When our family visited Ireland for the first time 3 years ago, Hannah, Erin & I were stopped on a street in North Dublin by a rather rough looking guy (we tried to ignore him the first time he called us, but he started yelling louder, ‘Hey, come here.‘). He came up to us and said, “You are clearly not from around here. You should not be walking in this area. It is too dangerous.” He then directed us toward another part of town.
My first thought was that he was sending us to a spot where he’d phone his friends and have them waiting for us. However, he reminded me of a good friend from back in the States, so we took his advice & ended up on O’Connell Street.
Now, I look and sound American. But my kids could pass for Irish-looking at least. And I’m pretty sure he didn’t hear us talking, yet he knew “we weren’t from around here.”
Three years later, now that we are living in Dublin (and recognise that we were someplace we shouldn’t have been), I’m amazed at how easy it is to ‘spot the tourists.’ Now there are a few obvious things that anyone could tell ‘that person is a tourist.’
- Wearing cameras around their neck.
- Wearing those belt packs tourist wear (trust me, never ever call them ‘fanny packs’ if you are here in Ireland.)
- Wearing silly hats, or Dublin shirts. (People who live in Dublin don’t wear clothes that say Dublin unless they are for a GAA team.
- Standing on a street looking at a map.
(We weren’t doing any of those things.)
The one thing that might not seem as obvious, but really does stand out is how people walk down the street.
People who live here tend to walk like people in most large cities. Head down, fast-paced (I think they might be faster here than in NYC), and they seem like they are on their way someplace.
Tourists not only walk more slowly, but they look around a lot. They notice interesting items around them and often point them out to others in their family who are also taking everything in.
It reminded me of a family vacation in California about a decade ago. We were driving to San Francisco from Anaheim following the Vineyard USA’s national conference.
Along the way, we kept stopping to take a few moments and look at the amazing scenery. And as we did, I noticed all the traffic that went by seemingly oblivious to what was all around them.
Then it hit me that where we lived in the Finger Lakes Region of NY was one of the most beautiful areas in the country, yet I, like most people there drive around focused more on how many red lights I happen to catch and the driver ahead of me who just cut me off.
Back to the tourist thing in Dublin, it brought home to me how easy it is for us to get caught up in the daily grind of life…and miss out on the wonder and beauty all around me. To have life going so fast, that I don’t even stop to ask “what is the Father doing here?”
I think it also makes it far more difficult to be grateful when we fail to see the things that once made us fall in love with where we live.
I made an effort after that trip to California to do a better job noticing what is going on around me…One of the things I’m wanting to see more of this next year is an ability to stop. Whatever I’m doing. Wherever I am. Life is much more enjoyable when I do.
What do you love about where you live?