When Marisa Lanning was nine, her parents took her out of school, packed their bags and booked one-way tickets to New Zealand. The California-based family had been in touch with friends who had already left and decided to take the risk and do the same.
“It was in the 1970s, so letters were the only contact we had,” Lanning recalls. “They kept writing how amazing it was and my dad already had itchy feet. I had a brother born in Utah, another born in Boston, another born in LA and I was born in california we spent several months in new zealand and my parents ended up buying a house they loved it we would live in new zealand for three months on our tourist visa then travel to australia or on a Pacific island for a month or two before returning.
“It was an incredibly formative time, I was away until I was 13 or 14. I went from a loud and obnoxious American kid to a very introspective kid who questioned almost everything. But coming back was difficult, I didn’t fit in anymore. Many Americans thought we were both crazy and vaguely unpatriotic. When I returned, other students often asked me, “When did you immigrate to the United States?” I was no longer “American” for them, it was a little shocking.
even coming from Seattle where we thought the rental market was crazy, Dublin is outrageous
Lanning speaks to me from her home in Maynooth, the place she and her husband moved to just over three years ago. They spent eight years discussing the possibilities of moving abroad before finally selling their house and settling in Ireland with “five big suitcases, three cats and a serious case of optimism”.
“In 2018, several things happened,” Lanning explained in an email she sent before we spoke for this interview. “My husband’s job offered him a job abroad, my mother died suddenly and my youngest child decided to leave the United States for college – Ireland of all. As empty nests , we now had the freedom to pick up and move around.”
Lanning and her husband Stan met in California in their late teens, but moved to Seattle and later to Bainbridge Island, also in Washington state, where they raised their two daughters. “I wanted to give my children the same experience as me, to expose them to different places. I think everyone should get out of their comfort zone and experience a totally different culture. But Bainbridge Island is a very privileged little community. When we arrived it was quite rural but by the time we left it was really gentrified.
Stan’s job in Seattle’s tech industry meant they had to stay in the area and Lanning stayed home and cared for her daughters while working a range of jobs, from retail to malls. of calls.
Eventually, Stan moved on to a new company with an overseas transfer opportunity. He quickly applied and was offered three options: Dublin, London or Singapore. “London had just had Brexit so it wasn’t going to work, and my husband doesn’t like hot climates so Singapore wouldn’t work. I had been to Ireland once in 1982 but we’re sure why no, we will go.
The couple were also keen to leave due to growing polarization and societal divisions in their home country. “We were shocked by the changes taking place in the United States. We had started losing friends to gun violence and worried about my family’s safety. My husband is ethnically Jewish and Jewish hate crimes were on the rise in Seattle. My husband’s family synagogue was shot down twice.
“It was just exhausting living in the States, it’s really tiring to always be alert.”
A lot of Irish people say why the hell did you move to Ireland? You made it, you were in America. But there are very few things that I miss
The couple arrived in Dublin in February 2019, just months after their youngest daughter moved to Maynooth to study for a degree in music and maths. With support from Stan’s business, the couple found a flat in Rathgar where they spent a year. They settled in quickly and loved the area, but were shocked by the cost of living in Ireland’s capital.
“Rent in Dublin is very expensive, even coming from Seattle where we thought the rental market was crazy, Dublin is outrageous. We had been landlords for so long in the US and were new to renting, we so thought about buying a house, we searched in Dublin, then we searched outside Dublin and finally found a place in Maynooth.
The couple moved into their new home in December 2019, shortly after their eldest daughter also moved to Europe to study for a Masters in Glasgow. Stan was in the US on a work trip when the pandemic hit Ireland in March 2020 and tested positive shortly after returning, just as the country went into lockdown.
“He got extremely sick and I got sick too, but not as badly. Of course, this was before the vaccines, so we were isolating ourselves in our house, it was very difficult. But I’m so thankful we were in Ireland during Covid and not in the US. The Irish took the mask mandate seriously, they took vaccination seriously. You care about your elderly, it was very evident that Irish people have a very strong sense of family and community.
“I loved the signs on the freeway that said protect yourself, stay safe, wear a mask. And everyone did, it was obvious. No one was in your face yelling or screaming like they were in the States.
Ireland’s healthcare system also makes living in Ireland easier than living in the states, says Lanning. “We heard the Irish complaining (about the HSE) and yes there is room for improvement, but the care we received was equal to or better than anything we had in the United States. In addition, we no longer constantly fear that a wrong diagnosis will ruin us.
Irish people should also feel extremely lucky to enjoy such a rainy climate, she adds. “Ireland is quite temperate – neither scorching hot nor dangerously arctic. I’ve had to evacuate far too many wildfires, first in California and then in the Pacific Northwest. I love having water , California people are running out of water Ireland’s bountiful rainfall means enough water for crops, fish, wildlife and people.
Lanning acknowledges that being white and American has made settling in this country much easier for her family than for many others. However, she describes Ireland’s recent “gradual change” as “inspiring” and says Irish culture “retains a sense of humility, kindness and a desire to do even better”.
“A lot of Irish people say why the hell did you move to Ireland? You made it, you were in America. But there’s very little I miss except family and a few close friends.
“Ireland should be proud of its history and success. Is there more work to do? Absolutely, but what country doesn’t? Ireland feel like they are progressing in so many positive ways. We feel like we fit in and are grateful.