It’s Wednesday night and I’m sitting in The Roaring Donkey—a neighborhood pub in Cobh, Ireland—Guinness in hand as I attempt to sing along with my new friends, the residents of this colorful town.
I’m here because a local invited me to join him and his friends for an informal “jam session” of traditional Irish music. Michael, an avid historian who served 23 years in the Irish Naval Service, also happens to be the creator of the unique, informative and historically accurate Titanic Trail Tours.
On April 11, 1912, Cobh, formerly known as Queenstown, was the final port of call for the RMS Titanic as she left for her ill-fated transatlantic journey to America. Almost 100 years ago to the day, passengers were climbing onboard tender ships which carried them to the Titanic as she waited anchored at the mouth of the harbor.
Cobh (pronounced “cove”) was the boarding location for 123 passengers—only 44 of whom survived. In 1915, maritime tragedy struck the town again when the Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat off the Old Head of Kinsale nearby. Survivors and victims were brought to Cobh for medical care or burial.
I walked with Michael through the streets of Cobh and absorbed his insights into the history surrounding us. We followed the footsteps of the families of departing emigrants who climbed the steep streets to wave goodbye to the ones they loved as they sailed out of the harbor.
Perhaps the most striking realization was how much Cobh has remained unchanged since the era of the Titanic. The occupants of the brightly colored storefronts may have changed, but the architecture has remained intact since the early 1800’s.
The crowning glory of the community is St. Colman’s Cathedral which sits high atop a steep hill in the center of town. This Neo-French Gothic structure took 47 years to build. Completed in 1916, the cathedral’s famous carillon has 49 bells with the heaviest weighing 3.6 tons. This carillon is the only one in Ireland and sacred hymns can be heard across Cobh whenever it plays—as well as the occasional Beatles tune.
The perks of being a travel writer
The town slopes down from the cathedral like a canvas filled with brightly painted homes and storefronts. The scene is so picturesque I felt as though I was walking through a postcard.
Travel is my passion. Nothing feeds my soul like visiting new places, experiencing the local culture, soaking up the delicious scenery and walking through the history of communities all over the world.
Anyone can travel, but not everyone has the opportunity to travel the way I do. Not everyone is invited by their tour guide to join his friends for Guinness and good times.
That’s because I do not travel as an ordinary tourist.
You see, while I strolled the streets of Cobh with Michael, enjoying a Guinness at The Roaring Donkey and learning the Irish ballads, I was actually working. As I crisscrossed Ireland learning to drive on the opposite side of the twisting country roads…gazed out over the Atlantic Ocean from the majestic Cliffs of Moher…followed cows as they meandered down roads blocking traffic…wrote a message on the Peace Wall in Belfast and roamed the streets of Dublin for a literary pub crawl—I was doing my “nine-to-five.”
Yes, it looked and felt like a vacation, but I was really just doing my job.
Travel writing opens doors and affords me the opportunity to glimpse into the lives of the people I encounter—and it has many others perks as well. I have stayed in historic hotels…dined in fine restaurants…enjoyed access to sights not open to the general public and all without opening my wallet. Unless you count opening it to deposit the latest check I’ve received for telling the world about my experiences.
I love my new career and the lifestyle it gives me. Travel writing has provided a way for me to experience the world at a substantial discount—while earning money at the same time. I will take this “work” any day.
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