When choosing a location for observation, light pollution plays an important part. Use this interactive map to see how your area compares.
Unihedron produces a range of Sky Quality Monitors that can be used to measure the quality of your sky. Some astronomy automation packages can now make use of these devices.
I live in the east of Ireland, and work in the Information Services area of an insurance company. I have always had a love of the sky. Once I saw what could be achieved by amateurs using consumer-level equipment, I was hooked.
Astronomy can often be a solitary pastime. However, any opportunity to view with friends should be grabbed. It's a chance to learn and inform. In Ireland, groups like the Dublin Stargazers Group give people a chance to meet and share the viewing experience.