1) Traveling with 34 people is hard
Especially when you are in an entirely different country and only about 8 have service to contact one another. You have 34 different opinions about what to do, where to go, and what to eat. A 5 minute task easily turns into 25 minutes, and driving down the roads of Ireland turns into a parade. Although, the best thing about traveling with such a big group is that as soon as you get sick of one person, you have 32 other people you can choose to hang out with instead. There’s a bit of drama, a bit of stress, and a lot of fun stories that come out of it.
2) Every stranger is somehow related to you
Besides the fact that every stranger on the street could probably tell you some sort of history lesson about your past, most strangers that I did talk to on this trip were extended relatives in one way or the other. 104 people from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland were present at our family reunion. There was not one person among us who knew the entirety of everyone who existed. It seemed like relatives were popping up out of the blue! I was in New Zealand for 6 months and no one knew that I had an uncle who lived there that I could have visited! A family tree was made and hung up on the wall that brought everyone back to the same two people. The tree stretched over 20 feet long. It was amazing to realize how much family I had and how far relatives go.
3) ‘Irish Americans” are the worst
We are loud, obnoxious, love to drink, and there is a fudging LOT of us. It also doesn’t help that we each know every word to ‘American Pie’ by heart. When we walk into a room it is hard not to make everyones head turn. But somehow, we were always greeted with smiles, warm welcomes, and calm acceptance. Restaurants pubs and hotels were beyond accommodating. Staying open later, recommending directions, asking to help when someone was sick, no one even got mad when we drunkenly sang ‘American Pie’. Even better were our extended family from Ireland. They took us on tours, showed us our history, taught us traditional dances, and brought us to some of their favorite restaurants. It felt as if there was no wrong way to look at a person. I can understand how frustrating dealing with 34 people can be, even when they aren’t doing anything wrong (which for 95% of the time we weren’t), and I’m very thankful for the amount of generosity and patience we received from everyone throughout Ireland.
4) Everything is Old
Everything is so so so old. There are too many old things everywhere that most are not kept up with and become overgrown and left to nature. Castle ruins are everywhere, there are 400 year old walls built beside every road, and everything but the once wooden roof of a church gets used as part of a graveyard. Ireland is beautiful and astounding with the amount of history that it holds.
5) You’re allowed to climb on everything
Whether it was considered a historical landmark or just left to nature, nothing in Ireland is roped off. Sides of cliffs, edges of rocks, entire castle ruins, there was nothing stopping us from climbing them all. At the giants causeway in Northern Ireland hundreds of people climb all over the geological mounds of rock. The only place where there were some relative precautions was when we crossed a rope bridge on a hike and they only let 8 people across at a time. But as soon as we got off the bridge we were left on a small island that had at least a 100 feet edge on every side and nothing to stop us from getting too close and falling. It was fun for the adventurers, but terrifying for the moms.
6) Americans are too good at climbing things
After 7 days of getting used to Ireland’s relaxed rules about climbing things, around 25 American’s and 1 Scotsman decided to see a few more castle ruins. And surprise surprise, we decided to climb on them too. It was windy, but the sun was out and everyone climbed pretty safely all around the ruins. No one was hurt, and a large amount of fantastic photos were taken. But apparently there are a few things that you just shouldn’t climb, like three stories up a wall that is 1,000 years old. In our experience, if you do that an Englishman will come and yell at you that is unsafe and that you should get down. (Which he was not wrong about and if you’re ever in the same situation you should get down too).
7) Drinks were fantastic and food is edible
Irish food isn’t bad in any sense, almost all of it was delicious, it was just the same 4 delicious things for every meal in every city. (Which might be the reason Ireland isn’t know for its cooking but instead its drinks.) Guinness, Jameson, and every cider I drank were 200 times better. Everything was served in Pints which is about 1.25 U.S. beers. So in Ireland you get stronger alcohol, in larger quantities, for cheaper money.
8) It’s the perfect weather to hike in
There are dozens of jokes everywhere about Irelands permanently gray sky and rainy climate. And the first 3-4 days we were there we experienced just that. It drizzled, misted, poured and thunder stormed. Basically if you went outside you were going to get wet. But that didn’t stop anyone! We went on a quick hike up the road to my great great grandfather’s grave. It only took about an hour and a half to walk there and back, but the entire time it was pouring. And although there were grumbles and complaints, two hours later everyone was running outside again to go on another walk to a destroyed castle. As the week went on we did get a surprisingly good amount of weather. A few of us even got sunburnt. But the rain didn’t keep anyone from going outside in the mild 70 degree weather. And everyone agreed we shouldn’t have left as soon as our plane landed in NY with the 89 degree heat and high humidity.
9) It’s ok to get lost and just wander sometimes
Traveling with 34 people, and 6 different cars; we tried not to make permanent plans about anything. It was hard at times because no-one wanted to disappoint anyone and decisions were hard to make, but some of the my favorite parts of the trip happened when we just drove around. We stumbled along Slieve League when driving along the coastal road, and near Portlaoise we ended up at a cave that is considered one of the three darkest places in Ireland. Locals would tell us places to visit outside of tourist traps. We went to one pub and restaurant that was suggested to us called ‘The Church’ in Dublin. It was renovated from an 18th century church into a two story restaurant with a full bar and the original organ in 2007. Planning is necessary in order to get things done, but my favorite parts of vacations are when you stumble upon something amazing and excited that you didn’t expect.
10) My family is crazy, and that’s why I love them
6 cars, 10 days, 34 people that age from 91-8 years old. We met family extended family, learned about our history, hiked throughout the county, drank, sang, laughed, and climbed everything that was put in front of us. We got lost, stressed out, frustrated and passed around a cold. We traveled more than 1398 kilometers (868 miles) throughout Ireland and the UK. We road in cars, taxis, trains, horse carriages, and planes; we walked through fields and beaches, on top of cliffs and mountains, and into caves and forests. We climbed on castles, castles, bridges, and more castles. Basically we had a great vacation. My Scottish friend visited me in Ireland and met my family. When I asked him what he thought he told me that “You all aren’t as crazy as you think you are.” and he’s probably right. But through all of the stress, anxiety, tears and sicknesses, there were twice as many laughs, smiles and hugs. My family is crazy, and hard to deal with at times, but I wouldn’t want them any other way.