In the latest series for Wise Grasshopper, “That Time I Went To…”, I’ll be reminiscing on the trips I’ve taken throughout my life, what impacted me most, the lessons I learned, and the memories I’ll never forget.
Ireland is one of those “you have to see it to believe it” type of places. Everyone talks about the beauty of the Emerald Isle, but until you’re standing there, driving along the coastside cliffs letting the mist frizz up your hair or in the streets of Galway absorbing the energy before heading into a pub, you don’t quite understand it.
I was on a mission to see the stunning country for myself when I planned the itinerary for my mother and brother. We’d decided to head to Ireland after my father had passed away, and, though it could have been a trip filled with emotion or grief, it became an opportunity for us all to connect on a different level. It was an important bucket list trip to find our family roots, especially for my mom.
Lesson #1: Travel with people you’ve never traveled with before. Throughout our trip, we learned so much about each other and ourselves as we navigated the challenges and celebrated the wins of travel.
And here’s the thing about traveling to Ireland - there are definitely challenges! The weather there is predictably unpredictable, with wind mixing with rain and cloudy skies off and on throughout the day in colder months. However, I still think that’s the best time to head to Ireland.
Lesson #2: Embracing the “off season” weather in Ireland gives you more of a chance to see everything you want to see. Think smaller crowds in touristy locations, and more open tables in the pubs.
From the get go, we knew we wanted to experience as much of Ireland as possible, and so we committed to renting a car and driving ourselves from destination to destination. With this tactic, we were able to hit the most popular spots and still get off the beaten track and explore smaller cities and towns.
Lesson #3: Real life experiences will always beat out Instagram opportunities. We wanted a taste of real Irish life, opting for pensions and bed & breakfasts instead of Airbnbs, and planning for a solid mix of city and countryside stays. We connected with locals, listened to their stories, and came away with that magic feeling that you only get when a place becomes a part of your heart.
Some people will say that you need more than a week for an international trip to be worth it. I suppose I’m here to tell you that the value of travel is found less in the amount of activities that you can pack into a set time frame and more about the impact those experiences have on you.
A day spent running through airports and navigating customs is “worth it” if you can look back at the trip and see the lessons that you learned from your days away from your comfort zone, if you can sense the personal growth that you’ve attained.
Our week in Ireland will always be defined by that for me: the connection, the determination to move forward through life’s obstacles, and the moments in between. The wind and the rain were cleansing for us all in many ways. It’s a trip I’ll look back on for the rest of my life as a turning point, an integral choice to turn a page and start a new chapter. I’ll truly never forget that time I went to Ireland.