There are some places we travel to that immediately make us feel like home, or even more welcome than those places we already call home. In the autobiography “A Fifty Year Silence” by Mary Richmond, she explains an overwhelming feeling when she visits the abandoned, decrepit home of her grandparents in the country side of France.
When I first felt this same feeling, my toes were weighted deep in wet sand, my skin had mountain ranges of bug bites, and my hair was resembled a lion’s mane. My mind was a mess but I was calm and wholly in the moment, which is hard to be.
I’ve tried a million times to explain what “home” truly feels like, but I can never get it quite right. There is, however, a word of Latin origin that hits darn close: Numinous. It means “describing an experience that makes you fearful yet fascinated, awed yet attracted– the powerful, personal feeling of being overwhelmed and inspired.”
BUT, of course the first place that made me feel more “numinous” than my own home is a barrier island off the coast of Maryland, a place I cannot legally live: Assateague Island, where you can camp on the sand dunes, have bonfires underneath the great Milky Way and wake up in the early hours of morning and hear nothing but wind and waves. There is something so inexplicably powerful about having only three natural elements surrounding you at all times: air, sand and water. No noise, no honking, just that therapeutic ebb and flow of the ocean.
This place is beautiful for a million reasons, and it is only a four hour drive from where I live in America.
A good friend once told me that although she grew up in Pennsylvania, she always felt she belonged somewhere else. As soon as she said it, I realized I knew perfectly what she meant. A few years later, I found myself on vacation in Dublin and suddenly knew what it meant to feel like I finally fit my own life. This bustling, cramped place so polar opposite from the Assateague would almost immediately be the only other place I felt truly at home.
In Dublin’s winding cobblestone streets of old pubs tucked in between small restaurants and shops, I find a great sense of peace and relief. I adore the constant traffic, views of double-deckers, tiny coffee shops, and the feeling of being ultimately connected to thousands of other strangers passing on the street next to me. I love grabbing brunch with friends late on Sunday mornings and jumping the DART train thirty minutes to Howth Cliffs along the Irish sea on a day off. I love passing the colored doors of the city, and observing the old fishing boats bobbing in the harbors or retired in front yards like antiques on display. The Celtic jigs that flow onto the street from Carroll’s Gifts are simultaneously both tacky and satisfying. A Guinness and a warm conversation with a barman are never far away in this country, welcoming me during times when I first arrived in Ireland and still very alone.
I’ve been to New York City and Paris and many other cities, and still I find Dublin as my favorite. I will never be able to explain how that first short Ireland could make me feel more at “home” than home. Even when I move 3,000 miles back across the Atlantic at the end of the year, and even if the light closes on my life before seeing this city again, I will always say that Dublin means home to me. Numinous Dublin.