I've always felt connected to my Irish ancestry, though my family is far removed from the country and its customs. The only connection in America, maternally, was my Great Grandmother, who came to the US in the early 1900's. On my dad's side, I'm not sure. But my mom always celebrated our Irishness in small ways, St. Patrick's Day, music, films. All of my school projects about family I made about Ireland. I was named after it (Erin is the Gaelic word for Ireland), born in May with a birthstone of the Emerald. So you could say that I've been hurling toward the spirited country since birth. I felt something special for it, and I finally made the leap to go in 2016. My grandfather had just past away, but my grandma reassured me that he would not want me to miss out on something he knew I loved so much.
What I experienced was not only the total thrill of traveling alone for the first time in my life, but a reassurance to my core that I was meant to be there. I immediately felt like I belonged. I wandered aimlessly, happily. Took the regular tours. Asked questions. Ate amazing food. Everyone was friendly and helpful, kind. The architecture was breathtaking, all the colorful houses so vivid and full of character. It was wild. It was beautiful. I was in love.
A year or so later I had another chance to go. I booked an AirBnb on Inishmore, where I stood atop Dún Aonghasa, the only person there, gazing out at the Irish sea. I did get locked in because I stayed past closing time, but that's another story. I visited the home of my Great Grandma's birth - Meath Street in Dublin 8. I met lifelong friends in hostels.
Last spring I went to Italy and it was like I found another piece of my soul. Italy opened my eyes to another part of myself. I didn't grow up knowing much about my Italian side, everything was lost with my Grandfather. He was far from first generation Italian-American and really didn't talk much about that stuff. I'd done some digging through a DNA kit and found I was only 4% (56% Irish/English/Scottish). My last name quite literally translates to "T-Shirt" in Italian, so I don't know who the heck was lying in my family or if the DNA kits are wrong. I've been corrected on how to say it (in the States, mind you) the Italian way. So, when I was there, I said it the Italian way. At one point a cab driver we'd scheduled to pick us up came zooming around a tight corner with his arms spread open out of his window yelling "MAGLIETTA!" with that soft, non-existent G people had been telling me about for years. It was pretty awesome. Some Italian Maglietta's on Facebook have added me throughout the years, and we all assume we're related somehow. They've told me that even in Italy it's an uncommon name. And they're all spread out! So I still don't know much about the origins of my Italian ancestry.
Traveling is among the most important things in my life. I've been trying to go somewhere new every year since I took that first leap five years ago. It all depends on if I can swing it financially. Professionally, I work in the television industry as an Office Production Assistant. I hope to get into a writer's room within the next few years! I want to create content that unites us in knowing we're not as alone as our fears make us think. At one point I really wanted to live in Ireland for a year and just write, joining two of my favorite things. I still hope to do that some day..perhaps somewhere along the Amalfi Coast as well.
But among all of these beautiful experiences and hopes and dreams, I also have severe anxiety and depression. My anxiety shows up in the form of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), and when the depression hits, it hits hard. I battled severe depression and anxiety during my first trips abroad. It's really important to me to be open about mental illness, and how you can still make the most of traveling when going through something so rotten. Going alone definitely had an impact on my mental state, but it forced me out of my comfort zone. There were days I wanted to stay in my hostel. It was tough, but it taught me a lot. I hope to share that with you here, as well as the other experiences I've had abroad. It's really easy to feel like you're the only one going through something like that, but you're not. I am here with you, to share these beautiful experiences and help us heal through the same love of culture, creativity, and travel.
Come away with me