My New Definition Of ‘Home’ Is Irish Pubs

It’s like a surrogate drunken family

Time To Read: 6 mins | July 30, 2017

I’ve been travelling full-time for 10 months now. This is the sort of thing most people dream about, saying they one day would like to drop everything, give up their responsibilities and see the world. Eat Pray Love, and all that.

But if it were easy, everyone would do it. It requires either having a stockpile of cash or a job you can do abroad. You’ll have to make arrangements for the furniture and pets and automobiles you’ll leave behind. While you’re gone, your social circle will shift and evolve, slowly making you a stranger to friends. And when you do decide to return, you’ll have to recreate your civilized life from the ground-up: house, job, relationships, all of it.

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An idyllic lifestyle, yes, but not meant for the timid.

I’m extremely fortunate in that I have only minimal stress with the pitfalls I just described. I can do my work from anywhere with wifi, and there’s no sign (that I’m aware of) I’ll be fired anytime soon; I don’t have pets, and all my furniture fits in a large L.A. storage unit next to the motorcycle; my circle of friends has always been small (hashtag introvert) and while I love my family, we only ever see each other a few times a year anyway. In many ways, my life was already designed for full-time travel.

The one aspect that wears on me, however, is the lack of a “home.” It’s exhausting. While the excitement of carrying two bags to a new base of operations every few days in undeniable, and not knowing what the next chapter may hold completely thrilling, I’d be lying if I didn’t say sometimes you just want the familiarity of a permanent address. There’s no corner store where the clerk knows your name, no restaurant you can pop into mindlessly for a quick bite, no neighbors or friends just 5 minutes away if you need help or, hell, just someone to talk to.

Maybe “consistency” is the word I’m looking for. Glamorous on paper, this lifestyle is, but as time goes on I do find myself looking for something steadfast that I can always count on, no matter where I am in the world.

And I think I’ve finally figured it out. My home, the only source of consistency in my life, is Irish pubs.

Yes, pubs have beer. Beer makes me happy. But there’s another surface level benefit as well – the servers always, always speak English. You don’t understand what a comfort that is when you’re struggling with basic Arabic or how to ask for the check in French. And what is home if not comfortable?

What’s more, they’re literally everywhere. The English might have the won the race the colonize the world, but it was the Irish who followed them and built bars. They’re more prevalent in tourist towns, sure, but don’t get high on your horse when traveling about only seeing out-of-the-way gems; you’re going to end up in big cities – they became tourist draws for a reason – and after a long day of pissing off locals with your inability to understand their language, knowing there’s an English speaker willing to give you a pint makes the entire situation more tolerable.

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Before getting into this further: avoid ‘American’ bars at all costs.

Like gas station sushi, it always seems appealing but without fail is a disappointment. I tried one the first day I arrived in Nice – a bottle of Budweiser was priced like a keg, and the chicken wings looked small enough to have come from normal-sized free range chickens. Which is blasphemy.

After leaving Bar America, still hungry and sober and waiting to check-in to my Airbnb, I found an Irish pub. It was probably called Paddy Something or Dublin That or Wolf & Other Animal, I genuinely don’t remember. All I knew was that it was a safe place with reasonably priced beer and humans I could communicate with. And as a bonus, when the Chewbacca-looking bartender found out I needed a drinking establishment to sit at for the next two hours, he immediately comp’d my lunch. And not one of his 18 billion body hairs was in the food.

A similar happy accident happened in Toulouse. I’d had a shit day with work – had to write 1000 words about Blac Chyna & Rob Kardashian – and was in the foulest of moods. I wandered aimlessly for half an hour, looking for somewhere that could serve me beer in English, before stumbling upon Mickey O’Whoknows. The bartender, who previously worked in newspapers, spent half an hour commiserating with me about the state of entertainment journalism and, when I ran into him on the street two days later, took me out for cocktails in a speakeasy I’d never have found otherwise.

I don’t mean to only cite France – I’ve got endearing tales about pubs from Costa Rica to South Africa – but my most memorable Irish bar experience actually occurred in Paris. For all the wrong reasons.

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Men of Earth: never trust a French bartender These bastards have no shame..

It was myself, a date, and a group of friends sitting in an Irish bar (The Flaming Mythical Animal, probably) for a couple hours and suffice to say we’d put all the drinks in our face holes. On account of the fluid intake, I excused myself to use the bathroom, and when I came back, a bartender had the girl who was very clearly with me by the hand, pulling her over the bar and whispering in her ear.

I haven’t been in a proper fight in 10 years (great story for another time) but I damn near threw a punch just then. Justifiably, it turns out, as she told me afterwards that he’d made the most aggressive passes in the history of drunken courtship during my 30-second absence.

But really, at its core, even that feels like home. Who do you fight more with than family? And then who calms you down afterwards? In this case, it was the full-blooded Irish bartender who realized what was going on, gave me a drink and apologized for his dickhole French coworker.

It’s not perfect. Having to claim that a rotating list of bars run by drunken gingers is “home” is an unstable life position. Especially when you factor in that the employees will try to steal your girl.

But for now, that’s what I’ve got to work with, and it genuinely is a comfort everywhere I go. Cheers.

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photo: stone beach in nice, france that was unfortunately full of naked people. you’ll never feel more uncomfortable than when you get noticed unintentionally adding a topless girl in frame…

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Malcolm Freberg
Malcolm Freberg
American writer living permanently on the road. Believes rye whiskey is superior to bourbon, Belle is the best Disney princess, and that selfie sticks should be snapped in half on sight. Hosted a travel documentary for AOL & played Survivor a few times.

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1 Comment

  1. Angie

    Wish I’d known you were in Toulouse, would have had you over for an English-speaking dinner and share travel ideas. Would likely have been a sober one, however, so perhaps you would have declined. 🙂

    Reply

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