The kids and I went Adventuring. We actually spent 7 days in Ireland, but we’ve come to call living life “Adventuring.” We took off with plans to see and do a lot of fun and beautiful things. The Boy had heard the food was good, so he was banking on that too. I however, like to keep my expectations low. I just wanted to survive travelling abroad with two children so I packed a lot of protein bars and trail mix. La Chica hoped to see puffins. Or penguins. Because I like to keep my expectations low and because I just don’t understand her sometimes, I just ignored her.
We learned a lot about Irish history and geography and customs, especially since it’s the 100th anniversary of the Easter Uprising. We learned most of the police in Dublin are not armed, the tearooms are superior to American cafes, and that cheese salad is a thing. The kids discovered what hitchhiking is, that people top off their coffee with warm water, and you can’t flag down a cab in Belfast (Dublin yes, Belfast no, I learned the hard way). I discovered it’s against the law to serve alcohol on Good Friday, but desperation and American charm can convince a bed and breakfast proprietor to break laws.
We also learned a lot of important life lessons too, which is a large part of why I find such great value in world travel for my kids. We learned:
Old habits die hard: Driving on the left doesn’t sound so difficult. I was OK on the motorways and roundabouts. What I was not so good about was making right turns. Or left turns for that matter. The kids quickly learned to scream “WRONG WAY!” The kids also learned to remind me that I had an entire half of a car on my left side. I drove for 7 days and over 1600 kilometres, but I only got the hang of it all by the end. The left side mirror decided it had enough of me and lept off the door by the second day after it had kissed a lot of poles, cars, and walls. This leads to our next lesson.
It’s OK to die: I know, this sounds morbid while we’re vacationing. But there was a certain understanding and resignation that with my driving, there was a fairly reasonable possibility that we may very well die there. And the kids were really OK with that. We’ve lived a good life with people we love, and we all end up dying in the end. Where and when isn’t up to us. The luck of the Irish brought us back stateside safely though.
An open mind and flexibility makes a difference: We had a list of things we wanted to see and do in Dublin, County Meath, Belfast, Bushmills, Carrick-on-Shannon, Renvyle, and County Clare. I made sure we didn’t have timed tickets for anything. I made sure we had a car, knew how to get a cab, and had money (and those protein bars). I made sure we all understood we didn’t have to check everything off the list. So off we went every day. Due to certain sites being sold out, or getting lost, or noticing a certain sound or smell, or talking to people, we ended up adding so much more to our trip. We discovered 13 castles, 9 rainbows, 7 street musicians, Ireland’s only fjord, and 1.5 gazillion sheep. We ended up crashing the procession of the cross with the Archbishop of Dublin on Good Friday. We celebrated Easter Mass in Belfast of all places. We ended up with the most breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean. We ended up remembering my fear of heights when driving on the edges of cliffs on muddy roads and no road barriers.
The kids learned life need not be planned to the last detail. The kids learned to create their own experiences based on their guts instead of experiencing what others want you to see. The kids learned that keeping an open mind to all possibilities expands your life exponentially. The kids learned there are no wrong turns in life or on the road, and you can always find your way back. The kids learned that it need not be a bad thing when things don’t go as planned. The kids learned to say “Why not?” more than “no.” The kids learned it’s a wise decision to ask for help.
So much of the week was spontaneous or unplanned, that we learned to scream “Adventure!” with glee and jazz hands instead of screaming expletives with dread and anxiety when we missed a turn, or got caught in a hail storm at the top of a cliff, or when the car refused to start. The kids learned that if one of us screamed “Adventure!” we were to start looking for something unexpected that we could make the most of. And we were always rewarded with amazing surprises. We were rewarded with rainbows, castle ruins, a sky full of stars, the discovery that sheep sleep on the sides of roads that have no shoulders (The roads, that is. The sheep all had shoulders). We were rewarded with the kindness and grace of strangers, homemade chocolate cake, experiencing Daylight Savings time twice in a month.
Compromises: There was no way we could do only things all three of us agreed to, even though the kids could sit at the bar in Ireland. So we did Giant’s Causeway, the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, New Grange and Knowth for The Boy. We searched for castles and sheep for La Chica. We toured the Guinness Storehouse, Kylemore Abby, several chapels, and pub after pub for me. We rode horses on the beach, climbed rocks and more rocks, hiked and hiked and hiked. We perused through museums and browsed through shops. With each activity, one of us was bored. The kids learned to take turns getting what they wanted. They learned despite not wanting something, they can support and find enjoyment of what loved ones want. They learned just because you thought you wouldn’t like it, you can.
Perspective: Turns out people were tickled by my American accent. “You do it so well. It’s all class, love.” I forgot I do indeed have an accent to the rest of the world. I forgot also that the rest of the world has a very different view about America. I ended up apologizing for our country every day. People are just confounded with Donald Trump. And why, oh why, was he even such a thing.
Your perspective is also different when you walk versus when you drive versus when you’re in a cab or horse-drawn carriage. By walking, we stumbled upon bagpipers in St. Stephens Green, which led to the voice of an angel named David Owens singing on Grafton Street, which led to cobblestone alleyways of funky stores and homes with doorknobs in the middle of the door, which led to a meandering river with ducks, which are sort of close to puffins, if you close your eyes and suspend reality. If we had taken a cab, it would have been efficient and nice. But we made our time interesting.
Persevere and courage: For several days, I drove hours each way to see a sight. People remarked how brave I was for driving so far in an unfamiliar land, and in the dark. I didn’t think I had a choice if I wanted to get back to the hotel. I had to keep going, no matter how tired or unnerved I was. We didn’t fly to Ireland to experience things only within a convenient distance. There’s an entire world out there. We’re here to live it. We’re not here to remain in our comfort zones. My kids have learned we don’t live in convenience. They’ve learned to trudge through some discomfort or work to get to magnificent experiences.
So the kids are thinking about where our next trip abroad will be. They know however, that “Adventures!” are to be had everywhere, and always. Sláinte!