Inhaling a breath of fresh air and a tuft of sheep’s hair was all I needed to feel at home. Surrounded by ovine oddness — goats running amok, sheep searching for milk, dogs herding stubborn sheep searching for milk — I was instantly invested in the wildlife and ecology of the area. So much so that I was able to overlook the ear-piercing bleats and unpleasant smells; shearing a sheep is an intensive process. Prepare your finest galoshes and raincoats, because the sheer odor will give you plenty of memories to reminisce on.
My trip across Ireland in the summer of 2019 connected me with the essence and livelihood of amazing local people descended from similar ancestry as myself, and led me to recognize the impact of an environment on culture.
It’s no secret that Ireland receives significant amounts of rainfall, but I had always considered rain to be an impediment to travel plans and events. Beachgoers pray for sunshine and feel they’ve been cut short when thunderstorms strike. But in Ireland, unpredictable and tumultuous weather is merely the way of life. There is never bad weather — just bad clothes. So we donned our ponchos, traveled to local pubs, and inhaled the scent of fresh rain. Sometimes, we danced in it, too. Although rain occurs everywhere at some point in time, the frequency and severity of weather events varies by location, and it was fascinating to see how different cities adapt to their conditions.
Driving cross-country, I stared out the window to fixate on the stunningly green landscapes and open pastures. The purest air coursing through my lungs, and wind through my unruly locks of hair. Four seasons in one day: shivering rain at 8 AM, sixty degrees with clouds at 10 AM, sunshine at noon, and breezy, cool air at 2. Every breath was a temporary snapshot, disappearing with an exhale right back into the vibrant flora of the Earth.
Sometimes, the best souvenirs can’t return home with you. They remain as mental images, some even video replays of the intricate traditions and culture you cherish long after the airplane or car brings you home.
Visiting the most memorable parts of a city doesn’t just mean the beautiful ones. I worried for the sheep I visited on the coast, and how rising water levels would impact their food sources or mating patterns. The rain and warmth I was surprised to experience are only exponentially increasing with global warming. For more people to understand the urgency of our climate crisis, we may seek to increase exposure to different environments and cultures.
Through a week-long trek through the island, I connected with the animals and people on a level impossible through a picture or screen. Interactive, live experiences are integral to education and taught me the value of global citizenship — especially as it relates to protecting animals and remote communities. We have the power to learn, merely by moving.
Written by Lindsay McBride for the World Is A Classroom essay contest. Lindsay is in the 11th grade at the Academy of Notre Dame in Villanova, Pennsylvania.
Photo Courtesy of Lindsay McBride.