The world is bigger than we could ever possibly imagine, and it’s scary to think we will never even scratch the surface in this lifetime. Even if we do travel to the same places, we see the world through different eyes, creating a unique experience. As I dive head first into travel, I am inspired by each of your adventures and am starting Sonderlust Secrets as a series showcasing this. Interested in being featured?Ireland and Northern Ireland hold a special place in my heart. While I’d already spent a lifetime traveling as a military brat, this trip was among the first international ventures I embarked upon in my adult life. It also marked the first of many international destinations to come for me and my then-fiancé. We’ve travelled to twenty-six countries together since, and have dubbed ourselves the #AdventurePartnersForLife.We made the journey in January, just one month after we’d gotten engaged. Why January, you ask? Because we were both tied to a much stricter budget in those days and because flights were only around $400 roundtrip that time of year. The beauty of it was that we got to see Ireland and Northern Ireland in a way that many travellers never would, and those unique images are forever etched in our minds. Join me as I divulge some of our favorite places and special memories of the Emerald Isle and and its friendly neighbor.
We’d arrived in Dublin after many hours of flying, where we’d been routed and re-routed, almost missing flights, and with me somehow ending up in Spain without legal entry. To the best of my memory, we’d been haphazardly rushed through TSA in Philadelphia and, when we arrived in Madrid, we found that only my husband’s ticket had actually been re-routed in the airline system. The flight attendants and TSA had basically shoved me on an international flight, for which I had no legitimate ticket; by all accounts, I had already supposedly arrived in London. Needless to say, we were relieved when we finally arrived in Dublin. We rented a car and planned to road-trip the island for ten days.
It was Obama’s presidential inauguration and, when we got in the rental car, we found it interesting that almost every radio station was reporting on it, the United States’ first African-American president. We were even more surprised to find on an evening walk around the city that Irish citizens were actively celebrating the event in the streets. We stopped at a bar in the midst of the hooplah, where my husband attempted to order a scotch. The barkeep adamantly denied the request, insisting he drink Irish whiskey, and gave him a glass of Paddy, the cheapest whiskey to be found. That night, our first night in Ireland, we heard the cheering until we drifted to sleep, all down the length of Grafton Street and the River Liffey. The realization that our nation’s politics extended far beyond the borders of our own country was one that we’d take with us on all our future journeys.
Glenariff Forest Park
As you exit Dublin, you’ll find any number of toll roads. Because we were young and broke, we made it a point to change our GPS settings to “avoid major roads.” While Glenariff Forest Park in Northern Ireland was indeed on our list of sights to see, the way we got there was very likely not the most straightforward… since we forgot to turn the GPS setting off for the remainder of the trip.
The entire island is a lush green, of course, but as you continue into Glenariff, you enter thicker woodlands than what you might otherwise find. As we drove the narrow, winding roads, the landscape gradually transformed from emerald pastures to dense forest. Eventually, it began to snow; that quiet, peaceful kind of snowfall. We pulled the car over to stretch and take in the serenity of it all. That’s when we got this shot, one of my favorite photographs we’ve ever taken.
If you ever make the trek to Northern Ireland, add the Giant’s Causeway to your list of must-sees. Named after a mythical battle between giants, the Causeway is a geologic wonder of hexagonal basalt columns hugging the water, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This portion of the island’s coastline is quite majestic, with staggering rock formations abound. Though visitors can take a shuttle from the Welcome Center to the Causeway itself, my husband and I didn’t have any pounds on hand, so we decided to hoof it. It’s not a particularly long walk, but the return trip is pretty steep. Consider yourself warned.
Remember how we never turned the “avoid major roads” setting off on our GPS? Well, this made for an especially interesting experience in Connemara. After driving and touring for most of the day, evening fell and we were running quite late for check-in to our reserved bed and breakfast. We eventually found ourselves surrounded by a herd of sheep in our tiny rental car on some random background around midnight. We mustered as much patience as we could and slowly navigated our way through the wooly bunch, only to find that we ended up standing on the B&B’s stoop for thirty minutes locked out. Fortunately, the owner finally heard us and answered the door. When we explained that we thought someone’s sheep must’ve gotten out of their pen, she replied, “Oh no, that’s just part of the Connemara charm.” We later learned the owner of the bed and breakfast was running for mayor, and she sang an Irish hymn for us as we ate a “traditional” breakfast of oatmeal with kiwi (though I’m pretty sure kiwi isn’t native to Ireland.).
The following morning, we continued our journey through Connemara and decided to pull over to enjoy the scenery. The sky was a heavy gray and the yellow of the long, wispy grass contrasted beautifully against it. We stood lakeside in the light snow and suddenly realized the silence surrounding us. Not a car, not a plane, nor another human voice to be heard. Just us, and the lake water lapping against the land.
Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher deliver an equally astounding experience as the Giant’s Causeway. While the Causeway consists of rugged rock formations along the coastline, the Cliffs of Moher are simply sheer cliffs that drop dramatically into the sea. Being that it was January and we were, well, standing on seaside bluffs, the wind blew something fierce and dispatched a particularly biting cold. My now-husband only brought a light coat and spent the entire visit shivering uncontrollably. Nevertheless, we spent our time photographing the scenery and imitating the signage of people falling over the walls.
Of course, there are a thousand more sights to see in Ireland and Northern Ireland. These are just a few that provided fond memories for the #AdventurePartnersForLife. Whatever you decide to do with your time there, the Emerald Isle and its friendly neighbor are sure to find a permanent place in your heart.
Jordan is a part-time traveler and full-time wanderluster on a mission to complete the 40×40 Challenge, forty countries by the age of forty. With 37 countries completed, she’s looking forward to visiting Southeast Asia and the Baltics by the end of this year to finish the job. Join the #AdventurePartnersForLife on their journeys at Global Debauchery and on facebook, twitter, and instagram!