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Seeking an 'authentic' experience in Ireland

Trinity College is located in the middle of buzzing Dublin, Ireland, and is semi-regularly swamped with tourists ducking in to see the Book of Kells, or just for a quiet sit. Founded in 1592, the school features Victorian architecture influenced by other institutions such as Oxford (UK) and Cambridge. The grass is cut very low like a golfing green, and the library is the largest in Ireland. In the center of the walled buildings is a campus bar, where students can grab a cider and watch rugby on a massive field. Compared to Miami, where King Library was built in the 1970s, Trinity's campus is a sort of elite utopia without (most of) the snobbery. And the campus life is so nice -- dorms are actually reserved for upperclassmen.

Outside the 100-acre campus lies a tourism-heavy city. A few years back, with Ireland recovering from the financial recession, visitors' dollars actually became the number one source of income for the country, leading this writer to feelings of pity and dismay. Perhaps "authentic Ireland" may soon become as commodified as a Big Mac in Japan. But the Irish get along, accepting the new and varying outcomes of global capitalism. They're informed as much about British politics as they are Trump news, (our multi-national tour bus fell silent when James Comey testified before Congress) and rarely get bogged down by too many drinks. Facebook and Google even have major offices in Dublin.

As a potential visitor, your time spent in Ireland (and anywhere in world) should be about more than consumption, including the pursuit of ecstatic "experiences." Anywhere you go, it's really about what you learn about the people who love their home. Many, including myself, identify as starkly "American" because our generation's oral traditions were usurped by the modern world, replaced with seductive pop culture. The globalisation of culture teaches us to value an idealized ethos, rather than asking who our ancestors were, and how they lived in their time.

One afternoon, in the west coast city of Galway, our bus driver, Arnie, shared his life story. He had traveled throughout his 20s to over a dozen countries, collecting tattoos -- some earnest, some whimsical -- at many of his destinations. Driving the bus pays less than his uncle makes from unemployment checks, but not everyone can play the system. He recently settled back in Ireland with a few acres and a donkey. He purchased the donkey dirt cheap at the market, but within a few days she was depressed. This could have been a result of a common practice to drug animals to appear temporarily gleeful, but a friend of Arnie's suggested it just might be lonely. He now owns a dog, a dozen chickens, a donkey and a shetland pony with another on the way, and he'll be staying in Ireland indefinitely, married to the land.

That is unless he finds a spouse, though in his line of work he only ever meets tourists.