July 10 – Donegal dreaming

july1012July 10th Hitching For Hope blog. Ruairí’s Hitching For Hope national listening tour is a one month project to hear, document and promote the visions and visions of the people of Ireland in advance of speaking at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties on July 29th & 30th . More info 

Blogging from the road, please excuse errors and sound quality issues etc.). Press the orange play icon on sound files to hear audio. 

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Latest blog (reviewing July 10th)

Alarm clocks drive me nuts but once again I was woken to the screech of mine calling me into action at 6am so I could get some online work done before an early Ocean FM radio interview. I spent a few minutes outside my Grans house, doing a bit of exercise in the garden my grandfather spent so much time in over the years. After the radio interview and a quick breakfast I visited my relatives next door and had the craic with Christopher who was buzzing from his visit to the President’s garden party the previous weekend.

Christopher and Jesse

Christopher and Jesse

I got dropped off in Ballyshannon by my uncle Daniel who reminded me of his philosophy of keeping things simple and getting plenty of rest as being the key to happiness.

My uncle Daniel
My uncle Daniel


Within minutes of starting to hitch I got picked up by a fish  monger who had known my grandparents. I told him I used to visit his fish van 30 years ago and we got chatting about life as a small business person. He said the  greed of the Celtic Tiger years caused a lot of people like him to get out of their depth and he told me about how he was intimidated out of working across the border when gun shots were fired over his van in the seventies.
I landed outside Donegal Town just in time to do a Highland Radio interview from the side of the road. A gang of sheep stared over at me as if to say ‘what the hell are you up to?’. Highland called me to postpone the interview and I decided to give my old friend Keith a buzz to see if he happened to be around for a quick catch-up as it was months since I’d seen him.
I love that the flexibility of this ‘no plan-no agenda’ trip lets me follow my nose like this. As luck would have it he was 10 minutes away and on his way for a swim at St. John’s point. I decided to make the most of the rare sunshine and join him. A swim was just too tempting. I texted the BBC Radio Foyle guys, telling them I wouldn’t get to Derry in time for the 2pm interview and asked if we could do it by phone.
St. John’s Point is another hidden jewel. An unspoilt peninsula 20 minutes west of Donegal Town. A hidden beach looking out on Donegal Bay and Ben Bulbin on one side and Killybegs and the Slieve League cliffs on the other. It was paradise.
 We ran in for a swim and jumped around like kids who hadn’t had an Irish beach holiday in 30 years. When we got out I  noticed I had a missed call and voicemail. It was the BBC. I had missed by interview by 2 minutes but they were calling  back in a minute. As the phone rang I jumped into Keith’s car and sat in my soaking wet boxer shots as I did a live  radio interview. Thankfully it went smoothly and there wasn’t a web cam looking in on me!
On the way back to Donegal Town we stopped to visit Larry Masterson, an old colleague who had recently retired from the health service and was setting up Blissberry Social Farm as a way of reconnecting people and communities, and promoting physical and mental health. Larry treated us to a top-notch home-grown picnic lunch and talked passionately about social farming,  a concept that is growing in popularity as people seek out new non medical solutions to life’s challenges.
He told me about some old people with Alzheimer’s disease in Italy that he had met at a social farm there. They did some light work  around a farm during the day and returned fresh to their care home at night where they had a good sleep and their health improved. In partnership with medical professionals they were able to reduce or remove their medication and restore aspects of their health and vitality. It makes sense. Pharmaceutical drugs versus the power of nature, human connection and care, working in community, and clean fresh air. Powerful medicine.
I got a lift to Letterkenny within 60 seconds of being dropped off outside Donegal. Tim caused a bit of a stir on the road when he veered off to pick me up. He said he was a sociology lecturer and a former priest and he was on his way to an alcoholics anonymous meeting in Donegal. Within minutes he asked me if I was familiar with the work of Joseph Campbell to which I
replied that I was reading a lot about his ‘hero’s journey’ theory.
The hero’s journey is something dealt with through myths from many cultures and is present in movies like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. The hero feels a call to action, follows the call, faces great challenges but overcomes them by listening for signs and support that come his or her way.
Campbell suggests that the key to happiness is following your own ‘bliss’ (what you love doing) by pursuing a hero’s journey that will give meaning to
our lives and in the end decrease issues such as alcoholism and other health and social issues. It is a theory that in many ways is behind this trip of mine, a mysterious call to action with mysterious forces paving the way. No doubt Tim is on his hero’s journey too.
In Letterkenny I had just minutes to wait until my former boss and mentor Janet Gaynor came to pick me up. Over dinner Janet talked passionately about the abortion legislation that was being voted on later that night. She said it was a milestone in breaking the church state relationship and in going some way to empower women in Ireland.
She said she feels feminism is still very relevant today as despite perceived equal opportunities the vast majority of those in power and politics are still men. Women remain underpaid and underrepresented and discrimination and sexual abuse are still rife. She explained how her work with young people has taught her that pornography and body image are serious issues that need attention.
Janet brought me over to visit Anne Sheridan, another former colleague who works with in mental health promotion. Also there was Anne’s husband John who is a banker working for the soon to close Dankse bank, a social worker from Derry called Kate and John and Anne’s teenage daughter Sinead. We spent a couple of hours debating the state of the nation, the concept of the squeezed middle and the ‘new poor’ and how the negative equity and indebted generation are stuck unless radical action is taken.
Later John told us about a men’s group he is involved with and how it offers a powerful support framework for men to come together, discuss issues of common concern, share stories and experiences, and organise events and days out. All this serves to help people in the personal, professional and family lives. We ended the night as Sinead told us about the many 16 and 17 year olds she knows who are preparing for emigration but how she feels Ireland is a great place that she wants to stay to live and work in. She said a hopeful bright future was possible.
Back at Janet’s I sat up until 1am doing some work and hit the day ready for a 6am start. Something would have to be done about this lack of sleep but for now I was doing ok, having a ball and feeling that this trip is turning into something incredibly special. Once again the generosity of people and the insights of the road have provided hope for the journey ahead.
The hitching for hope continues…

Thanks for all your support.



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Places I have visited so far
Galway City, Spiddal, Moycullenl, Oughterard, Cleggan, Inishbofin, Clifden, Mam Cross, Leenane, Westport, Croagh Patrick, Newport, Achill Island, Rossport, Belmullet, Ballina, Sligo, Bundoran, Donegal Town, Mountcharles, St. John’s Pt, Letterkenny, Derry.

Media coverage
Galway Bay FM, iRadio, the Galway Independent, Mid West Radio, Ocean FM, Tipp FM, WorldIrish.com, Highland Radio, BBC Radio Foyle x 3, the Derry Journal, DonegalDaily.com, RTE Radio One Mooney Show, the Irish Times, theJournal.ie.

Links to media coverage

Irish Times
Derry Journal
RTE Radio – Mooney show

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