After Dan’s accident in 1999, we finally decided it was time to do what we’d talked about for so long. I gave my consulting firm 12 months notice, and began the process of turning over my clients and my expertise to others. I was working with a very talented team and the process went relatively smoothly.
In order to understand our moving plans, it’s probably important to understand what the big picture was for us. We had both quit our jobs, and our general plan was to spend two years somewhere in Europe, then come back to DC for a while, then pick a new place to spend two years, the come back, etc.
Before we jumped into the deep end, though, we decided to spend some time in a place that was familiar to us, but still in Europe. A place where we spoke (almost) the same language, where we had friends, and where we thought we could slip in easily: Ireland.
This was early 2000. Dan had quit his job a little earlier than I had and had gotten certified to teach English as a Second/Foreign language to adults. We had decided that this was work that we could take anywhere in Europe.
Dan had his certification, but I still needed mine. So in the spring of 2000, we went to Dublin. I spent a month getting certified to teach English, and Dan began working right away. This was our first experience in living in another country, as opposed to visiting.
Off we went. We rented an apartment in Dublin, and that process was interesting. After many many years of home ownership, we found ourselves with no landlord references. I know! Whoda thunk it?
Dublin on holiday is a fabulous place. The pace is nice an comfortable, the people are amazing, and the city itself is ancient and endlessly fascinating. Plus they drive on the ‘other’ side of the road--every day was an adventure!
Dublin as a hometown (even for several months) is very challenging and very rewarding at the same time. It was the first time we were confronted with our own American-ness. This showed itself in many ways, but primarily in our expectations about time and timeliness. As tourists in Ireland, we had found the relaxed pace easy and comforting. As workers, we found it frustrating. It took us a while to adjust our own pace and expectations.
On the other hand, one of the glorious things about Dublin is the theatres. During the time we lived there, we went to the theatre every Friday night. We saw all sorts of wonderful plays--some classics, some new, some experimental. Each and every one was amazing. We saw Gulliver’s Travels presented in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, where Jonathan Swift was rector when he wrote it. We saw plays at the venerable Gate and Abbey Theatres, musical reviews at the Gaiety, and we even saw a play in the tiny Focus Theatre, which held about 40 people.
We loved buying our food at the outdoor markets. This was our first experience with that, and it’s one that we still love. In Dublin, there’s an organic food market in Temple Bar on Sunday mornings. We found some really special things there, and we still go to that market when we’re in Dublin on a Sunday. Other days, it was Henry street where we could buy potatoes with earth still clinging to them and sometimes even got our change in carrots rather than coins!
One of the things that made it easy for us was our friends. They all live in County Galway, and we could visit them on weekends. We did that several times in the months we lived in Dublin. It was wonderful to be so close to them.
The most important lesson for us was that we enjoyed living in another country and we loved teaching English. We found living in Dublin to be a perfect transition for us to the life we anticipated finding on the continent.
At the end of our stay we went to Belgium to interview for jobs teaching in The Castle, where we had studied French and which was in many ways the catalyst for what we were doing.
So we returned to Washington and began the process of closing up our house, finding tenants to rent it and someone to manage it, finding work in Europe, and getting there.
Living in Dublin was a wonderful experience for us. We learned how much we really wanted to live overseas for a while. We learned that living in another culture--even one we know very well and is similar to our own--is a challenging experience. We couldn’t wait to try it again.
To be continued.... click here for part 5.