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Journeys Blog. Connecting the world through travel.

Insights from the West of Ireland

By | November 21, 2014
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This distinction between the literal and symbolic also applies to our broader experience on this journey.  On the face of it, we are here to learn about Ireland’s past and present, to eat and drink and breathe it in. And we’re doing that with gusto.  From the museums in Dublin to the walking tours in Galway and Kilkenny, this journey is packed with people and places of Irish history, politics, music, dance, art, food and laughter. We’re passing through landscapes which are lovely and dramatic -- all with stories of their own, and all part of the greater narrative of Ireland that we’re gathering.  

Ruins of a domestic building at the Seven Churches, Inishmore. Photo by Maureen Whaley, 2014. Reproduced here with permission.

Under the surface of this journey a different kind of knowledge is also being gathered.  With our normal lives suspended, traveling creates a space outside of our routines to reflect on things we often put aside or take for granted.  Encountering the unfamiliar gives us new insights and perspectives on ourselves and our lives back home. Our group has twenty-two people, about the size of a hunter-gatherer community, the longest-running social unit of humanity.  In a deep sense, it feels good to be on a journey with a group this size.  Although most of us didn’t know each other a week ago, we had more in common from the outset than a random group of strangers, since we’d all chosen to participate in this particular Smithsonian tour.  Traveling with all of you feels a bit like certain honors courses I’ve taught where the hardest working students are there to learn the most they can.  Choosing honors, they’ve already self-selected, preferring the quest for more knowledge over easy grades. 

Traditional thatched cottage, Inishmore. Photo by Cassandra Hannahs, 2014. Reproduced here with permission.

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Emerald Isle Ireland

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Cassandra Hannahs

With a Ph.D. in medieval history, Cassandra Hannahs spent most of her academic career at Middlebury College in Vermont, where she was a tenured professor of history. At Middlebury, Cassandra regularly taught courses on Celtic, Viking and Anglo-Norman Studies, as well as more general courses on the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the history of Christianity. In her research and lectures, Cassandra explores the cultural and political exchanges that have historically linked Ireland, Scotland, England, and Europe. As Study Leader for the Smithsonian since 2000, she enjoys sharing her love and knowledge of the British Isles and Ireland with travelers on land and sea.

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