond insane."

And these are only some.  Too, many Irish love to point fingers. So if they detect an American accent sitting at a bar stool, for instance, they may instantly zone in. They'll watch you drink your pint, smile sweetly, and pounce.

"Fine weather we're having, isn't it," they might say innocently.

"Sure is," you'll answer bank.

"And can I ask ya something?" they'll continue.

"What's that?" you'll answer. Then you'll be targeted by a pair of scowling eyes and the attack will ensue.

"Did ya vote for that godshite, did ya? How could ye have possibly put that miscreant into office knowing he was as crazy as a half-whipped pup? Do ya not know what ye've done?"

And if you are posed with such a question, consider carefully how you will respond because you could well be on your way to being Trumped. 

The Options

I've watched these small battles between my Irish friends and American visitors who don't realize they may be falling into a trap. Some, of course, choose to be dead honest. If they voted against Mr T they'll say so. In which case they still might be blamed.

"Ah, ye voted against the man, did ya? Now that's fine. But could ye have not convinced the rest of your foolish country to vote along with you? What in be-Jaysus is wrong with you Americans, now tell me that?" And you'll have the pleasure of knowing you're being lumped in with the entire voting population, no matter how you cast your ballot.

In which case you could choose to discuss American politics until midnight, trying to explain why and how the current presidency came to be and no matter how long it takes the Irish person at your elbow will follow your every word because he or she is that interested.

Or... and if you voted for Mr T, you could be just as honest. Now, if that's the route you choose do not fear that you'll be thrown out of a warm establishment. In fact, the Irish person you chat to will seem completely at ease and may even seem to agree with your views. He may even gently goad you into continuing your explanation of supporting the sitting president.

It is only at the end of the conversation you may realize you've been duped. 

"Can I tell ya," he may say, having sat for an hour listening. "I have never spent a more interesting time listening to complete and utter drivel." He'll turn his back on you and you'll have to get used to the knowledge that for at least the next six months, his memory of your conversation will be part of the fabric of pub discussion, often accompanied by a wry shake of the head, laughter, and general derision.

Of course you may not give a damn. But you'll have to come to terms with the fact that you'll be the object of ridicule for an age.

Or... you could do what I advise most to do. If someone asks you about the current president, change the subject instantly. To the weather perhaps. Or the beauty of the village. Or maybe the sight of the setting sun, even if it's not yet two in the afternoon. 

Do anything but talk about Trump.

As I say: most Irish don't like The Donald. They don't want him here. Many wish he'd sell the property interests he has in Ireland and get out (Donald Trump owns a golf course and hotel in County Clare - mind you many folks in Doonbeg seem to love the man). A few months ago, when he announced an impending visit to the Auld Sod ostensibly to see his property, social media was mobbed by Irish objectors. An Anti-Trump group planned to hold rallies to express their displeasure. The Donald responded by cancelling which caused great laughter. Many believed the Bully Boy had finally been censored, and only reinforced local opinion: the man doesn't have a spine.

So by all means do come to Ireland. Enjoy your stay. But be warned: if you choose to talk about Donald Trump be prepared for an Irish blow-back. It's much better, me-thinks, to simply close your mouth and drink your pint. 

Otherwise, you could be Trumped.



If this blog interests you and you want to learn more about Ireland why not consider purchasing A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland 2017 Edition. Are you thinking about living and working in Ireland? Would you like to move to Ireland? Do you want to know how to get an Irish work visa in this country? Do you need to know how Brexit and Trump policies may affect your plans? If so, consider purchasing the 2017 edition of A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland by Tom Richards. Now almost 90,000 words long, this book could make the perfect gift for  those interested in this wonderful country. Over 14,000 people have now learned how to live, laugh, and drink like the Irish by reading this Kindle ebook. I hope you enjoy, and my very best - Tom

Monday, July 31, 2017

Tent Camping in Ireland: A United Nations Experience

Six years ago I was in the kitchen, minding my own business, when a loud persistent knocking came at the front door. Opening it, I found a fellow from County Cork strapped to his trusty bicycle. It was pouring at the time and Mr Corkman looked like a drowned rat. Though it was only late May the wind and rain made it feel like the middle of Winter.

"Would you mind," he said through chattering teeth, "if I camped in your back garden?"

Though we had a large backyard I had never considered such a use for it. But on that occasion his request seemed perfectly reasonable. For you see, at the time in Eyeries the only alternative was to camp along the windswept seaside. Gusts would have instantly blown any normal tent to smithereens.

I agreed instantly. Eventually it stopped raining and I watched with admiration as he set up his simple tent, helped him to push the bicycle into our wooden shed, and invited him to use the shower for a required wash. It was only later as we sat at the outdoor table in the early evening sun that his eyes roved out to the view beyond.

"By God but it is stunning here," he said as he sipped his lager. "Really, you should consider letting other travelers camp here."

My face must have registered surprise because his smile widened. "Why not?" he asked. "I've cycled all over the world. Many families turn their back gardens into campgrounds during the summer months."

Suddenly intrigued I fixed him dinner over the grill. In exchange he offered his advice on this simple idea. One I embraced immediately.

After his departure I had a small sign erected in front of the house which has hung there ever since: Solas Mor Tent Camping. 

Since my evening meal with a Cork stranger, we've been welcoming tent campers from all over the world.

By Land and By Sea

Campers are a different sort of breed, particularly those who come to this remote part of Ireland. It takes a bit of effort to get here, you see, which seems to separate the strong and brave from the other sorts.

Many are hikers. Men, women, boys and girls of all ages troupe along the Beara Way, a long loop of hundreds of kilometers. They end up at our front door sometimes covered with dust and sweat, or soaking wet due to the endless showers. 

Others make it here as did our Corkman: by bicycle. They travel from God knows where across the country, venturing along narrow roads and across high mountain passes to gain access to Beara. Invariably they are exhausted.

Others come by motorcycle or car. Or on a couple of occasions by boat either from across the Bay in County Kerry or from Castletownbere via Dursey Island. These seafarers tie up at the pier close by and hike up the hill to our home.

Whichever way they come, they arrive looking for a rest and some peace and a bit of tender loving care. We're always glad to have them.

An International Melting Pot

We've had campers from all over the world: England, Wales, Scotland; Denmark, Holland, Norway. France, Spain, Germany, and Italy. Hikers and bikers have come from New Zealand, Australia, Israel and Japan. And of course we've had our fair share of visitors from the Americas: the United States, Canada and Mexico.

When the arrive they speak to us sometimes in broken English or with no English at all. We'll point out where to go in the village: where to buy a loaf of bread and a bottle of wine; the two pubs down the street; Mass times on a Sunday. We'll open up our house to them - and often our hearts - and we'll listen to their stories for everyone has a story.

This last weekend we had campers from Holland, France, Denmark, Norway and England. At night they sat out on the back deck and discussed the differences of their countries. They laughed in the darkness as they sought a common ground. We listened to them, did my She and Me, and heard them talk of the growing wariness in Central Europe and their horror of bloodshed and the concerns they have for their futures. Their laughter and sometimes sad chattering blended with the sounds of the surf on distant rocks, and they went to their sleeping bags at peace.

At night we keep the window open in our bedroom, and could hear the soft whispering from their tents as they settled, and were somehow comforted knowing we were not alone.

Stories of the Soul

As I say everyone has a story and at times I marvel at the gifts these visitors - who often leave as friends - give us. Perhaps it is because we are strangers. Or maybe it is simply the peace to be found here. For whatever reasons many choose to share with us. And when they do, they often share deeply.

Two stories come to mind.

The first from an American. A man perhaps my age who, upon arrival, behaved abominably. He was angry and sad and complained bitterly about the rain and Ireland and as far as I could tell about almost anything he set his mind to. He complained so often that She was ready to throw him out.

"If he says one more rotten thing about Ireland," She said, "he can sleep in a hedgerow for all I care. Would you please talk to him?"

And so I did. I pointed out he had become rather a bully and as he took in my words I saw his face crumble and this Man of My Age was almost crying.

"It's my brother," he admitted gravely and I saw his upset and knew there was more. So I got him a bottle of beer and we pulled up a couple of chairs and in the afternoon sun he quietly told me his brother had recently passed away, and I listened to his bitter, grave, grieving reminiscence and how much he loved his brother, and he didn't know any other way to handle his grief except with anger, which he knew was inexcusable.

He apologized. He promised to do better, and I gently reminded him that Eyeries is a place of tranquility and healing, and that peace comes in on the wind and if you let it, it can cleanse your soul. When he left two days later he shook my hand and I saw the beginnings of acceptance in his eyes.

"Thank you," he said and gave me an unexpected hug and I watched him walk away toward a future that I hope held even a bit of joy.

Or another time, and this one a German lad of only eighteen. He was with a crowd of friends, all from the Fatherland, and his shock of blond hair and his interest in history got me asking questions. "Do you mind if I ask," and I paused for a moment, wondering if I was being inappropriate, "but did any of you have ancestors who fought in World War Two?"

Most did, but it was the eighteen-year-old who at first went so very quiet. When I asked him why he told me.

His grandfather had joined the Hitler Youth in the early days of the war, and had been inducted into the German Navy. He served aboard a U-Boat and had been responsible for hundreds if not thousands of Allied deaths, his grandson guessed. 

"Did he survive?" I asked.

"Yes," the young lad said. "And I am so very ashamed of him because he was a warrior for Hitler."

I was astonished at the lad's feelings. We talked more as the sky turned to twilight and I learned  he rarely discussed the war or his grandfather and would never forgive his participation.

"But why?" I countered and reminded him that many Germans fought for their country and therefore for Hitler. I did my best to point out that his grandfather fought in one of the most dangerous branches of the military. Over 70 percent of all German U-Boat crews died during the war. His grandfather survived. 

"I am older than you," I remember saying. "Forgive your grandfather. He was doing what he thought was his duty. He survived unlike so many others. Do not dismiss his memory. Rather, be proud. Remember, his survival meant he was there to raise children. And because of that I can share a beer with you in my back garden on a stunning summer's evening."

The lad looked out at the sinking sun and his eyes were puzzled. "Promise me," I asked. "You no longer need to be ashamed of your Grandfather or what happened to Germany and its people in World War Two. Time has moved on. The world has forgiven. So must you."

I saw him later in the pub. He became very drunk that night. But when he left the next day he solemnly shook my hand.

"I will think of what you said," the young lad said. "Thank you so much for your hospitality - and your kindness for letting me talk."

He did not realise: it was not I who was kind. It was him who had shared a story, a story he long held as a secret, that was the kindness.

The Gifts of Strangers

We have learned so many things, She and Me, from the people who come here to stay with us. We have learned the obvious, of course: people, no matter where they are from, are basically the same. We all experience the same emotions of love and laughter, shame and grief, that gives us a common bond and connection.

We have also learned that everyone holds a story within them, often a narrative that could never be guessed at until they choose to share it with us. And when they do it is a great gift because they also give us their hearts.

Finally, we have learned that Beara, and Eyeries in particular, provides the greatest gift of all. We watch as visitors come to us tired and often spiritually exhausted. We wonder as they leave, often fully refreshed. Often there are tears when they do.

Yesterday, two French women left for home. One, the older of the two, was crying openly as she hugged my She and kissed her on the cheek three times as is her custom. "Merci," the French woman said. "If I could do it we would stay forever."

Often, we wish our visitors could stay forever, too.




If this blog interests you and you want to learn more about Ireland why not consider purchasing A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland 2017 Edition. Are you thinking about living and working in Ireland? Would you like to move to Ireland? Do you want to know how to get an Irish work visa in this country? Do you need to know how Brexit and Trump policies may affect your plans? If so, consider purchasing the 2017 edition of A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland by Tom Richards. Now almost 90,000 words long, this book could make the perfect gift for  those interested in this wonderful country. Over 14,000 people have now learned how to live, laugh, and drink like the Irish by reading this Kindle ebook. I hope you enjoy, and my very best - Tom




Sunday, July 16, 2017

Attention Travel Bloggers! You're All Invited to be a Guest on Seth Freedman's Travel Podcast Series!

Seth Freedman, a Los-Angeles based friend of mine, recently started a travel-sharing social media company, Driftr. Seth is actively seeking Travel Bloggers to participate in his series of Podcasts.  If you've a funny story regarding your travel adventures or an in-depth review of places you've visited, people you've met, and cultural connections you've made, I hope you'll contact Seth: seth@driftr.us

Below, Seth sets out a more detailed description and invitation to all Travel Bloggers to take part in his Podcast series.

Seth's Invitation

My name is Seth Freedman, the founder of Driftr. I’d like to invite you to be a guest on our new Driftr Podcast series. This is a new project aimed at featuring travel stories from Travel Bloggers like you. The podcast will be short form (approx.. 20-30 min) to keep the audience's attention and I will be leading the interviews myself.  

The goal is to not just talk about the best places for travel, or what to do if travelers are in a certain city. Rather, we’d like to get more in depth with the Travel Blogger / Influencer, learn about them, how things got started, hear exciting travel stories, nightmare stories, romance stories etc -  all the things that our audience wants to hear. 

About Driftr


Driftr is a social media travel sharing company dedicated to connecting travelers and giving them a platform to communicate and share information about their vacations, trips, and travels. Driftr members are able to post photos, videos, reviews, travel tips, and advice from their personal experiences and adventures around the world. Members can also recommend their vacations to other members using the application as well as travel groups for group vacations. In addition, members are able to connect with Travel Bloggers / Influencers for travel articles and tips that will help them with their future trips. Driftr will empower Travel Bloggers / Influencers to have further reach and influence within the travel community and beyond.


The purpose of our podcasts is to feature the blogger who are wonderful story tellers. The series will be fun, easy going and entertaining. I would be honored if you would join me. This is a new outlet for us, and we’re excited to provide our audience with unique stories while providing a new platform for bloggers to be heard. 


We are also striving to raise awareness of Driftr as a company and its mission to support and promote the Travel Blogging industry. We are a company for the traveler, by the traveler. I have created a unique profit sharing plan that will allow the blogger community to profit from solely building a following - there is no need for product placement anymore.  It is purely about the journey. Please visit us:  https://driftr.us/updates/we-here-at-driftr/

Are you Interested?
If you are interested in being a Guest on our Podcast I’d like to send you the details of the interview. We can either speak over Skype or,  if you happen to be in LA, we can do it here at The Expert Dojo. As a member, we have access to a recording facility.

Please contact me: seth@driftr.us 


(Please check out our first episode where I interview Tosin Idowu. You can see we had a lot of fun.





Thank you in advance for your time and I look forward to your reply. 

With my very best to all Travel Bloggers - Seth



If this blog interests you and you want to learn more about Ireland why not consider purchasing A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland 2017 Edition. Are you thinking about living and working in Ireland? Would you like to move to Ireland? Do you want to know how to get an Irish work visa in this country? Do you need to know how Brexit and Trump policies may affect your plans? If so, consider purchasing the 2017 edition of A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland by Tom Richards. Now almost 90,000 words long, this book could make the perfect gift for  those interested in this wonderful country. Over 14,000 people have now learned how to live, laugh, and drink like the Irish by reading this Kindle ebook. I hope you enjoy, and my very best - Tom

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Part II: "What Do I Do When I Travel to the Beara Peninsula, Tom?"

Sunset in Eyeries overlooking
Coulagh Bay and the Kerry Mountains
In this second installment of What To Do When Traveling the Beara Peninsula, we leave Allihies for points east and north. Click here if you missed Part I, and travels from Bantry through Castletownbere, and to one of Ireland's most westerly locations.

Having avoided over-imbibing with more than a few pints in Allihies I now recommend you pile yourself and the family back in your rental car and head out. Work your way along the stunning coastal road (being careful of the many hairpin turns on the narrow tarmacadam), and climb the hill leading over the Caha Mountains.

Do take time to stop in the many lay-by's, climb out, and take a long look back. You'll look straight west and with luck and good weather can get another astounding view of the Skellig Islands. Then back in the car you go, take off making sure you avoid the many sheep grazing along the verge of the road, and continue your voyage.

Next stop: the wee little village of Urhan. If you're not the designated driver why not have a sandwich and pint or a cuppa at the Urhan Inn? And while you're at it, just up the road take a right and point the car toward Travara (it's signed). You'll find a great pier there, and if you bring along a rod or even a bit of twine, the kids can spend an hour or so fishing for crabs in Coulaugh Bay. 

Next, continue heading east along the northern coast of Beara. If you're an artist or writer, perhaps you'd like to spend a day - or week - with Sue at Anam Cara Writer's And Artist's Retreat. Sue, another transplant from the States, is a marvel. She refurbished a stunning bungalow into a haven for the creative sort who come from all over the world to work on a variety of projects. While at Sue's place, walk down to the Cascades, an impressive waterfall and rock scramble that's a joy to behold. If you're in luck you can join local kids diving from the top of the rocky keep into the lagoon nestled at its base, but I'm chicken so will just watch, if that's all right with you.

Keep driving and when you finally run out of runway turn left onto the main Kenmare / Castletownbere Road, and look for a large bright sign pointing to:

Eyeries. My home village, I hope you'll understand if I'm rather opinioinated. This small village is picture-postcard-perfect. So much so that its colourful Main Street features in many marketing communications created by Ireland's Tourist Board, Bord Failte.  

With only 60 or so souls living within its confines, Eyeries is built on a bluff overlooking Coulagh Bay and the Wild Atlantic Ocean beyond. If you're very fortunate, you'll visit in the 3rd week of July. That's when we hold our annual Eyeries Family Summer Festival, a time of general merrymaking a mayhem. Over 3,000 people visit the village and the Festival Committee has organised events for all ages - everything from fishing along the shore to dog grooming contests. On Sunday the place goes crazy as stalls filled with fine crafts and fine food line the street, and live music blares from our two public houses.

Want a pint? Take a stroll into Causkey's Bar or nearby Mary O'Shea's. If you want something more I can only recommend The Bistro. She and me have enjoyed any number of fine meals there. Try the Fish and Chips - it's a specialty. I don't know what they do, but the golden brown batter always crackles wonderfully to expose the soft white haddock or cod lying like a fishy secret within. And their Fish Chowder is absolutely to die for. 

Tuckered from your stroll in Eyeries, you have some choices to make. 

A. Take a Walk Along the Beara Way: the Beara Way is an extensive loop trail running 206km through county's Cork and Kerry. In this case, I'm only talking about a 45 minute stroll. You start on the Village Main Street and head toward the sea. The well-marked trail takes you along the rocky shore where you might be lucky to see seals or dolphins. It's an easy stroll and the kids will enjoy it too. Perhaps bring a packed lunch and make an hour or two of it. The walk loops back to the Village and your waiting car. Oh - and while you're at it, spend a bit of time in the Eyeries Sensory Garden. Nestled deep beside a surging stream, this is just the location for a light snack and some peace and quiet 'midst stunning vegetation. 

B. Journey Along the Coast to Ardgroom: or rather than a walk climb in the car and continue west along the Main Street. This leads you to the small harbour of Ballycrovane and past the tallest Ogham stone in Western Europe. Take in the Hag of Beara, the legendary fossilised remains of an ancient saint, and continue on to Kilcatherine Church and Cemetery, ancient monastic ruins dating back to the 7th Century. Next, drive all the way out to Kilcatherine Point and perhaps fish for mackerel and pollack off the rocks.

Continue your drive around the point, and finish in Ardgroom.

C. Journey Directly to Ardgroom: or if you'd rather the more direct route, leave Eyeries and venture on the High Road directly to the small village of Ardgroom. Perhaps visit the nearby megalithic monuments or drive up to Glenbeg Lake and try your hand at fly fishing for trout.

The coast along here is ideal for fishing, swimming, and kayaking. If swimming, I strongly recommend a wet suite (my but the water does get cold even in Summer!) though the locals possibly feel I've no backbone to speak of. 

However you get to Ardgroom keep on going to:

Lauragh: you're now in County Kerry, and this wee spot is so small it's not even a village. But in this neck of the woods, the landscape becomes exactly that: dense forests. Keep your eyes open for the colourful display of non-indigenous Rhododendrun bushes. Though many call them a nuisance, in season they fill the forests with colour. Too, watch for deer in the area and slow down accordingly. Getting hit by one of Bambi's relatives is an accident to avoid. Near Lauragh stop in Derreen House and its breathtaking gardens, or travel a bit further on to Tousist and nearby Kilmacillogue Harbour. There, on the pier, have a bite to eat at its guest house Teddy O'Sullivan's Bar. We've eaten there a number of times. The bar is so old-fashioned it takes you back in time, while the welcome is just as old and as genuine.

Continue on up, up the steep gradient to the top of the hill. Watch out for the hair pin turn, then descend back toward the water and travel now along Kenmare Bay. If the kids are getting bored tell them an adventure is approaching because I recommend a stop at:

Star Outdoors Kenmare: this is great fun for all the family because they offer everything from cruises in Kenmare Bay to water activities including sailing and kayaking. If you're not up to the water try archery, biking, or crazy golf. And if you're hungry make sure you have a nibble and a drink in the adjoining bar and restaurant. Once again, we've eaten there a number of times. The food is priced right, of great standard, and comes with a smiling staff as a free extra.

Next stop is Kenmare Town itself which means you've finally finished your trip around Beara Peninsula. Honestly, there are so many things to do and see - so many adventures to experience - I've not written the half of it. Beara Peninsula remains in many ways undiscovered. It is a breathtaking gem along Ireland's southwest periphery. It is beautiful, haunting, isolated, sometimes lonely, and always honest. 

I recommend it. Come!



If this blog interests you and you want to learn more about Ireland why not consider purchasing A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland 2017 Edition. Are you thinking about living and working in Ireland? Would you like to move to Ireland? Do you want to know how to get an Irish work visa in this country? Do you need to know how Brexit and Trump policies may affect your plans? If so, consider purchasing the 2017 edition of A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland by Tom Richards. Now almost 90,000 words long, this book could make the perfect gift for  those interested in this wonderful country. Over 14,000 people have now learned how to live, laugh, and drink like the Irish by reading this Kindle ebook. I hope you enjoy, and my very best - Tom