I haven’t left the country in around 3 years and I’m feeling flustered. Especially because I have missed a few opportunities recently, purely due to personal reasons. However, while I’ve been feeling down about my lack of adventures and feeling unaccomplished despite still only being 21 years of age, I have actually seen and done great things in my short life and should be more grateful, and share those experiences here for when I don’t have new ones to talk about.
Here’s a throwback to my trip around the east coast of the US:
My school offered an exchange with a partner school in the US and I had my heart set on going since before I’d even gotten into the school. My school experience in itself was a colossal shit storm, however, two weeks in the US somehow how made it bearable.
I was 16 at the time and only 12 students from the year were selected to go on the exchange to a high school in Philadelphia. For some reason, as a kid I was really interested in the American high school system, it was most likely because of movies and TV shows being set there, but it seemed so much more exciting than the Irish education system.
We spent a few days shadowing students, and of course, everyone was very friendly and interested in us. Our school made us wear our school uniforms so we stood out and looked like Amish-Hogwarts students hybrids. I vividly remember the football game we went too because it was freezing and I had to buy tracksuit pants (sweatpants) to put over my leggings. This was around Thanksgiving too so we had the chance to celebrate our first Thanksgiving with our host families and go Black Friday shopping afterwards. American Malls are so much bigger than our shopping centers and there are so many different shops that we didn’t have at home. Emo me spent all my money in Hot Topic. We had already been to this particular one earlier in the trip, but queuing up outside Forever 21 at mid-night and then leaving at around 2am to get a bus to New York was a blur of an experience. The thing with being Irish in America is that everything is so much bigger and there’s more versions of everything.
Limerick, Philadelphia is a beautiful city and I wish we’d seen more of it. Mostly we went to Dave and Busters, tried Philly Cheese Steaks, saw the Liberty Bell, and the Rocky Statue, and the football stadium. I wish I’d seen It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia back then because I would have loved referencing the show, but at least when watching it now I get to say “I was there!”.
In the middle of the two-week adventure we went to Baltimore where I tried Five Guys for the first time and bought half of the gift shop in the Hard Rock Cafe. I liked the port side location that gave it character.
We also stopped by the Amish village of Intercourse – yes, real name – at some point in the trip. It’s always interested me how people decided to live away from the current world that we live in, in favour of old traditions and ways of life. Of course, Amish kids have the chance to see the real world at a certain age and decide for themselves what they want to do, but it’s interesting. They seemed happier for it, maybe even better of.
I thought that New York would be the highlight of my trip, but Washington DC ended up being my favourite part. I didn’t realise that DC was so beautiful, there was so much and so little to get though but all of the museums were fascinating. This was just after Obama was re-elected too so it was interesting how a few “Vote Romney” signs were left here and there on the way. If only we knew what we knew now. It was late November so autumn was at it’s peak with golden leaves on the ground and red sunsets.
Of course, New York was amazing too. It’s probably my favourite place in the world. I’d already been to New York two years beforehand. Both times I saw the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, the best thing about it is that even though the concept and the Rockettes are the same, the story changes so you can go every year. I finally got to tick going to the Natural History Museum off my Bucket List as I didn’t get to go there the last time. I’ll admit to mostly wanting to see the exhibits from Night at the Museum. As a massive Friends fan of course I also pointed out places that looked familiar from the show, such as where Phoebe did the “Phoebe run” in Central Park. There was no sign of Central Perk though.
The two weeks flew and I still cherish the trip today as one of the happiest periods of my life. I actually cried on the bus to the airport because I didn’t want to go home and back to normality. I guess that’s the best bit about travelling, you get to leave your life for just a little bit.