In early May I took a trip to Ireland. It was kind of spontaneous except for the fact that I had been planning it since November. So, maybe it wasn’t as spontaneous as I claim it was, but what was so special about this trip was that I booked it by myself, with no friends.
While it wasn’t exactly a solo trip for reasons I will explain later, it was pretty close. In the past year, I’ve become so much more comfortable with doing things for myself, by myself, because I want to. I genuinely enjoy my own company and have come to realize that sometimes you just have to do things, whether people want to join you or not.
I love to travel and really want to make it a major part of my life, but as many travel enthusiasts know, getting people to join you can be a struggle.
Most people like the idea of travel.
Few people like the idea of planning.
But even fewer people like putting money aside to make it happen.
Often times the conversations go like this….You tell a friend about an awesome place you want to go. They agree that it would be just as awesome. You begin to plan the logistics and when you present it to them with the price, all of a sudden they are no longer interested.
Suddenly they have to take care of something that was of no importance moments before, and that responsibility falls on the exact dates of your trip.
Now, I don’t blame them. To some extent, travel isn’t necessary, and it can be pretty pricey, especially for recently graduated college students. But just because travel isn’t important to others doesn’t mean you have to put my dreams aside.
My motto for this year has slowly become, “Do it, because if you wait for others to make plans, you’ll be waiting a lifetime.”
So enough about the motivation behind this trip, let’s talk about the actual trip.
On May 6th, I boarded a flight at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport to Dublin. Somehow I got the last seat available on the plan, which was crazy because my flight had been booked since March. I guess it was typical airline overbooking.😑 (The lesson here is, always arrive early to your flight… or early enough. Personally, I’m not about arriving 2-3 hours before for my flight. But I’m also not about missing my flight either.)
With that said, when you’re the last seat, you are definitely a middle seat, and so I was for the eight-hour trip across the pond. I didn’t sleep at all, and my excuse is not because I was uncomfortable. I actually had a pleasant flight, but why sleep when you can catch up on every movie you never went to see in theaters? (BTW… Delta’s international in-flight service and movie selection are a 10/10. I would definitely recommend!)
Fast forwarding to landing in Dublin… I got through customs and met up with my travel group in the airport. Now would be a good time to talk about how this was not a solo trip.
I booked this trip with a travel company called EF College Break that creates and hosts fun trips year around for people between the ages of 18-28. I chose Ireland because it was a trip that worked with my schedule, wasn’t too long or short, and was one of the cheapest tours they offered.
I chose EF because their prices are reasonable, they literally do everything for you (even book your flight), they are a trusted name in the travel industry, and they provide a “no interest” payment plan for you to pay off your trip before going, without breaking the bank.
If you’re interested in booking a trip through EF and want a $100 discount, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll get $100 off on your next trip and so will I! 😄
So back to the story… once we were all at the airport and past customs, our tour guide/trip director got us on a bus and on our way to North Dublin. We stayed at The Generator. It’s an excellent hostel on the north side of Dublin, steps way from the River Liffey, and there is an awesome cafe/bar downstairs.
On the first day, we were all just getting acquainted with the area and each other. It was wonderful, but I literally felt like I was dying from lack of sleep. One thing about me is that if I’m tired, I really can’t fake it. My eyes were closing in mid conversation with people. Talk about a good first impression! 😬 Due to a major lack of sleep and being up almost 24 hours straight, the majority of that day was a blur to me. All I remember is walking the streets of Dublin trying to familiarize myself with where I was.
While in Dublin, I saw St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Trinity College and went to the Guinness Storehouse among other things. While St. Patrick’s Cathedral was interesting, and Trinity College was well… a college. I’m sure what most people want to hear about is the Guinness Factory, so that can be found below, as well as small write-ups on other places I visited while exploring Ireland.
Disclaimer: Before going to the Guinness Storehouse, I had never had a beer.
The Guinness Storehouse was pretty impressive. First of all, the building is shaped like a huge pint (of Guinness… duh). It’s basically a huge museum for Guinness beer. As you walk from the first floor to the top, you are told of the history of Guinness, how it’s made, and a little bit about their advertising history. On the way to the top, you also get the opportunity to experience a Guinness tasting and/or pour your own pint.
I decided to do the Guinness tasting. It was interesting, to say the least. Everyone in the room (you had to be of age, so 18-years old) got a shot size amount of Guinness, and then the guides taught us how to drink it properly.
According to them, you have to swish it around in your mouth before swallowing to experience all of the flavors. I confirmed I wasn’t missing out on anything by not drinking beer or Guinness to be exact.
After the tasting, it was off to the races. Everyone just wanted to go to the Gravity Bar. The Gravity Bar is at the top of the Guinness Storehouse and is where you can enjoy a full pint while looking out over all of Dublin. It was definitely a cool experience, and I enjoyed the views, but I genuinely couldn’t bring myself to take another sip of Guinness let alone attempt to finish a pint. I happily enjoyed the views and gave my pint to one of my group members before making my way down to the gift shop where I browsed but made no purchases.
Earlier in the day, before going to the Guinness Storehouse, our tour guide, about 50% of our group, and I went to Belfast, Ireland, which is in Northern Ireland. We learned about the history of Ireland, its separation from the UK and much more. But one of the primary reasons we traveled to Belfast was to see the Titanic Museum. Belfast specifically, is most known for building the Titanic.
Disclaimer: Belfast built the ship. They didn’t sink it!
I’ve never been a big Titanic fanatic, but it was awesome to learn more about it and be in the location where it was built. I also got a chance to see the Titanic’s much smaller sister ship, the Nomadic, which was cool as well.
Glendalough Forest Park
Braveheart, P.S. I Love You, Leap Year and Black Lake are just a few of many movies that have been filmed at Glendalough Forest Park. To say the least, it was beautiful being out in nature and standing at places where particular scenes in popular movies were shot.
This might sound bad, but even after visiting Blarney Castle, I still couldn’t tell you why it’s significant. I just remember that it’s tradition to kiss the Blarney Stone. The stone is known as the Stone of Eloquence, so after kissing it, you’re supposed to be one smooth talker.
Update: Nothing has changed. I speak and sound the same.
Everything around the castle was beautiful! They had so many gardens, waterfalls, streams, etc. So if you’re one for beautiful views, I highly recommend you visit.
Ring of Kerry
From Dublin, my group and I made our way to Kerry, Ireland. It was quite the drive, but for some reason, drives are far less boring in foreign places. The landscape of Ireland is beautiful and for me looking out the window never got old.
Ultimately the Ring of Kerry, is basically a big circle, more like a figure eight, with different spots to stops along the way. We stopped at many different places, lookouts, waterfalls, beaches, etc. and each place looked so different than the last. Though I consider myself to be a “city girl,” being surrounded by nature was awesome.
This was hands down my favorite spot of the whole trip! Galway is fantastic for many reasons, some of those reasons are, 1) it’s a college town, so the population of people there is very young 2) the shopping area or main street (Quay Street) is wonderful. You can find anything and everything you need from food to souvenirs, etc. But 3) it’s right on the water.
Almost every morning in Ireland I would run to familiarize myself with where I was and to get a good workout in. The morning I attempted to go running in Galway I ended up running for two minutes, stopping, walking, and taking pictures for the rest of the time. I “ran” along the shore where there were swans, seagulls, and the island of Causeway in the distance. It was about as fairytale-like as it gets.
Cliffs of Moher
On our way to Galway, we stopped at the Cliffs of Moher, which is one of the primary reasons I wanted to go to Ireland. It was beautiful!
Disclaimer: Parts of the Cliffs are roped off for tourists to walk, and other parts are not. In my opinion, to get quality pictures, you have to go where they claim it’s not safe to go. I’m not recommending it, I’m just being honest. Ropes and signs can really ruin a quality picture.
Despite how breathtaking the Cliffs were, my excitement while there faded very quickly and for a good reason. There were so many signs talking about mental health, suicide, and things of that nature.
On a more somber note, the Cliffs of Moher is actually the number one place in Europe to commit suicide, and once that became a reality to me, it actually took the fun out of being there. It was still beautiful though!
The Aran Islands were our last stop, and they were… interesting. We only went to one Island, but one was enough. The locals of the island don’t have much, and there isn’t much going on. It felt quite underdeveloped, as they had just got cable TV on the island within the past decade. It was just weird to take a 45-minute boat ride and go from having everything at your fingertips to nothing, especially while still being in a first world and highly developed country. To say the least, it was eye-opening.
Regardless, the Islands had some of the best souvenir shops and also Don Aonghasa, which is another famous cliff in Ireland. There is nothing like a beautiful view that you don’t see every day to cap off your time in a beautiful country.
So with all of that said, my trip was wonderful! I could literally write for days and continue to explain parts of my experience, but who has time for that? Instead, I’ve put together a less than two-minute video of my time there. It captures many of the sights I saw while abroad, a few of my group members, and is ultimately a mini video travel diary for me to look back on in the future. I hope you enjoy seeing Ireland through my eyes!
Until next time, get up, get moving, and live your best life.