Well, I am into my third week back at work, and as the tan fades I'm left to wonder what is the lasting legacy of my wonderful gap year.
I've been thrilled by the reaction I have received back in Galway, both to my full page article in last week's Connacht and City Tribune and my 15 minute interview about my experiences in Nicaragua on Galway Bay FM today.
It was also delightful to meet so many people over the Christmas holidays who told me they were inspired by, or at least enjoyed, this blog.
Last week, I wrote honestly about what it was like to leave Ireland and work among the poorest of the poor in Nicaragua.
While us volunteers went there to help the locals, to boost the education of their children, I guess the locals themselves taught us foreigners an awful lot about enjoying life. Or just enjoying the simpler things in life, such as quality time with friends and family, in the here and now.
The article in the Connacht Tribune has received a massive response, as I guess a lot of us Irish are re-evaluating our values now that the country is bankrupt and has lost its sovereignty.
People have no faith in the politicians, bloated bankers, and greedy developers who pushed this country back to the brink of the third world.
People are upset because there are no jobs for the young, who are emigrating in droves again.
People also have no faith in the Church, whose priests abused so many innocent children with impunity.
There is real anger and a spirit, or need, for change in the air, and I guess that's why so many people were moved by my article.
I went to Nicaragua to help out people who are desperately poor compared to the Irish, but left thinking that they (not us) have a greater appreciation for the important things in life.
The world is not fair and Ireland, like Nicaragua, has had a pretty messed up past.
But this is not a time for self-pity and I guess my growth as a person over the past year, thanks to all my wonderful experiences, has struck a chord with people around me who are also looking for change.
It's sad to be back working in a newspaper in which the main stories of the first few weeks of the year are about job losses and rotten politicians who are trying to cling onto power.
But I've been really happy to see that my few scribblings have struck a chord with so many people in my home town.
Perhaps more Galwegians will go abroad to volunteer, or at least realize that compared to Nicaraguans or Haitians that they still have a lot of good things in life.
We're all searching for answers in these troubled, messed-up times.
The answer didn't scream out to me during all my wonderful travels in 2010.
But travelling and volunteering has been a blast, the best time in my life.
And the legacy of that is that I am not going to allow myself to slip back into self-pity caused by the weather or the tragedies I experienced in my 20s, or anything else in the present or the distant past.
Life is for living right now, it really is so true.
Whether you are out walking the prom in Galway or cruising on a bus through Nicaragua, with reggaeton blasting on the stereo.
Thanks a million to everyone who has given me so much positive feedback since I began this blog on a Thai island back in March.
I don't know where this blog is going, as the gap year has finished after all. But it has been great to share my trials and tribulations with you guys and to get such a phenomenal reaction at the end of my adventure.
On local radio today, I realized suddenly the magnitude of what I'd achieved in 2010 as the presenter on Galway Bay FM, Keith Finnegan, praised my bravery for heading off into the unknown for a year.
I never thought I was brave, I just knew I needed a change.
And any of us can break out of a rut if we have the courage to follow our dreams.
Even in troubled times, such as Ireland and Nicaragua are experiencing right now.
It's been a blast.
So thanks, everybody, for the phenomenal reaction to the blog, Tribune article, and radio interview.
As for the future ... Who knows? The onus is on each and every one of us to live for today, because none of us knows what's around the corner.
The poorest of the poor, in the tin huts outside Granada, taught me that you don't need material things to make the most of life.
Yes, it's been a blast, the best year of my life. Even if I have returned to a land in 'crisis', most of us have our health, good families, and good friends.
And, just like Nicaragua, our troubled history should give us strength to face an uncertain future.
These Are a Few of Our Favorite Things
2 months ago