Heidi Boyd writes about here first trip to Ireland.
“Do you have Irish ancestors?” This is normally the first thing people ask me upon finding out I went on holiday in Ireland. In most cases, the person asking has Irish roots and is happy to meet a fellow Irishman. And maybe they’ve found one in me. Maybe.
Prior to my vacation in Ireland, I had no connection to Ireland or any other ancestry. At six weeks old, I was adopted by the most delightful, loving parents who helped me grow up without attachment to any particular heritage. In fact, my upbringing shaped me into a person who feels part of anywhere and everywhere all at once. That said, I experienced an intense and life-changing relationship with Irish people and culture that convinced me that in my heart – and perhaps my genetics – Ireland is my home.
I received this trip to Ireland as a surprise gift from my mother. She and a friend, whose Irish roots are in Leitrim, had planned the trip the year before. My mom’s twin and another friend joined the group.
At 34 years of age, I’m fairly well-traveled, and Ireland wasn’t on my personal top five vacation choices, but I accepted. After losing my beloved father fairly recently, I looked forward to making new memories with my mother and aunt.
This all coincided with the busiest year I have had in my career and personal life. I didn’t get too involved in the planning of the trip; I literally just packed my bags and showed up at the airport. I was frazzled, exhausted, and very much in need of a reprieve from my own life.
Then – magic.
The moment I saw Ireland’s lush green landscape from the airplane’s window as we began our descent into Shannon, I sensed I was entering a world that was unlike anything I had experienced before. When I walked outside the airport and the sea breeze hit me; I was enchanted. For the next two weeks, I left everything behind me and let Ireland sink into every pore of my being. I went from stressed to blissed in about a second flat. It was a feeling I will never forget and will cherish for the rest of my life.
We rented a house for two weeks on the Ballina side of the Killaloe/Ballina Bridge on the river Shannon. Five women with two rental cars and no reservations or itinerary, we planned only on doing what inspired us at the moment. We went to the Aran Islands and saw the most beautiful view of the Cliffs of Moher from below instead of on top; we frolicked around County Clare as if we were residents, and made many friends in Killaloe at the local pubs. I met my new friend Missy when we were seated beside each other for lunch and she began chatting away. Missy gave us the phone numbers of her chums who would give us a private boat ride on the Shannon, and another who gave us a tour of the bell tower at St. Flannan’s church, which is built on the grounds that once held the castle of Brian Boru, the High King. We bet on the races at Listowel and traveled to the Matchmaking Festival in Lisdoonvarna for a kiss. We followed the footsteps of President Obama, and had a pint at Ollie Hayes pub in Moneygall. Following Missy’s instructions to visit Brian Boru’s Fort, I went out for an evening walk and serendipitously, I met her along the pathway. She and I spent the evening on the fort walk, and she gave me a personal history lesson, intertwined with the local gossip. On our last night, the town celebrated with us at Flanagan’s, dinner at The Wooden Spoon, followed by pints and craic at our favorite pub, The Anchor.
Ireland engages every one of the human senses unlike no other. The landscapes, the food, the drink, the people, and the mystical energy of Ireland created a festival for all of my senses and kept me enraptured for two weeks straight. This was an adventure that I never could have imagined.
The people were as mesmerizing to me as the perfect landscapes. Coming from Cleveland, where the drivers are very impatient and rude, I was struck by how the people in Ireland stop, and instead of yelling, asked us to pull over so they could help us with directions. The absence of arrogance in the Irish people left me falling in love with everyone I spoke with. The open hearts, the transparency, the pure intentions; at first I thought it foreign and odd. Then it dawned on me that this is the way humans are meant to treat each other. This is how God intends us to love one another.
I was not expecting what I found in Ireland. I have seen with my eyes the most beautiful things on Earth. I could go blind today and have memories to satisfy me for the rest of my life. As our plane took off for home, tears fell down my face. I was already aching for this place that felt like home. I wasn’t expecting such a delicious and intense connection, much like I wasn’t expecting to go through culture shock when I returned home to my own life. It took me a few weeks to readjust, and it was a little rocky. My husband thought maybe I fell in love when I was on vacation in Ireland. He was right. I fell in love with Ireland.
See more of Heidi’s photos from her trip to Ireland: