What makes an awesome trip? Why do we come home sometimes and need a vacation? Or feel empty? Why are some trips so special that even the thought of it brings a smirk to you face?
For us Ireland was a magical trip. I had lived there before we were married, Clark had come to visit me during that time, but we were very distracted. When we returned as a family we weren’t distracted. This trip had all the makings of the perfect trip; adventure, nostalgia, connection to the local community and awesome scenery. Maybe that is why our pictures turned out. As we looked over our photos to analyze why we liked them so much I also started thinking about what elements make a truly amazing trip.
When Clark and I met and before we were dating and before the Cliff, I had decided to spend a year in Ireland. I was going to help a church establish their children’s program in the south of Kerry in Listowel. I had to raise my own support and Clark was a fundraiser. He developed a plan for me, we implemented it together and as the day drew close and the money I needed was falling into place, we were getting close too. It quickly became a serious conflict of interest!
Although I thought, more than a few times, that I should scrap the trip and just stay home with him. I did go. Clark and I built a great foundation for our marriage, long letters, long phone calls, and time to learn about each other, not just another movie together. It was tough. I loved the work I was doing in Ireland and I grew very close to the people there. I became a part of the fabric of the community. I even acquired a bit of an accent! But I wanted to be home with Clark. I wanted to be married and start our lives together. So while I was there I couldn’t fully enjoy it.
Fast forward 6 years….married, 18 month old son and in the middle of our cross-country road trip. Ireland was calling. I had made great friendships during my time there, but they were growing stale. I had changed so much and so had they. It was time for some face time. So with the money we saved staying with relatives, we scraped together enough for plane tickets and we were off.
We stayed at the church on an air mattress in the sunday school room. Jackson slept in the nursery. We had the whole place to ourselves except for the occasional surprise Wednesday morning women’s exercise group! (Good thing our room wasn’t in the line of sight from the front door!) They also let us use a car while we were there. We ate with old friends and were treated like honored guests. It was really special.
We also were tourists, we went to Blarney Castle, Waterford, Limerick etc, but we also found so many hidden gems. Off the beaten path, not in any guide-book or on Yelp, but spectacular. People stopping in the road for sheep crossing, old tractors going 2 miles per hour with a line of cars and no honking, picture postcard perfect views of the ocean and hills without another soul around.
There was balance, we felt connected and free at the same time. So how do we create this perfect scenario on a trip?
There was a day on the trip that we were clicking on all cylinders. We started in Waterford, which was a big let down. The Waterford Crystal factory tour is now shut down, the town felt dirty and a bit unsafe, so we were heading out and back to Kerry. We decided to take all the tiny country roads. They are small too. One lane or less mostly. We had a great map that showed each twist and turn.
We saw stopped in one small town, Dungarvan. A quaint, beautiful seaside town where there was a food festival going on and in the castle ruins a petting zoo and crafts for kids.
Back on the road we found the Skelligs Chocolate Factory that was an old house converted and they made amazing candy. We sat on an old concrete pier outside a pub that was packed and watched the world go by with an old friend. Ended the day at Blarney staying in a room at the Muskery Arms above a pub. Fantastic rooms, no credit card needed, just a signature in a large book.
Here is what I came to. When these 4 elements come together it awesome.
- Realistic Expectations
- Connection to the local culture
- Margin Time