My favorite thing about Europe is that there is always an opportunity to escape.
As much as I have grown to love Dublin with all its charming streets and friendly faces, it can be overwhelming. At home in Michigan, I don’t live in a big city, and quite frankly, I’ve never had any desire to. I like the comfort of my small town, where I’ve never had to worry about sidewalks clogged with large crowds. There’s a certain serenity to small towns, and while it has been an amazing experience to live somewhere so different, I have sometimes found myself desperate for change.
My program is reaching its halfway point, meaning that this past weekend was the start of our midwinter break. A few weeks ago, I felt an urge to escape the city and be in nature, so I booked an overnight trip to Killarney National Park for the start of break. In the weeks to come, I started to regret the decision, thinking that I should have taken the time to finish some work in Dublin or should have booked my trip for a weekend when the weather forecast wasn’t predicting torrential downpour. Thankfully, I still went, and the only thing I wound up regretting was that I didn’t have more time there.
Killarney was the perfect place to remind myself how to breathe. It’s so easy to get caught in the bustle of a city, feeling the need to constantly be on the move, head clogged by the noise. In the middle of the woods, that pressure disappears.
There’s something about the forest that is so cleansing. Mossy trees tower above lakes, nature trails, and waterfalls. The air is clear. The smell is fresh. There’s the constant sound of birds chirping softly and water gurgling down a stream. The park is large enough that you could explore for weeks, getting lost in the winding natural paths of the forest. Looking out at the misty mountains and the rolling waves of the lake, every view seems more beautiful than the last.
The greatest piece of advice I could give to anyone feeling a bit overwhelmed while studying abroad is to change your environment. If you find yourself stuck in the same routine, try something different, even if just for a day. If you’re like me and you can feel trapped by the city, leave it. Go see the natural beauty that places like Killarney have to offer.
Though I’m back in Dublin now, mentally I’m still at the top of Torc Mountain, and that makes everything seem a bit more peaceful.