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Monday, July 31, 2017

The five best things about living back in Ireland

What I once took for granted, I now see with new eyes since moving home from Sydney

Elaine Doyle in Co Cork: ‘Living away from Ireland has given me a new appreciation for my country.’

Leaving Australia for good has been like a relationship breakup that hasn’t ended on bad terms. There is a sense of loss that’s hard to explain.

The decision to leave amazing job opportunities, a decent salary, good friends and endless sunshine in Sydney behind after five years was difficult. But something was missing for the last year. Perhaps it's my age, but the longing for family and friends started to mean more to me than anything else. I wanted to be around people who have known me for a long time. As many of my friends have moved home already, the constantly changing social network was getting tiring. Missing family weddings and funerals was becoming too much.

As a counsellor, I always ask clients what support networks they have in their life. I began to ask myself that question, and realised my network wasn’t where I needed it to be. Or, more to the point, I wasn’t where it was.
When I finally made the decision to move home a few months ago, I did it because I knew I had to listen to my gut instinct. I was homesick, and no number of sunset walks could ever fix that.

Mount Leinster, Co Carlow at sunset.
Many of the Irish friends I had over there had already moved home and had very positive experiences, which has helped pave the way back for me too. I have tried to surround myself with these people, and avoid listening to the negative experiences, especially online. It’s important to be aware of the difficulties you could potentially face, but obsessing about these issues is not helpful for me.
From talking to these friends, and based on my own experiences since I’ve moved home, here are my top five most positive things about being back in Ireland:

1. When the sun is shining there is no place I would rather be. I recently spent a few days down in Kerry and Cork when the weather was good. I’ve travelled a lot, but Kerry is still one of my favourite places in the world, because of its food, the music, the mountains and some of the best beaches I’ve ever seen.

Coomenoole Beach in Dingle, Co Kerry.
Living away from Ireland has given me a new appreciation for my country. What I once took for granted, I now see with new eyes. While driving around Slea Head Drive in Dingle and the Wild Atlantic Way, one of the longest coastal drives in the world, I realised I’ve travelled to the other side of the world to see sights like this, and here they are right here in my home country. Even when the sun wasn’t out, I found the landscape breathtaking.

Sunset at Dungarvan Harbour.
Other road trips I’ve done since moving home include cycling the Greenway in Waterford with my mother, a scenic cycle route along an old railway line with gorgeous coastal, river and forrest views. That night we watched one of the nicest sunsets I’ve ever seen at Dungarvan harbour. I am so excited to keep discovering this wonderful country. There is an endless amount of adventures and experiences to be had, and I cant wait to see more; rain, hail or sunshine.

The Greenway, Co Waterford.
2. Being able to escape to a sunny destination in Europe when the rain becomes too much. After living in Australia, it’s a real novelty to be able to hop on a cheap flight to anywhere in Europe and be immersed in a different culture, new foods and sunny weather. Last month I was in Monaco in France and a small mountain village called Eze, and a few hours later I was back home in my bed in Ireland. I plan to do weekend vacations in Europe as often as I can.

Eze village near Nice, France.
3. Being surrounded by family. My family are right beside me when I’ve difficult decisions to make, and the happiness I can see in them since I moved home is priceless. Last month I got to spend my birthday with my family for the first time in four years. This month I threw a party for my fathers 60th birthday. I am so lucky and happy that I get to do these things now instead of missing out. For me, life is too short to spend it away from the people you love the most. Yesterday I spent a rainy day with my grandmother baking Irish soda bread and listening to her talk about how glad she is that I’ve moved home. Bliss.

Inch Beach, Co Kerry.
4. Being around old friends. Luckily, most of my friends are now back in Ireland, or never left at all. I love being back around friends I’ve known for years, who know me really well. As much as I enjoy meeting new people, the warm fuzzy feeling I get around old friends is hard to beat. Last week I got a wedding invitation from a friend and it feels great to know I can accept the invite without having to fly half way across the world.

5. Irish people, ‘the craic’, the Irish sense of humour. I have travelled to more than 30 countries and have friends from many different cultures, but for me, nothing beats the Irish. Perhaps I had to travel the world to realise this. One of the most important things in life I’ve realised is to be able to laugh and have fun, and who better at that than the Irish. A friend who I lived with in Perth now living in Clare expressed her appreciation for the sense of caring from Irish people, their easy going nature, and the sense of community.

Slea Head Drive, Dingle, Co Kerry.
I also have a new profound love for Irish culture. The food, the music, the history, and - being from Kilkenny - GAA. Last month I went to the semi-final of the Leinster senior championship with my Dad and brother, and was so excited to be supporting Kilkenny. The electric atmosphere at a hurling match is something I have missed.
While down in Kerry recently we went to O’ Conners Pub in Killarney where six musicians were playing some of the best traditional Irish music I have ever heard. Any time I listened to Irish music in Australia I felt sick to my stomach with homesicknesses, and on this night I just felt pure happiness.

Sunset at Killarney National Park, Co Kerry.
Some of my happiest experiences in the last few weeks have revolved around food. Eating seafood chowder overlooking the ocean in Ardmore in Waterford, fish and chips at the pier in Dingle, or pub grub at Mary Barry’s Bar in Kilmore in Wexford, which was voted the best Gastro Pub Food in Leinster this year, are among the highlights.
I understand that moving back can be very daunting. The decision to leave your life and career, and having to start all over again can be too much for some. But for me, my priority is to be closer to my family, and with that comes different challenges, but once I keep reminding myself why I’m doing it, these fade away.

As I have said to others, you have to do what’s right for you. For me, the right thing was moving home.
By Elaine Doyle