Immigrant Dreams: Fantasies of Prosperity, Happiness, and a Sense of Place

In light of the recent refugee crisis, many of us have had the migrant’s pursuit of happiness and a better life on our minds. But those of us privileged enough to choose emigration, rather than having it forced on us, often dabble in the dreamer’s art of speculating about a rosy future in greener pastures where all of our “other life” fantasies come true. But, sadly, reality is often far different from those speculations. And in those moments we indulge the fantasy at our own peril.

Compared to the suffering and urgency of refugees, my wife and I and most of our migrant friends are remarkably blessed. And, as we all do, we like to think we are the most reasonable and pragmatic people around. But, on a recent trip to Kilkenny something happened to us that bears considering.

We’d heard good things about Kilkenny, and after about two hours in town we were getting a good, nay, great vibe about the place. By dinner that night we were both having similar thoughts, which, after a couple glasses of wine, we began to share. What if….?

“You know, it’s cheap here. It’s much cheaper than Dublin. We could buy a place and buy a car for commuting to Dublin. We could buy that little farm I’ve always wanted. Hell, for what we’d save, we could buy a cheap farm here and a dump/crash pad in Dublin so we wouldn’t have to go back and forth. We could go early in the week, or just before a midweek meeting, and stay over. And we’d AirBnB it between visits. And we’d finally have time for all our hobbies. And our hair would be shinier and more manageable.”

Ahh, the bullshit flowed that night, I can tell you.

That fantasy titillated us the entire trip. And it wasn’t until the train home, when Kalpana began to Google “Kilkenny to Dublin commute”, that phrases like, “excruciatingly bad”, “more trouble than it’s worth”, and “never again” wafted into the conversation like something from the next stall.

Then, this past weekend, at dinner with other immigrant friends who’ve been here longer than us, we discovered that the “two glasses of wine Kilkenny fantasy” is a common malady among immigrants in Ireland. They’d been to Kilkenny, and it had run much the same course.

I think that, among immigrants, who often suffer pangs of uncertainty for decades, wanting to find that one “magic place” that solves all our problems is a fairly natural reflex.

After four years, I still regularly ask myself questions such as:
“Do I want to stay?”

“Do I want/need to go back to the United States?”

“If I leave Ireland where would I go?”

“What kind of person am I (Dubliner, a Cork man, a Kilkenny-ite, a Berliner, Parisian, etc.)?

The truth is that now I’m a “migrant”, a member of that nebulous tribe of world citizens caught somewhere between home and “there”.

Until some time far in the dark and murky future, deep in my dotage, when I no longer suffer identity issues like these, I think the Kilkennys of this world will always tempt me. But I try to remind myself that no one place is perfect. To paraphrase one of my favorite philosophers (Gus from Lonesome Dove), “Life there is still just life”. And I embrace the words of a very wise friend and strive to, “want what I already have”.

That’s hard for all of us. But for migrants, with so much at stake, and often a persistent sense of groundlessness, I think it’s particularly difficult. But it’s also particularly important. It may be the key to happiness (and shiny, tangle-free hair).

Glenn K.
Dublin, October 2015

Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:
Water Rights (and infrastructure)
Finding the “Right” City For You

About Glenn Kaufmann

I'm an American freelance writer, photographer, and web publisher. I specialize in writing about travel, food, arts, and culture. I also write dramatic scripts for stage and screen. I'm based in Ireland.
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4 Responses to Immigrant Dreams: Fantasies of Prosperity, Happiness, and a Sense of Place

  1. Jason says:

    Great article Glenn. I, too, dream of making the move to Ireland. I also find myself looking at houses that are out in the country so I can enjoy the stress-free relaxation of rural Irish life. When looking at these homes I always check Google Maps for directions and “drive” time to a place of employment I’m considering. Then I remember “Irish Time” from my visits, and realize a 40 minute commute based on Google Maps is unrealistic. While that’s the norm in the U.S., things just take longer over there(mostly in a good way). This doesn’t deter me from still looking rural, but I always find myself searching for homes in town at the end. I also agree with the Kilkenny dream, it’s a lovely place that I would love to call “home”. Thanks for continuing to write!

  2. It’s funny that even once you reach Ireland–so tiny in comparison to the States–that you still find time to dream of somewhere where the grass is greener when you are already on the Emerald Isle! I’m playing with the idea of permanently moving from the States to Ireland and would choose Dublin as a starting place, and it is so refreshing to read someone else story who successfully has done so and is still a dreamer about Ireland and all the treasures in it!

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