Lucy Sweeney Byrne on how travelling solo taught her about the importance of home

To be at sea, to stay afloat; to be in perpetual motion, undercurre­nts pulling and waves sloshing, and yet to stay still, to go absolutely nowhere – this takes skill, and grit, and, if not speaking metaphoric­ally, enormous core strength. I certainly had grit, and a little skill. I had fuck all core strength, but, luckily, I am speaking metaphoric­ally.

This is what comes to mind, when I think of my twenties – being at sea. My years of drifting, when I had the experience­s upon which the short stories in my book, Paris Syndrome, are based, and the period in which I wrote them. From the age of 23, the age at which I finished my degree and broke up with my first love, my boyfriend of seven years, to the age of 28, when I met the man I’ll marry, I was constantly travelling (or I was home, in my dad’s house in Greystones, working in The Pieman Café or, later, The James Joyce Centre in Dublin,

and growing restless, waiting to have accrued enough money and energy and courage to be off travelling again).

It could be said, perhaps more accurately, that I was, for those years, in a constant state of seeking. I travelled the world hoping to find something, never quite managing, trying (and failing) again ( fail again, fail better…).

What was I seeking? Well, that’s no mystery: I was seeking excitement, fulfilment, a place where being in my skin would finally feel alright. I was seeking wild nights with strangers, bursts of laughter, the taste of new teeth; I was seeking aching views, the sound of winds through unknown trees, the calls of unknown birds, and soft snow in February, and dusty heat slicking across my brow in summer; I was seeking jazz bars and dive bars and a different kind of light; I was seeking spices cooked in strange and delicious ways; cooked at dusk, maybe, by a stranger, in a bustling garden somewhere just outside a city.

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