An important lesson from travel is that it teaches you perspective.
Just like us, countries have "personalities". Perhaps you've experienced it when you've gone to a place and instantly fell in love with it or the opposite has happened where you've heard great things about a destination only to find that it just wasn't vibing with you. Places aren't good or bad, it's just how you perceive them so it's always relevant to take the time to see things from different points of view.
This week I take a moment to visit with Caroline Leifland, a Swedish national who's visited nearly 40 countries, including Tanzania, Vietnam, Lithuania just to name a few.
She and I have travelled together quite a bit and we both hold a special affection for the country of Ireland.
Very often, we take photos of the same place at the same time and I've noticed her perspective can be so different from mine so I wanted to get her Swedish take on the Emerald Isle.
Do you remember your first time in Ireland? What do you remember as your first impressions? Is Ireland what you expected? How so?
The first time I visited Ireland was with work - I flew into Killarney in the south-west part of the country - one of the tiniest airports I ever been to... I remember being completely taken by surprise. It poured down the entire time I was there. I know now that this isn't always the case but it did take away from all the amazing views I now know exists :).
But the people were the friendliest I have ever met, the customs and traditions felt so different from what I had expected.
Fairy trees, tough love, exchange of favours instead of money, girls and boys schools, funerals are parties, the music in the pubs goes from singalongs in traditional folklore to after ski to club all within hours.
I have seriously partied more like there is no tomorrow in Ireland than in traditional party locations.
It's like the Shire with a half modern twist - and I say that with the utmost love for Ireland. It was not love at first sight but it grew on me and became a long-lasting love. I've been there many times since and I know I will go again.
Do you have favourite places in Ireland that you would recommend?
I would go road-tripping! Inch Beach on the Dingle Peninsula, Harrington's for fish and chips, go hiking around Cliffs of Moher, eat at Ard Bia in Galway and go for Guinness at Murphy's in Killarney. Dublin is really nice but I would absolutely spend the majority of my time in the countryside.
Do you see similarities in culture between Swedish and Irish or is it drastically different?
There are absolutely differences between Swedish and Irish culture. Irish culture is much more including, less anxious but it also feels a bit like you've travelled back in time. It's hard to describe.
What time of year do you most enjoy going to Ireland?
I actually prefer autumn time but spring and summer work as well!
You've been to Ireland solo, for work, and with your young family, could compare those experiences. Is one better than the others?
For exploring - solo, to get in contact with people - work, but being able to show my family what I love about Ireland was probably the best experience.
How would you describe the food in Ireland? What's the best thing you've eaten?
Food in Ireland is not the highlight of this beautiful country unless you like potatoes. With everything. I once ordered lasagna and the waiter was surprised that I wanted neither boiled potatoes, fried potatoes, chips or fries with it... But then they also have amazing crisps - Taytos are the best! You love music, how would you describe the music scene in Ireland?
I love the music scene in Ireland - there is joy in everything!!! It might not be at the forefront of any genre but it is just part of society in a way that I haven't experienced anywhere else.
What draws your eye when taking photos in Ireland?
Let's be honest - Ireland is all about the landscapes but I also enjoy finding those smaller details - the ivy clawing on to an abandoned house, the colour of house with lace curtains and plastic flowers in all windows, the symbols of religion in the most unexpected places.