I just want to start out by saying that everything you’ve heard about Ireland is true. They aren’t just marketing ploys to get you there, they are real. It is that gorgeous, and the people are that friendly. Here are a few more things Ireland taught me about myself, and traveling in general.
1. Irish charm is real.
I even experienced it in the quintessential way, in a pub, under glowing lights, with a traditional Irish ballad playing in the background. The young Irishman and his duet partner had just finished their set of songs, and were packing up to leave. They had a small sampling of CDs for sale, and I walked up to purchase one. His partner took my money, and thanked me for my compliments of their music. All the young Irishman said while looking into my eyes was, “you are truly beautiful.” I was taken aback, with a million cynical thoughts running through my mind. Even though I am married, I was flattered.
2. Irish music is as good as its reputation.
You will hear Irish music piped into every gift shop, airport terminal, and hotel lobby. You will find yourself humming and even singing along with it after a short time. To truly experience the wonder of Irish music, however, you can’t listen to a CD. You have to hear it live, with an artist that can also tell a good story along with it. There are so many options when it comes to finding live music, and so many talented musicians and vocalists. One of my favorite things about my trip to Ireland was listening to live music just about every evening.
3. Getting off the beaten path is the best kind of travel.
We learned this when we jumped off the highway and drove a small one-lane road that quickly turned into a path. At the end of that path was one of the most beautiful sights we saw in Ireland. Two perfectly formed high crosses. Such remarkable works of art and craftsmanship, in pristine condition, and not readily visited by the masses. I’m so glad we ventured down that lesser-traveled path. It gave me such a sense of accomplishment in navigating those unknown roads, and witnessing such an amazing work of art humbled me. I believe those travel moments are the ones to cherish. You, in solitude with a wonder of the world.
4. Road rage can be nonexistent.
Even though I drove slowly, rushed across lanes of traffic, and generally broke most travel laws (in an effort to find my way around), road rage from myself and other drivers was virtually nonexistent. The man that rushed out of an alley and almost collided with my little rental car only smiled and waved apologetically. I didn’t hear angry honking or see any rude gestures, either. It made the stress of driving in a foreign country easier to handle.
5. Castles can be a part of everyday life.
In Ireland, you see castles everywhere. They aren’t all in perfect condition with towering turrets and moats, but their stoic stone walls tower over their surroundings all the same. Most are ruins and left to weather in sheep pastures, which is an amazing sight to see. I believe what reached out to me the most was the sense of history and legend that was present around every bend in the road. You could look out and see how the stone tower was built to defend itself from enemy raids, utilizing the environment around it for protection. The juxtaposition of modern life with stone walls and tower ruins was something spectacular to witness.
6. Facing fears = making memories.
Two things: driving in a foreign country and heights. Both of these fears were faced on this trip, and both were overcome. You can read more about my fear of heights here, and read about my driving experience here.
7. Irish hospitality is genuine.
Even though you hear often about how welcoming Ireland can be, I was not expecting fanfare upon my arrival. We had been in the country for a grand total of 15 minutes, and had already met three people. Each one of them asked us how we were, and welcomed us to Ireland. It was such a nice feeling. Each bed and breakfast had the same easy, warm feeling. Whether it was help with mapping out our route, welcoming us in with a cup of tea, or recommendations for a restaurant, we always received kindness and hospitality.
8. I’m a thrill-seeker, apparently.
I experienced many thrills on my trip to Ireland…driving on the opposite side of the car, on the opposite side of the road, all while on small, winding roads…laying upside down on top of a castle to kiss a stone, and even standing on cliffs overlooking a rough, choppy sea to get the perfect photo. They may not seem all that dangerous or death-defying, but they were definitely out of my comfort zone. All of these experiences were thrilling, and resulted in the trip of lifetime.
9. Sheep will cross the road in front of you.
10. It really is the “greenest green you’ve ever seen.”
So many shades of green across rolling lush fields. No Instagram filter needed…the natural light and color flood your senses. I’ve never seen anything more naturally beautiful.
Did Ireland teach you anything? Would you like to visit? What’s your favorite thing about Ireland?