Trading in Minnesota’s snow flurries and below freezing temperatures for soft rains and lush greenery, I joined a group of twenty-one other students and two professors on a quest to walk and write our way through the streets and countryside of Ireland. During the month of January, we covered much of the small country, gallivanting through medieval castles in quaint little towns, weaving between busses on bicycles, and perfecting our collective ability to take group photos.
That, however, was not the sole purpose of our journey to the Emerald Isle. Led by Professors Emily James and James Garlick, the students enrolled in “Walking and Writing Ireland” spent the month of January poring over the words of Ireland’s literary greats, such as W. B. Yeats and James Joyce. We had the opportunity to interact with texts in a way that could not be afforded by sitting in a classroom back home. Tucking away in the upstairs quarters of bookstores and coffee shops, we spent hours picking apart the imagery and themes of Joyce’s poignant short stories. Each afternoon, we took to the streets to trace the steps of those very stories.
One of the key themes we identified and contemplated in Joyce’s work was the overwhelming sense of paralysis. In some way, each of his characters yearned for something beyond the monotony of their everyday lives—something remarkable. Despite their best efforts, however, these characters could never break free from the confines of their physical, financial, or social limitations. They were simply stuck.
Intrigued by their reach for the extraordinary world just beyond their grasp, I was inspired to explore the counterpart to Joyce’s paralysis: adventure. Although seemingly simple at first glance, “adventure” is rich with historical and cultural significance. The word’s popularity spiked in the seventeenth century, which speaks to the period’s fascination with exploration. However, as time progressed, “adventure” widened to encompass the agency of the individual. No longer did an individual need to be an esteemed explorer who braves the treacherous high seas and unpredictable climates. As Joyce and his contemporaries understood, an adventurer may now take the face of any individual, provided that he or she has an open heart, open mind, and daring spirit. In the words of essayist Rebecca Solnit, “When you give yourself to places, they give you yourself back.”
I stood atop the cliffs of Dun Aengus with the Atlantic Ocean stretching out before me. The salty sea breeze filled my lungs as my feet dangled over the ledge, three hundred feet above the crashing waves below. Despite my paralyzing fear of heights, I was not afraid. Some crave the pulse of adrenaline through their veins. But for me, an adventure is about contentment. It’s about sitting at the edge of the earth and not feeling afraid.
And adventurers we became.
Elise Limper is a junior English with a Secondary Education (5-12) major. After graduation, she hopes to teach high school English to share her love of the written word. With a passion for photography and a severe case of the travel bug, she also aspires to travel the world with her camera in tow.