I recently returned from a six week trip to Ireland + a few cool stops along the away. My travels began on November 22nd flying from Auckland to Stockholm, Sweden. The excitement of a plane leaving the ground & a year of planning becoming reality was rather fantastic.
I arrived in Stockholm to quickly discover that a Northern Winter truly is bone chilling. My suitcase, backpack, guitar & I jumped on a bus that took me to a train, that was apparently just the right temperature & level of comfort to make me have an involuntary nap. The following hours were comprised of swearing if I ever got back to NZ alive I would move home & never leave my house, smiling while internally screaming about the fact I could not recognise even one of the train stop names on my map with the words coming from the loud speaker & coming to the harsh realisation that I really should have conquered my fear of the dark before making my way to a country that has an average sunset time is 3pm.
You really don’t know what it’s like to feel far away from your mum until you’re lost, alone & only have 3% battery on a phone with no sim card on the Swedish coast.
Thanks to the help of a lovely young man that gave me directions (I've yet to decipher the location of this particular encounter), I ended up in Nynäshamn. I then boarded the ferry to Gotland where I met Steve Chadwick. Steve had offered to host a house concert for me in Gotland & put together a night of homebrew, some great soup & an audience that seemed to be just as gentle & kind as Steve's family. I felt so blessed to have met a family that made me feel so at ease. Below is a series of photos taken by the amazing Plathuset - check out her other work. It’s the bees knees.
Post Gotland, I spent a day exploring Old Town in Stockholm & walked to the front door of the home that my friend Jonas Hjertquist (owner of Zanzibar, Dunedin) grew up in. For the following week I explored the sights of London, watched The Killers at the O2 with fellow Gore girl Lana Moesby, spent time with my kiwi cousins Jade, Tony & baby Leo & had a night with my Grandad’s sister - Aunty Peggy.
I’m not ashamed to say that a highlight of London was visiting the Harry Potter Studios. A must do.
After a week of the colourful, fast paced landscape of London I boarded a flight to Dublin. My week of backpacking in Dublin was everything I’d dreamed of. New friends, great music & many euros spent on an attempt to introduce my taste buds to Guinness.
I then headed to Cork, where I met my cousin Margaret King. My little cousins Josh & Liam met me in a chemist with the introduction of, “You’re our cousin! I’m Josh, this is Liam & we have a dog called Ella. You’re staying with us this week.”
I visited Josh & Liam’s school where I shared some songs, had a few sing along carols to get in the Christmas spirit & told the students all about kiwiland. Words of pride, that I'd never spoken aloud before, fell out of my mouth as I told stories of the landscapes, people & animals on my side of the world.
At this stage, I hit a small bump in the road - a cheeky chest infection & a good ol’ dose of sinusitis. I slept for 8 hours after the school visit, woke up for dinner & went back to bed. I was obsessed with the idea that I wouldn’t waste even one moment of my time away, but I quickly learnt that I am in fact not superhuman & rest is something that must eventually be done.
The next stop was New Castle West, Co. Limerick - the birthplace of my late Grandad Joe Brouder. I went to the pub where he had his first pint, stayed with his sister & had a great time with the next generation of cousins - I must make a special shoutout to Kate & Moss who treated me like a queen for the week & took me for a trip to the beautiful tourist hotspot of Killarney.
On the final night of New Castle West, a small house concert was put together with a collection of family members. I had just finished writing a song in Dublin called Ends of the Earth. The song is all about grandparents migration to New Zealand & no matter how many times I play it in my life, I don’t think anything will quite compare to the connection I felt between myself & the people in that room who I’d only met once before.
The next stop was County Clare. Clare is the home of the best Irish music on the planet & I played gigs at two of the best pubs - The Roadside Tavern & Egan’s Bar. My new friends Christy & Gabi kindly hosted me & provided a night of great stories, wine & cheese.
Playing at Egan’s bar was easily one of the best gigs of my entire life. From the moment I spoke my first word I felt so much respect from every audience member (maybe it was because they couldn’t understand my accent, but we’ll go with the idea it’s because they loved the show) & nothing fills my soul more than being able to tell stories that relate & impact those listening to them. Photos below by the wonderful Bastien Réau.
The final week of my adventure was in my home away from home, Galway city. Meeting babies that had grown into beautiful young boys & girls, walking along Galway Bay with one of my favourite humans in the world, spending Christmas morning with my great Uncle Johnny & Aunty Ann, strolling through cobblestone streets with my great Aunt Margaret & having a few too many Strawberry Daiquiris (see here) are just a few of the precious memories that I have of that glorious city.
I feel so lucky that my family at the other end of the earth give me a reason to explore & wander, but I can’t put into words how it feels to be amongst their love & then have to drag my suitcase down the path where my grandparents once did & leave it all behind.
I will be forever grateful that music allows me to travel to places like Gotland that I otherwise wouldn't know existed & that I get to share my little songs that came from somewhere in my mind to people from all walks of life.
It’s cliche, but travelling (& specifically travelling alone) allows you to learn so much about yourself. I am not a Psychocentric nor Allocentric traveller, but somewhere in the middle. Some of my favourite hours were the ones when I turned my phone off & gave myself the opportunity to get lost in an unfamiliar city - but other great moments included asking Tripadvisor where I could find the best soy vanilla lattes within 10 minutes walking distance.
I know not everyone is into travel (& if you’re a kiwi, who would blame you? We’re blessed with the best). But, while it seems the only news is bad news & that the world is turning into a violent & increasingly negative place, I think the only way to learn that there are a ton of good sorts around & that strangers can be kind - is to get out there & experience it.
Or just take my word for it. Whatever suits.
Hi. I'm a songwriter from the little (but wonderful) Southern New Zealand town of Gore.