On my first trip to Ireland in 2012, I was excited to explore Dublin. While this was the first stop on the College Football Travel Tour, I was more interested in the culture and the city than I was in the Emerald Isle Classic between Notre Dame and Navy. While I enjoyed the game, I fell in love with Ireland more.

To be honest, there were some ups and downs on this trip. I didn’t visit all the sights that I wanted. With places like Kerry, Cork, and Galway, I wish I had more time in the country.  Personally, this trip to Ireland had some emotional highs and lows and travel adventures along the way.

With all that Ireland and the city of Dublin have to offer, the best thing about this place isn’t the food, the sights, or the scenery. I fell in love with the Irish people.

Conversations with the Irish people

During my four days in Ireland, I had long conversations with a number of locals – teachers, stadium security guards, college students, travel writers, and filmmakers. I connected with them.  I hope to see them again. A few of them I now call friends.  They stole my heart more than they will ever know.

While I’ve visited a lot of countries, the Irish people are the friendliest I’ve ever met. Many people may seem friendly but I’ve never met anyone else like them. The Irish people are engaging, polite, and genuinely interested in others.

Ask someone for directions and don’t be surprised if they take you there themselves. If an Irish man or woman asks you if you were here for the game, they will follow up with questions about how you enjoyed your experience. They want you to have a good time. They are proud to call this place home. More importantly, they want this to feel like home to you.

I hung out in a number of pubs, drank more than a few pints of Guinness, and talked with the Irish people. Irish “craic” is a term used to express good times, connection, and conversation with people. I even heard the term used euphemistically to excuse drunk, flirty behavior. Yet it’s more than that.

Irish craic really does exist and it’s a term that perfectly describes the Irish people. No one does this like they do. Yet it’s something that you have to experience.

Why are the Irish people so engaging, friendly, and interested in other people, their culture, stories, and experiences? They get it. They understand what it means to come from a group of people that is connected to one another. They are proud of who they are and believe the people are their greatest asset.

The Irish people are the underdogs and don’t take life too seriously. They understand that it’s the small things that matter. They aren’t concerned with popularity, fame, riches, or ego. What makes the Irish people so great? They understand that it’s people that matter.

Why you should visit Ireland

Ireland’s economy is struggling. There are homeless people on the streets of Dublin. The country is green and beautiful but the weather isn’t always great. They aren’t known for their athletes or celebrities (outside of U2 and Colin Farrell). Yet don’t ever tell the Irish people what they aren’t or what they can’t do.

For all our material possessions, power, influence, and success, the Irish people know something many of us don’t. It’s the Irish craic. It’s hard to explain. You have to connect with these people to understand how genuine and interesting they are and why they get life.

For all of Ireland’s beauty, there is nothing that comes close to the beauty of these people.  Ireland’s greatest export is its people. After visiting Ireland, your best memories will be those conversations with the Irish people that you met. Ireland has reminded me that it’s connecting with people that really matters.

To Nicola, Fiona, Colm, Orlaith, Sean, Eamonn, Rex, Kevin, Marina, and the many others that I had conversations with in Ireland – thank you. I am not ashamed to say I fell in love with your people. I am proud to call many of you my friends now. You mean more to me than you realize.  You reminded me what matters.

You’ve given me the chance to think about my travels. I write about destinations and try to be honest and interesting. I’ve learned a lot of life lessons through travel.

However, I’ve become less and less concerned with how many people read what I write. What matters to me are the people I meet and the relationships I am building. Thank you for that lesson.

As I leave Ireland, I won’t forget you. I hope you won’t forget me either. Then again, Irish people don’t need to be told how much our connections matter. It’s all a part of the Irish craic.

*Jeremy Branham is an avid world traveller, based in Columbia, who runs the website Budget Travel Adventures.

* Originally published in 2012.