Almost 3 months later and I’m still swooning over my experience.
The only countries I’ve been to outside of the US have all spoken a different language, so visiting somewhere that we could communicate well with people and find our way around easily (I use easily very lightly here…we still got lost a lot) was refreshing.
I guess I should back up and explain who “we” even are. First of all, I never imagined my mother would ever step foot out of the country. In fact, up until I coaxed her into coming with me, she didn’t even have a passport! (Side note – and rant…if you’re older than 25 and you don’t have a passport, stop reading this immediately and get one. But don’t just get one…get one and USE IT. Being able to freely travel around the world is a privilege we unintentionally take for granted. End rant.)
I’ll try to avoid getting sappy, but this opportunity – getting to experience Ireland with my mom – is something I’m going to cherish the rest of my life.
Aside from the fact that she had to stop every 5 minutes to take pictures and how her driving skills made me absolutely fear for my life…aside from those couple of things, it really was an experience I’m going to look back on fondly. When you travel alone, nobody else can truly understand what you experienced. And quite frankly, I don’t think they care a whole lot. It’s nice to be able to say to my mom, “Hey, remember that time in Ireland when…” It just makes the experience that much sweeter.
It’s hard to determine what aspect of this trip was my favorite. It was all one big incredible blur. Our first stop was to Giant’s Causeway. Never heard of it? That’s okay, I hadn’t either before I Google’d Ireland and saw a cool picture of it. That’s literally what made me put it on our itinerary…because it looked “cool.” But, having been there and learned a little more about it, it really was a pretty neat place!
The myth behind it is my favorite. It involves two giants: an Irish giant by the name of Finn McCool and his Scottish neighbor, Benandonner, who, as the myth goes, taunted Ireland endlessly. In an attempt to confront the Scottish giant, Finn takes chunks of the Antrim coast and throws them into the sea, creating a long rock path to Scotland.
Turns out, Benandonner is terrifyingly massive. Finn, being completely thrown off by this revelation, retreats back across the bridge…but not before being seen by the Scot, who follows him back to Ireland. Upon reaching his home, Finn’s wife is quick on her feet and disguises him as their baby. The angry Benandonner saw the baby, and decided that if he was already that big, then his dad must be HUGE. Much bigger than him.
Basically, he then ran away like a little girl, smashing the bridge along his way.
Isn’t that fun? It reminded me of the tall tales we grew up learning about in Kansas. They even had a cute little animated film playing in the gift shop that I may or may not have watched like 5 times.
The next place we visited was called, the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. It didn’t have a vibrant back story like Giant’s Causeway, but it was nearby, and it was cool as well.
We then took the coastal route back to Dublin – a last minute decision, but one I’m so glad we made. Despite the 24/7 rainfall, it was beautiful. It did, however, make driving on the “wrong” side of the road a little more tedious, but we managed.
The next couple of days, we decided to meet up with a family that we had actually met back in Sterling. The wife used to baby-sit my brothers and me when we were really little, so it had probably been close to 20 years since the last time we saw each other! I was very excited to get to hang out with them for a while.
Much like my Haiti story – God decided he was going to use Ireland and this sweet couple to speak into my life.
If I’m being honest, our Ireland trip was kind of a “break” from my reality. I wasn’t happy in Sterling or even where I was at in life. I was having one of the world’s biggest pity parties (which seems to be happening a lot lately, I know), and God, being the good Father that he is, helped snap me out of it; in the most loving way possible. During our time visiting this couple and their family, the husband began reminiscing about Sterling and how amazing it was. I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Uhhh are we talking about the same Sterling? Sterling, KS? That town that has a population of less than 3,000 people with ZERO things to do? That Sterling??”
Yes. He was talking about my Sterling. The same Sterling that I grew up in. The same Sterling where almost immediately after you got into trouble over something, the entire town knew about it. The same Sterling where getting out was considered the biggest goal as a high school senior.
As all of these negative thoughts about That Sterling raced through my mind, I sat there in awe listening to him recall memory after memory of how the community wrapped around him and his wife, how so many individual people impacted his life, and just how being in Sterling made him a better person.
It was pretty eye opening how blasé I had become about Sterling. I gave myself a few months to write this so I could just kind of sit on this revelation. I’ve had to be gracious with myself after learning just how arrogant I had become. I realized I walked around with this sense of “I’m better than Sterling…I need to be somewhere bigger and better. Somewhere with more opportunities for me to thrive.”
I feel comfortable admitting that now. Before, I was ashamed. But…I’m human. I’m susceptible to the same lies that the devil tries to get us to believe to keep us from experiencing the fullness of life God has for us.
God used that situation to open my eyes to what an incredible opportunity awaited me in Sterling. The same Sterling that helped shape me into the driven, but grounded woman I am today, the same Sterling that does, indeed, wrap around you in times of trouble, and the same Sterling that accepts you back with open arms.
As grateful as I was to have met God in yet another country through such an incredible experience, my mother and I still had more of Ireland to see.
Our next stop was Galway. I’ll admit it, I’ve watched P.S. I Love You one too many times – a part of me was hoping that I’d have some chance encounter with an incredibly charming Irishman (preferably Gerard Butler – even though I know he’s not Irish) and we’d live happily ever after.
And you guys guess what…it totally happened!
Galway was actually kind of a bust for us. Sterling has really changed me. I used to be all about the big city, but my mom and I really enjoyed the countryside more during this trip.
We stayed in Galway for the evening, but left first thing in the morning to head to “the Cliff of the Mohers” – as my mother repeatedly called them.
The Cliffs of Moher (as they are correctly known as) were breathtaking. If I had the chance to stay there forever, I probably would. But only if the weather wasn’t as cold as it was that day. We kind of picked a bad time to visit Ireland – it was the off season, so there wasn’t a crowd really anywhere we went, but it was COLD everywhere we went. I told my mom we’ll just have to go back again someday. Darn.
On our way back to Dublin, we decided that it wouldn’t be a successful trip to Ireland if we didn’t at least visit one castle while we were there. Of the million castles that we passed, I had to pick one that was currently under construction. I had packed our itinerary so full that day that we didn’t really have time to visit another one. We didn’t get that great of pictures from our castle experience, but we sure found the positives in the experience.
Like how we realized what a rich history Ireland has – it’s like everywhere we went, there was some history behind it. The castle we visited was called, The Rock of Cashel, also known as St. Patrick’s Rock (one of the reason’s I picked it).
Reputedly, this was the site where St. Patrick converted Aenghus, the King of Munster, in the 5th century AD. THE 5th CENTURY AD. That castle is over 1500 years old. I know, I should be more amazed with St. Patrick’s feats, but I can’t get over the fact that that castle has been standing for that long. I get it, they’ve renovated it, but that is still amazing to me.
That’s another thing that fascinates me when I travel. I’ve never been much of a history buff (I mean, obviously), but it’s so amazing that America has such a young history compared to everyone else. I remember living in China and my students would always ask me where I was from. To which I would respond, “America, duh.”
But, being smarter than me, they would always correct me and ask, “Nobody is originally from America, where did your ancestors come from?”
I had honestly never really thought about that until I moved there. Their answers were easy. They were all from China. I made it a goal when I moved back to pin point exactly where I came from, but of course life happened, and it simply fell off my radar. I’ve always been interested to pick it back up, though. I think we should all at least be curious where we come from, but then again, I’m single, I work from home, and I live in a town where the only thing to do is go bowling and that’s only open one day a week. I obviously have too much time to think about things like this. Maybe I need more hobbies.
After getting a brief history lesson from The Rock of Cashel, my mom and I jumped back in the car and made our way back to Dublin to finish out the trip. I had two more sites I so badly wanted to see – the Trinity College Library and the Dublin Castle. Unfortunately, Dublin traffic in addition to the random detours my mom and I made along the way, made it so that we simply didn’t have time to visit either one of those places.
I was legit bummed. I don’t think I spoke to my mom for a good hour – like it was all her fault. Even talking about it now brings up some bitterness. All the more reason to go back someday!
Overall, Ireland was, in fact, everything I dreamed it would be. There is so much more to see than a week-long road trip allowed, but we ate some amazing food, met some wonderful people, and got to see some pretty breath-taking views. If you’re ever thinking about taking a trip to Ireland, I highly suggest renting a car and road tripping. I think my mother and I would agree that it was the countryside that we enjoyed more than anything else.
When we got on the plane to come home, I couldn’t help but look back on that past week with an array of emotions. I was exhausted, but my heart was full. I was excited to get back to Sterling with my newfound perspective.
You may or may not know this, but Sterling was once called, “Peace.” As I sat there on the plane, I couldn’t help but chuckle at God (yet again) thinking about that fact. It’s just funny because that’s exactly what I found in Ireland. Of all places. God – you win again.
May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rainfall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
–An Irish Blessing