We had a plush two weeks planned in Ireland with my parents: tickets paid, car rented, three Airbnbs booked, excursions planned. Unfortunately, however, a week before our trip my parents had to call it off due to complications at home, so Taylor and I landed at the small Kerry Airport all alone.
With dusk quickly approaching, we walked over to the rental car company as rain began to fall. What we thought would be $100 to rent a car according to the booking we made in advance, turned out to be a substantial amount more as we were forced to purchase renter insurance. Thanks to the credit cards we have been using abroad, we haven’t had to pay any foreign transaction fees or purchase rental car insurance yet as it’s included in the perks for using the card. Come to find out however, unbeknownst to us there are three countries in the entire world that most credit card companies, including ours, do not cover for rental car insurance: Jamaica, Israel, and…(drumroll please!) The Republic of Ireland.
With no other option than to catch a flight back to England, we pulled out of the airport in our upgraded diesel car with a free half tank and $600 missing from our bank account. At first I was angry. And then I wanted to cry. Then we decided to call it another honeymoon, and set out determined to make it the best trip we’ve had so far!
Our journey began in Ballinskelligs, a town outside the Ring of Kerry, on the western edge of Ireland. Our streak of luck with good weather came to a sudden halt our first days. Sun would have been preferred, but lack thereof didn’t stop us. We explored seashores, castle ruins, and old cemeteries amidst the bluster and rain; drove down random roads with no plans other than the hope of getting lost, made friends with sheep and cows, and stopped for free samples at a chocolate factory (chocolate makes any rainy day better!). We tried to go to a really cool island called Skellig Michael every day, but the weather wouldn’t cooperate. When you make it to Ireland, go there for us! Each night we were thankful for a warm, dry place to call home with a fireplace and drier! Since most of the world doesn’t use one, we hadn’t dried our clothes in months!
After a bout of bad weather, we were lucky to get a gorgeous day while visiting the Dingle Peninsula. The drive along the coast was so beautiful that we had to stop every few minutes to get outside, walk around, and take pictures. After dinner we made it our mission each night to find a local pub with traditional Irish music. We found a couple good places to not only enjoy live music, but traditional Irish Set dancing as well while enjoying pints of Guinness.
To help us save money we canceled our second Airbnb reservation in the hopes of finding a Couchsurfing host. After many rejections we broadened our search and found a place to stay near Cork. We did not initially intend to visit Cork, but were happy it worked out! We ended up staying two nights at a home in the country with a Christian commune. We had our own room in a huge house with eight other people and three dogs. Taylor and I have talked about creating a version of this idea of shared living spaces with other families, so it was really interesting to see an idea like this put into action. Whenever we make it back home we are excited to pursue this dream after our time with them.
Thanks to advice from the locals we stayed with, we hiked and explored some really cool little towns outside of Cork: Cobh, Ardmore, Kinsale. Each night we stayed at the Christian commune, a different family invited us into their living room to share a drink and conversation. We were serenated by piano and handwritten songs, listened to stories of travel in Israel, and learned a lot about the conflict and separation of Northern and Southern Ireland. You can get amazing insight into the history and culture of a place when you spend time with locals.
Our journey then took us north through Lough Gur and Limerick to stay in a hostel in Lisdoonvarna since we couldn’t find anyone willing to host us for a night through Couchsurfing. The following morning we woke up early and made our way towards the Cliffs of Moher. We passed by the tourist entrance where you would have to pay to get in, and instead found a path a little further down the road to walk along the cliffs for free. They were amazing! It was so windy that day that we had to be careful not to walk too close to the edge, which was difficult since the path almost outlined the drop off. We didn’t have the best weather while visiting the Cliffs of Moher, but the stormy weather made them that much more dramatic. When we reached the furthest point on our hike, the skies opened up and it began to downpour. Seeing this as a sign, we decided to head back to the car.
Drying off as we drove, we cruised through The Burren National Park stopping momentarily at a perfumery and to see the Poulnabrone Tomb from 3800 BC. We searched for Wi-Fi at various places throughout the day as we still needed a place to stay that night. After sending out tens of requests on Couchsurfing and a few through Airbnb, we finally got accepted to stay a night in Ardrahan with first-time Airbnb hosts at 5pm. For a night we were able to sleep in a comfy bed in a house with a dog and breakfast in the morning. It doesn’t get much better than that!
After learning about Couchsurfing events on our last trip to Norway, we decided to create and host some events of our own! We met up with a young solo traveler in Galway who spent the last three days with us on our trip. Megan, a student from Vancouver who took a semester off from college, shared our love for hiking, and hiking is what we did! We trailblazed a mountain in Recess, ran into a wild petting zoo, made it to the summit of Connemara National Park, climbed up slippery rocks to the cloud-covered top of Croagh Patrick, and went all the way to the tip of Achill Island. Phew! Don’t worry my friends, we are staying in shape!
The northern part of Ireland was amazing and we were really sad to leave. Going into the trip we were interested to see how we would fill our time after plans with my parents fell through. We originally planned a slower-paced trip so that we could enjoy time in Ireland together as a family. To our surprise, at the end of almost two weeks there we felt as if we had only arrived; just scratched the surface of what there was to see and experience in the country. The longer we spend in one place, the more we realize how important it is to travel slowly; instead of checking things off the list, to take time to be with the soul of that place.
As with many things in life, plans change and the unexpected happens. We would have loved to have my parents along with us, $600 still in the bank, more affordable places to stay, and better weather on our trip, but life doesn’t always go as planned or how we would like it to.
We may be fortunate enough to see why things happen a certain way in our lives immediately, but usually these blessings aren’t revealed until much later in life, if ever. I’m sure we would have had a great time with my parents, but thanks to a change in plans we met people, saw places, learned lessons, and shared time together as a couple that we would not have had otherwise.
What hasn’t gone according to plan in your life, and how were you blessed because of it?
Instead of just checking things off the to-do list this week, how can you take time to slow down and enjoy the present?
We’d love to hear from you and learn from your experiences as well! Leave us a comment below or send us a personal message!
Lots of love,
Sarah + Taylor