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On Discovering the Magic of Travel

By Julia Cosgrove


From the November/December 2016 issue

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Photo by Jeffrey Cross 

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When I was 20, I studied abroad for a year at Trinity College in Dublin. My mom joined me during spring break and we drove all over the country together.

I was studying Irish literature, so writers figured prominently in our itinerary—we visited more than a few historic houses, churches, and grave sites. But the part of our trip that I recall most vividly is our time in County Donegal in the northwest, an area I’d previously associated only with tweed jackets worn by college professors of a certain era.

By the time we got to the town of Donegal, we were proficient at navigating bogs and livestock-blocked roads. Far off the typical tourist trail, Donegal was ripe for getting comfortably lost.

It was the end of our trip, and we were spending the night at a historic manor house called Ardnamona, by the banks of Lough Eske under the Blue Stack Mountains, which was as idyllic and remote as it sounds. The interior of the house was a delightful and elegant jumble of antiques, books, and art from all over.

But it was the grounds that really blew my mind. They were wild and overgrown in the best way: Planted as early as the 1880s, they still contained cuttings from China’s Imperial Gardens and the palace gardens in Kathmandu, courtesy of acquisitive Victorians.

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After settling into our room, my mom and I set off through a forest of giant rhododendrons, their red, pink, and purple blooms speckled with spring snowflakes. A flock of sheep tagged along for a while, and in the distance we heard the braying of a donkey. Down by the edge of the lake we found our noisy fellow wanderer, its long eyelashes thick with snow.

These are the moments travel gives us. And while they can happen anywhere, I believe we’re more likely to experience them in far-off places—destinations that remind us of the size and scale of the world and our small place in it.

This is why we like to share stories that take you to places like Tasmania, the Swiss Alps, or Iran. Because it’s when you go far, unplug as best you can, and maybe get a little lost that you open yourself to a destination’s particular magic. Get out there and find some.

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