I’m leaving Ireland again in search of a new sense of home
The initial euphoria of returning evaporated rapidly. It was demoralising to count the number of friends who had emigrated
‘I will feel the same excitement as always upon landing in Dublin Airport on future visits, but if it weren’t for the people I care about that still live here, I probably wouldn’t visit Ireland at all. It was my old home.’
Antony Wolfe at Machu Picchu in Peru.
I land at Dublin Airport after a day-long transatlantic journey from Latin America. I feel the familiar frisson of excitement as I hear Irish voices again in the airport terminal. I am welcomed back by the man in passport control, asked about my holidays, and waved through. In the arrivals hall I embrace my family. It seems as if no time has passed since I was last home.
I could have written this opening paragraph several times over the last two years. I love coming back to visit those close to me in Ireland. A few months ago, I returned home to live and work here, having finished my work contract abroad. I appeared to be the same person I was before I left. But inwardly, I had changed completely. I’ve come to realise this return back to Ireland is also just another visit; I have little desire to stay here.
The initial euphoria of returning evaporated rapidly. It was demoralising to count the number of friends who had emigrated since I flew to South America two years ago, to take up a job as a tour guide with a travel agency.
But of course I still enjoyed catching up with the friends and family that are still here. We chatted, we joked, we laughed like we used to over coffee and pints. But something had changed. Conversations revolved back to the same old topics. The common bond that held us together in the past had slowly eroded. I felt like I was on the outside looking in.
As emigrants, we explore further than most, yet we are condemned to never feeling completely at home. I looked up flights out of Dublin within 24 hours of arriving back. Every place I have lived on my travels, I’ve loved exploring, but it’s been accompanied by the feeling that I’m supposed to be somewhere else.
I’ve been incredibly lucky to have lived and worked across 17 countries in the last 18 months. After all that travel, I feel to stay on the same small island would be to stagnate for me. It’s human nature to want to move forward, to explore, to want more. We constantly need new challenges to develop further as individuals. Thinking outside the box, outside the island, is the way forward; for me at least.
I don’t want to live in Ireland, yet I immerse myself in Irishness abroad. I look at Irish news every day. I laugh at the Waterford Whispers News article on the Irish weather. I spend time in Irish pubs in exotic locations. I proudly support our national teams in whatever sport is on the TV. I still refer to Dublin as “home”, even though I now feel I’ve had many “homes”. It is a strange paradox.
I leave Ireland, again without booking a return ticket, in search of a new sense of home. I will feel the same excitement as always upon landing in Dublin Airport on future visits, but if it weren’t for the people I care about that still live here, I probably wouldn’t visit Ireland at all. It was my old home. Maybe after living in so many places, I will never find my true home. Such is the curse of the emigrant.
Read Antony Wolfe's article for Generation Emigration last year on his adventures working as a tour guide in Central America.