Last month, I traveled solo to Dublin, Ireland to join a hiking group. I wanted a legitimate vacation, I wanted a new stamp in my passport and I wanted to see and do things in the country every day, all day. I wanted a plan but I didn’t want to be the planner. I’d like to think I’m not usually so full of wants, but I’ve always wanted to go to Ireland – in fact, I so romanticized having a Guinness (my first) in a pub, eating fish ‘n’ chips as a local band played (No doubt, this comes from watching the Irish jam/dance session in Titanic too many times when I was younger) – anyway, I had so romanticized this series of firsts that I was teased somewhat mercilessly (read: in good fun) for the first half of the trip, before I quietly ordered and quickly downed a pint of Guinness at a small pub in West Cork. The first picture is overlooking the Dublin Bay from atop Killiney Hill just south of Dublin. I hadn’t slept in over 24 hours at that point, arrived at the hotel a solid three hours before our meeting time and set off by myself. This was the first view I saw, and after all the anxiety of traveling, I felt like this is exactly where I was supposed to be.
The first day we ate around the town of Dalkey, walked up Coliemore Road, Vico Road, up to see the Obelisk and down to Killiney Hill again to see these amazing views. What followed, was ten days of incredible hikes – steep, rocky cliffs, lush green valleys and trails that looked like legitimate jungles. I found myself face to face with cows, bulls, sheep and goats; in fields of chamomile daisies; in cemeteries with monuments and druidic crosses that have been around for ages; in castle ruins and shrines to saints of whom I’d never heard. I ate hearty, protein fueled soups and pastas; salads and desserts that wouldn’t end; I consumed more tea in those 11 days than in my entire lifetime and rolled around in locally sourced and spun wool.
Even now, having been back in the U.S. for a little over two weeks, it’s hard to look at these pictures and process what an incredible time it was. I left Tennessee on a hot 90 degree day and arrived in Dublin, already in progress just after sunrise, to an overcast 60 degree day. I joined up with a group of 15 others – mostly married couples, but all travelers, all happy, open minds ready to climb hills and taste new beers; who cheered as we started the first hike in town and laughed as a torrential rain came and didn’t stop as we panted up the rocky ascent at Glendalough (above) in the Wicklow Mountains. Some of those crazies went for extra runs and walks to add additional mileage! And every time we’d crest a hill, or meet at the bottom after several hours of hiking, our muddy trekking poles in hand, slightly out of breath to drink tea and coffee before heading off to the next destination, I felt really honored to be so randomly placed with these folks. (PS – I did this trip through REI Adventures, they do trips like this all the time, all over the world).
In many ways, this was a life-changing trip. It’s the first time I’ve traveled overseas by myself; the first time I’ve joined a group of fellow travelers (and an assigned roommate!) and relied on strangers to not only arrange most of the travel for me, but also to drive and guide me across a country I knew little about. At worst, I knew I could traverse the country on my own if I needed to, purely because most people in Ireland speak English and ATMs dispense Euros from American debit cards – but it was still a battle for me to press go. I’ll add a couple more posts with more pictures, if only because I loved the hiking, loved the country and miss the group I spent almost two weeks getting to know.
Oh, and one more picture…