Retiring to Ireland is an age-old dream. We all want to spend our old age drinking tea in a thatched cottage in Killarney, taking breaks only to stroll along the fresh Irish landscape. But I made the move from Brooklyn to Dublin at 23 years of age – the formative years – and it was the best decision I ever made.
It’s been over a year, and I’m still met with questions on either end. To friends and family on the island of New York, my move seemed random or extreme. To Dubliners it seemed nuts. Why would you leave your cozy spot in the center of it all to settle in a tiny city on an island where you’re basically anonymous?
I wasn’t totally sure what would happen when I got here, but I never doubted that Dublin would catch me and help me to find what I was looking for. I had the time of my life studying abroad here in college; but while I was aware that being a student with a handbook and an expiration date is easier, I trusted that the city, with its own human personality, would welcome me back, sit me down for a cup of tea, and I’d go from there. And I was right.
Not to say that life has been a bed of roses; responsibilities and daily quandaries follow us wherever we go. There are still those failed job interviews, Visa panic, electricity bills and housemate drama. But underlying these inevitable tribulations of someone in her mid-20s is the thrill of newness in a magical place, and the buzz of having Dublin and the Emerald Isle at my fingertips. It’s the gift of being able to experience my formative years surrounded by the most genuine of people who take it a bit easier than New Yorkers – people who want you to embrace your youth and don’t suggest powering through your 20s with your eyes on the prize.
The beauty of Dublin lies largely in its day-to-day lifestyle and interactions – something not as easily experienced on a short visit. It’s the people you come to say hello to on your commute to work, the taxi man, the bartender, the bus driver, your friends and their mothers. It’s the buzz of livelihood you can feel in the air – how people walk with their chins up and shoulders back, and don’t mind stopping to smell the roses or taking the scenic route. It’s a country that begins formal emails with “Dear-,” and ends them with “Warmly,” and though the hospitality and good nature is endless, it’s also a people that can pack a serious punch. While they may apologize for bumping into you on the street, they will not apologize for who they are.
I come from the city of opportunity and advancement, and upon settling in Dublin, for the first time in my adulthood I’ve felt so young. Mentioning my age is always met with “ah, you’re only a baby, you’ve your whole life ahead of you.” Back in New York, there’s almost a sense of shame with each new year if you feel like you haven’t accomplished enough, because there are a million twenty-three-year-olds creating successful apps and startups, publishing books, getting promoted, and juggling their 80-hour work weeks with a flourishing socialite status. Like many brands and models, the NYC brand advertises a gold standard that is, to many, unattainable. So it leaves its inhabitants sometimes perpetually gutted.
An Irish friend of mine who lives in New York made an astute observation: in New York City, people live to work. In Dublin, people work to live. Having the craic is understood to be just as important as anything else, which is why the general demeanor of Dubliners is more cheery than that of New Yorkers, who sulk on the subway with gusto.
Don’t get me wrong – the hustle, bustle and grind of New York has a serious buzz of its own. I know I will return and it will be just as I left it. But for now, while I’m “only a baby,” I want to explore my colorful, adoptive city each day, where even taking a new route to the grocery store feels exciting, and the outskirts feel like a different country altogether. I can spend the day working and then stroll onto the DART, take a scenic, 20-minute train ride up or down the Dublin coast and walk out into a seaside village that feels worlds away from the city center.
Vibrant colors surround you in Dublin, from the street art to the Georgian doors to the flowers that always seem to be in bloom. The sporadic rain showers aren’t so bad, plus it’s worth it for the rejoicing that flows through the city when the sun comes back.
These days the cultural city is as international as any other and is bursting at the seams with delicious food and creativity. Cat-callers don’t exist, bus drivers don’t shame you for asking silly questions, and taxi drivers are basically life counselors. The slower, perhaps more forgiving pace of this city is revitalizing. And whenever I leave Dublin for a trip away, I always miss it like I miss an old friend.
If you’re having thoughts about moving to Dublin for a year or two while you’re young, you should do it. Apply for a Working Holiday Visa. Explore the city and country and relish in your youth. Get to know your community. My only advice is to enjoy it while it’s in front of you; once in a while I would let my New Yorker’s mindset get the best of me, and forget to appreciate what I had because I was searching for something bigger and better.
Being a “young one” in Dublin is good for you, and the craic flows like Guinness. Why wait until you’re 70?
* Originally published in Aug 2016.