I always have trouble deciding what to pack. I continually drift between wanting to pack nothing more than a t-shirt and toothbrush that I could throw into a cartoon red and white picnic cloth bag at the end of a stick, and wanting to pack every material possession I have, which no bag could hold, even if Mary Poppins let me borrow that cheeky bag of hers.
And now — I have to pack for a month-long trip to Ireland?
It’s a daunting task to say the least.
What should make the cut? Should I bring that non-fiction tome of a book that goes on every trip, with the assumption that this will finally be the trip I read it? Do I dare to pack those tiny toiletries I stole from the hotel bathroom? Better not risk that one — can’t have the officials knowing about my act of thievery.
Maybe I’m overthinking it.
Regardless, I cannot wait to get going. I’ll admit, I’ve hyped myself up for it. The “Ireland in Pictures” calendar, the maps of Ireland travel guide, the Google Maps bookmarks of the landmarks, eateries and pubs- it’s becoming a bit much. But I can’t help myself.
As far as I know, I am the first of my family to go back to Ireland since we immigrated to Chicago in the 20th Century. In the hundred years that followed, much of our distinctive “Irish-ness” has been diluted. Now, my only real ties to Ireland are in my name. My last name, McCarthy, is commonplace in many Irish homes today. And my first name, Bailey, is commonplace in many Irish coffees today.
My position is one shared with many Americans today. Upwards of 35 million Americans identify with their Irish heritage, and the Irish diaspora in the United States remains one of the strongest in the nation. Something about the Irish story lingers with people, and compels people to connect with their Irish roots, regardless of how distant they may be.
And that brings me to what I’m really looking forward to.
In every high school heritage project, I have called myself Irish. When asked about my ancestry, I’m always quick to say Irish. And when people comment on the distinct “Irish-ness” of my name, I always feel a swelling of pride.
And now, here is a chance to do more than just have a label — to have actual experiences and interactions that are absolutely and concretely Irish.
I hope I have a chance to convey this experience, and write about my time in Ireland. I hope to faithfully describe my impressions in a way that is entertaining and relatable.
If nothing else, I hope departure day comes soon. Because in the end, I would forgo the packing process entirely and depart empty-handed, if only to leave even a single day earlier.
Ireland, I’ll be seeing you soon.