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Wildbride: 1 Year Later

March 29, 2017

One year ago, I spent a weekend in Sedona, Arizona, with three strangers who would become friends, mentors, and soul mates. (You can find my recap here). That retreat helped me tap into the core of who I am, and led me on a journey I’m still on today, peeling back the layers of who I think I am as I search for my truth.

One year later, I found myself back in Arizona, this time with a different inspirational women: my mom!

We spent a beautiful four and a half days in Arizona, traveling to the Grand Canyon, through Flagstaff (where we got to have lunch with my Wildbride sister) and Sedona, my heart of hearts, where my soul is full.

The Grand Canyon was an experience I’ll never forget. The way the earth opens up, sharing all it has, is breathtaking. My mom and I were lucky enough to catch both a sunset and sunrise at the Canyon, and I’m glad I got to share those moments with her, despite the cold and wind.

Around every bend there was a view more beautiful and breathtaking than the last. We kept pointing and staring and taking pictures and saying ‘ooooh look!’. We climbed the Desert Watchtower, a tribute to the watchtowers of native tribes that live in and around the Grand Canyon. The artwork, weaving, and culture is so rich even in what I used to think of as a barren desert.

The truth of the matter is, there is an incredible amount of life in the desert. Even in the harshest of conditions, the incredible heat, the dryness, the chill and wind of the winter, life survives here. Trees, succulents, birds of all kind, we saw so much in our few days here. It is easy to dismiss a place as dead if you aren’t willing to take a closer look.

We also walked through the Tusayan ruins, an ancient Pueblo settlement where a group of 25-30 people lived. There weren’t many people around, so we could really move slowly and take our time imagining people walking through the desert forest foraging for food, looking for medicine, playing games, and celebrating the view they had of the sacred San Francisco mountains.

And then there was Sedona. A place that will always hold a piece of my heart. The red rock mountains of Sedona couldn’t be more different than the San Francisco peaks in Flagstaff. They seem almost soft when you look at them. We stayed in a wonderful airbnb, and experienced another mesmerizing sunset after a hike in the desert. After a dip in the hot tub with a glass of wine, we hit the hay so we could get up early for a morning hike.

My Wildbride sister and I in Flagstaff

The red rocks of Sedona have my heart always and forever

While in Sedona, I had a dream that spoke to me. It was a dream about something that really happened, but in this dream, I took control of the situation, I didn’t passively stand by and let the situation play out. And while the true ending of what happened worked out well for me, having this dream in a place that holds such powerful spiritual energy for me one year after starting this journey of self-honesty, it spoke to me, and meant that I am listening to myself, taking charge of my life, not sitting by and watching it pass.

My mom and I had some incredibly beautiful moments on our trip. And some really great guacamole and margaritas. It was interesting to be in the same place one year later and assess where I am in my life, how much I have learned to trust myself, and still recognize there are places I can grow.

Blog life Travel

Wildbride

April 14, 2016

One month ago, I spent a weekend with three strangers. They were the most bad ass, true to self, supportive, wonderful women. I can’t put into words how much their presence moved me, their souls uplifted me.

The weekend was a Wildbride retreat, a time to be fully yourself, to feel safe being a woman and celebrating your quirks, flaws, personality. I opened up more to these women in one weekend than I have with some people I’ve known for years. There was a built in level of trust—we were all there with the intent of letting our true, wild nature emerge, knowing and supporting and being inspired by the wild nature in each other.

The words comfort and acceptance keep coming to mind when I think about my Wildbride experience, both from within and without. Bridget, Liz and Kristina created such a safe space for me to let out feelings deep within I don’t often allow myself to feel. I wasn’t judged, wasn’t looked down upon, wasn’t told how to feel or act. I felt celebrated, part of a community of women connected throughout time and space.

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I’ve never been to the desert before; Sedona was my last choice of Wildbride locations. But I have family who snowbirds from our cold Minnesota winters in Phoenix, making it the most convenient location. So I booked it.

As the plane descended, I couldn’t stop staring at the mountains. Desert and mountains just don’t belong together, in my mind. It didn’t make sense to me.

But as I drove from Phoenix to Sedona, mountains unfolded all around me. I couldn’t believe how beautiful it all was (the near 80 degrees and sunshine didn’t hurt either). I was transfixed. That drive was one of the most gorgeous drives I’ve experienced.

The retreat center was at the end of the road, a narrow dirt road full of potholes. I slowly drove in, not at all knowing what to expect. My heart began pounding as I grabbed my suitcase and walked up the steps. For so long, I had been so excited for this trip but had never been able to imagine what it would be like. I had arrived; the adventure was here.

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We took some time for reflection that first night. Sitting in the desert, the air cool and crisp, we sat together, our knees touching to form a complete circle. The stars above watched from the inky black sky as we turned inward, looking to find part of ourselves that we were ready to be rid of. I didn’t know these women yet, but we were there to support each other as we took this personal journey together.

The afternoon hike was one of the most profound experiences I’ve had in nature. It was a journey with three other women, all with their own unspoken struggles but who had risen from them, strong, radiating acceptance. It was okay to be whoever I truly am. Not just okay, but celebrated. All around, cacti grew. Even in the heat, sand and rock of the desert, life flourished. The roots of each plant run deep. These plants aren’t disturbed by surface tensions; they are strong and steady in their foundation. The symbolism wasn’t lost on me. I couldn’t help but draw parallels to my own life. Maybe the desert was exactly where I was meant to be.

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Yoga on the mountain felt like a scene from a movie. There was dust between my toes, ground under my feet, the sun warming my skin, breeze rustling my hair. It felt too good to be true; with every inhale my eyes filled with the beauty of the red mountains around us, the warrior women surrounding me, the gritty dirt keeping me grounded while my soul flowed free.

The photo location was one of the most gorgeous landscapes I’d ever seen. Layers of delicate rock forms surrounded us while the mountains opened to reveal the valley below. Liz made me feel so comfortable in every shot. Sure, some of the poses felt odd (I was laying half naked on a desert rock, after all) but it was fun! And I never expected such a powerful moment to feel so light and fun; I’d imagined it would be so serious. But it was absolutely perfect.

And at an opportune moment, I took off all my clothing. There was nothing to hide behind, it was all stripped away and I was left with my own self. It was empowering. This was me, all of me, proud of every inch of myself, inside and out. The sun on my skin warmed me and the breeze on my chest brought a new awareness of my physical self. I could feel a deep spiritual connection with women who have walked this world through all ages. Women of all shapes, sizes, color, culture; I was one of them, proud to be sharing in this bond of womanhood.

There was a primal element being naked on that mountain that seeped into my bones. It left a stain, like the ring of a coffee mug on an old table. Though the mark was made during Wildbride, it is there for others to see and witness forever.

Surrounded by beauty, I am beautiful.

I am part of nature, of all that is beautiful.

I am so small but feel so much.

I am everything I am meant to be.

In the Brave on the way back from the hike, Kristina talked about how, as humans, we brace ourselves for pain and disappointment. Then, if we avoid them, we feel fine and if we don’t, we are prepared for the hurt. But by preparing for the negative, we don’t fully feel the positive, the good things in life. We need to brace ourselves for joy so we can immerse ourselves in it when it happens. Because it will happen. Life is full of beautiful moments. That idea has stayed with me. Brace yourself for joy. Let the sun fill your body with warmth, love every part of yourself, as you are, no exceptions.

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I am strong like a desert cactus. My roots run deep, tapping into a different lifesource, a Wild lifesource. I stand strong and confident in the face of daily life, confident in the ability of my soul to thrive and live beyond the ordinary desert life.

I am a Wildbride.

Travel

Guide to County Kerry, Ireland

September 25, 2015

I was going to do one comprehensive guide to Ireland, but then I was going through my photos and decided there were too many to fit in one post! So I’ve split it up into sections and will be sharing them one by one.

Finally: County Kerry.

Kerry is on the western coast of Ireland and has an absolutely stunning coastal road. A new venture in tourism, the Wild Atlantic Way extends from Northern Ireland all the way down the western coast to Cork. We traveled the Wild Atlantic Way all the way from Galway to Killarney and to Dingle and back. It was so beautiful that we’ve vowed to go back, only next time with hiking packs, since there are some beautiful mountains in County Kerry, believe it or not.

County Kerry

Killarney

We stayed at a great B&B in Killarney called Abbey Lodge. I would highly recommend it, as it’s located just a few minutes walk from downtown.

Abbey Lodge

There are some fabulous restaurants in Killarney. Bricin is located above a gift shop and featured not only beautiful décor but had incredible food, including boxty, a traditional Irish dish.

We also went to the Danny Mann Pub twice, once for food and another just for drinks. We played pool and took pictures with the cool green telephone booth! Again, great food and great atmosphere.

Killarney

Dingle

A short hour drive from Killarney, Dingle is my newfound favorite Irish town (just don’t tell Galway). There is a “craft walk” that moseys through the down, highlight local craft stores and coffee shops. The entire town in crazy picturesque.

Dingle crafts

While you’re there, make sure you get tickets to see Fungie the Dingle Dolphin! Lest you be misled, like I was, the dolphin’s name is not pronounced like fungi, what we call mushrooms. It’s “fun-gee.” Not the same. My bad. And he is an actual dolphin living in the harbor.

Anyway, tickets to see Fungi sell out quickly, especially when it’s a gorgeous day like it was when we were there. There are a number of companies that take you out, so make sure you do. I’ll admit, I wasn’t thrilled when we first started, but after we spotted Fungi a couple of times, I definitely got into it. And it got so much better when he was literally beside our boat! Serious geek out moment.

Fungi

Since it was such a nice day, we had to get some Murphy’s ice cream. Flavor options include caramelized brown bread, Dingle gin, real rum raisin, Irish coffee and more. Yum!

Lunch was at Paudie’s Bar in the Dingle Bay Hotel. I had an open-face crab sandwich that was killer! Irish seafood is spot on, since the ocean is so close no matter where you are.

The Dingle Brewing Company is a new craft brewery in Dingle that brews Crean’s Lager. Their namesake is Tom Crean, an Antarctic explorer. The beer is delicious, and I wish you could find it over here (it is available in Boston, so if you’re ever over there, keep your eyes peeled!).

Dingle Brewing

Blarney Castle

Blarney

And no trip to Ireland would be complete without a trip to the Blarney Castle. Legend has it that kissing the Blarney stone will give you the gift of the gab. And the castle grounds are beautiful, so it’s a definite must.

Kissing Blarney

Near the castle is the Blarney Woolen Mill, full of gorgeous Irish blankets, scarves, jumpers (aka sweaters) and Waterford crystal. It’s a great place to wander and dream.

There you have it! Though not inclusive by any means, I do believe that this trip offered us the best of both worlds: plenty of tourism but lots of special family time spent at local places. If you ever find yourself on your way to the Emerald Isle, let me know and I’ll hook you up with some wonderful people and places.

Slante.

Kerry Door

Travel

Guide to Galway, Ireland

September 22, 2015

I was going to do one comprehensive guide to Ireland, but then I was going through my photos and decided there were too many to fit in one post! So I’ve split it up into sections and will be sharing them one by one.

This time: Galway!

Galway row houses

A place near and dear to my heart, to me, Galway is quintessential Ireland. The west coast of Ireland is very traditional, and it shows. Stereotypically beautiful, Galway is definitely tourist-friendly, full of wonderful food, shopping and experiences.

Galway

Hostel

We stayed at Barnacles. I would highly recommend it. It is right in the middle of the Latin Quarter, right in the heart of everything. Very clean place, great customer service, wonderful prices and very secure.

Aran Islands

A day trip (or overnight) in and of themselves, the Aran Islands are a group of three small islands off the west coast. It takes an hour by bus to get from Galway to the ferry, and another 45-60 minutes on the ferry to get to the island (depending which one you go to). Totally worth it! Book your tour early, especially if you’re going during tourist season, to make sure you don’t miss out. We used the Galway Tour Company.

If you go for one day, make sure you get an early bus. My friend and I left got the 9am bus and, by taking the last ferry back, we were able to maximize our day without feeling like we missed out. There are a few places to stay on Inismor (the large island) but I’ve never felt it was necessary to do an overnight.

Aran Islands coast

Once on the island, we rented bikes from one of the rental companies that are near the ferry entrance. For 10 euro, you get the bike for the entire day and it’s a perfect way to see the island.

Aran Islands bike

There is one main road going through the middle of the island and one smaller road that travels along the east side. There are many small roads, gravel or just dirt and grass, that are easy enough to bike or walk down. Not many cars travel along any of the roads, which makes it easy to get around.

Rock walls abound on the Aran Islands (and all over the west coast in general). Centuries old, the rocks aren’t held together by any cement or concrete or anything; they’re an art form in and of themselves.

Aran Islands house

There are a number of places you can visit on each island. We checked out The Wormhole, which was this bizarre rectangular hole in the rock near the Atlantic Ocean.

Wormhole

To get to it, we had to leave our bikes behind and walk almost a mile on strange rock formations until we got to the “shore” of the ocean, which was just different rock formations.

Aran Island rocks

We found it, however, and got to eat our lunch of bread and cheese (typical for us when we are on adventures) overlooking The Wormhole and the Atlantic Ocean.

Aran Islands coast

There is a pub/restaurant near the ferry, so we had a pint while we waited (of course).

Pubs and grub

There are so many pubs in Galway! Here are a few of my favorites:

The Kings Head. Located right on High Street, The Kings Head is a tourist favorite. Live music, good drinks, great atmosphere.

Taaffes. Also right on High Street, Taffees has wonderful “trad,” or traditional, music.

Monroes. Every Tuesday they have trad night, with traditional Irish music (fiddle, accordion and bodhran) and people from the community come and dance! It reminds me a lot of square dancing, in that there are certain steps and a pattern that everyone knows and follows, though there is no caller.

Kashmir. Not a pub but a delicious Indian restaurant next to Monroes. Beautifully decorated interior and the serving dishes were stunning.

Brasserie on the Corner. We had a really great late lunch here one day, consisting of soup and brown bread and a bottle of wine. Perfection!

Cliffs of Moher

Another popular tour trip, the Cliffs of Moher are a must-see. They’ve been featured in many movies (Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and the Princess Bride, for starters) and are an incredible sight to see. The trip along the way also features some breathtaking scenery.

I’ll let the photos do the talking.

Cliffs of Moher

Travel

Travel guide to Dublin

September 18, 2015

I was going to do one comprehensive guide to Ireland, but then I was going through my photos and decided there were too many to fit in one post! So I’ve split it up into sections and will be sharing them one by one.

Up next: Dublin!

Like any big city, there is an insane amount of things you can do and discover. For example, there is the James Joyce Museum and the Museum of Irish Writing. There is the Contemporary Art Museum and St. Stephen’s Green. You could walk up and down Grafton Street, go shopping or take in a play.

You could check out Kilmainham Gaol, Phoenix Park or Trinity College. There’s loads of things to see!

Fan favorites are, of course, the Guinness Storehouse and the Jameson Distillery. Even if you don’t like Guinness (which I didn’t my first time but did the second time), I highly recommend the Storehouse. Insider tip: buy your ticket online. Not only will you save money, you get to skip the ticket line at the Storehouse! Since we were there in the midst of tourist season, this saved us probably two hours.

Guinness birds

Your tour ticket comes with one free pint of Guinness which you can redeem at a few different places in the Storehouse, but by far your best choice is to head up to the Gravity Bar: 360 degree windows offers you the best view of Dublin you’ll find, along with etchings in the glass explaining different landmarks.

Guinness

Pint of Guinness at the Gravity Bar. Photo courtesy of T. Skoglund.

One non-touristy thing we did was check out a hurling match. Hurling is an Irish sport; it’s a combination of lacrosse, soccer and rugby. A very fast-paced game, the crowds are rowdy and the entire city (and usually the entire country) watches. We managed to catch the semi-finals in the All-Ireland Hurling Championships. None of the players are paid. In fact, Croke Park, where they play, is the largest amateur stadium in the world. AND it’s completely waste-free!

G’won Kilkenny!

Hurling

There were over 37,000 people at this match!

Trinity College is a very prestigious school in Ireland, and in the world. My brother-in-law recently earned his Masters from Trinity! The school is home to a library that is often on lists of the “Top 10 Libraries You Must See Before You Die” and others of the sort. This is because it’s home to the Book of Kells, a handwritten copy of the gospels complete with ornate ornamentation. It’s stunning.

Long Room

But for me, a complete bibliophile, the Long Room is where it’s at. Home to incredibly rare and old manuscripts, only students with special access are allowed to use the books in this part of the library. It is absolutely stunning. No other way to describe it. You need to see it to believe it. Just be careful where you walk—I drooled quite a bit there, ha!

Trinity Library

There is much more to do in Dublin than I’ve listed here. We only spent two-ish days here on this trip, but Dublin could be a trip in an of itself.

Travel

Travel guide to Northern Ireland

September 15, 2015

I was going to do one comprehensive guide to Ireland, but then I was going through my photos and decided there were too many to fit in one post! So I’ve split it up into sections and will be sharing them one by one, including one about getting around.

First up: The North!

A stunningly beautiful landscape, Northern Ireland is a place full of history and tradition. Part of the United Kingdom, the motorway (freeway) that takes you from the Republic of Ireland to the North does so without fanfare. In fact, the only way we knew we had crossed the border was because the signs had changed from kilometers to miles!

There are many tours that leave from Dublin and go north. Whether you take a day trip or a few days trip, Northern Ireland is definitely worth a visit. (Especially if you’re a Game of Thrones fan and want to check out some of the locations they use for filming!)

Belfast

Belfast is a city all its own. While we didn’t spend time there this trip, I have been there on trips previous and it is extremely interesting. If you are at all into history (which you should be if you’re in Ireland!), I would highly recommend a black taxi tour of Belfast. The drivers explain some of the troubled history of the city and the country, including conflicts between Ireland and England and Catholics and Protestants. Super interesting.

Giant’s Causeway

A natural wonder, the Giant’s Causeway takes you to the very tip of Northern Ireland. The entire place is shrouded in folklore and legend. Stacks of hexagonal rock formations from an ancient volcanic eruption line the shoreline.

Giant's Causeway

You can take a bus from the visitor’s center down to the causeway, but we chose to walk. It is a bit of a trek, a little over a half a mile I’d say, but that wasn’t a big deal. The visitor’s center has free handset things to take with if you want a “tour” (these are popping up everywhere, replacing human tour guides). We each took one but only listened to a few of the commentaries—it was more enjoyable just to look around, but they came in handy when we wanted to know why the rocks are hexagonal.

Giant's Causeway panorama

I love the folklore surrounding the causeway. Finn McCool the Irish giant was feuding with a Scottish giant, and the story unfolds from there. There’s even a camel named Humphry!

Giant's Causeway 2

Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge

Fishing was a major industry in Northern Ireland, and salmon runs were (and are) common. Fishermen would string rope bridges from the mainland to island outcrops to get a better location for fishing. That’s what the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge originally was but has since been turned into a tourist attraction. I’m not a fan of heights, so I scurried across this bridge in a hurry, but my brave friend walked slowly and looked down and absolutely loved it.

Rope bridge 2

The entire walk to the rope bridge is incredibly scenic, as is the drive from the causeway to the bridge (only a few miles).

Rope bridge

Bushmills Distillery Tour

The little village of Bushmills was conveniently on our drive, so we just had to stop to do a tour. I’ve been on brewery tours before, but never a distillery tour. One thing I enjoyed about Bushmills is that you walk through the actual distillery, meaning they are making whiskey as you walk through. Sweet!

Bushmills Distillery

And as an added bonus, everyone on the tour gets a Bushmills whiskey of their choice at the end of the tour.
While I don’t have the name of the pub we ate at, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have good food at any pub, affectionately known as “pub grub.” We ate pub grub almost every day on this trip and were never disappointed.

One thing you must try is brown bread and soup. Any kind of soup, though it’s usually some kind of vegetable soup or chowder. Spread some Irish butter on the brown bread, dunk and be prepared to fall in love.

That’s it for this round of travel. Check back, as I have more photos and tips from our trip planned!

Travel

Travel guide to Greensboro, NC

September 10, 2015

Over Labor Day weekend, my mom and I decided to take a trip to Greensboro, North Carolina, because why not? We try to do a mini-vacation every summer (usually a 24-hour trip somewhere nearby) but we hadn’t had one yet this year. Since Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer, we thought we’d better get going!

Here is my travel guide to Greensboro, North Carolina.

Lodging

Hayens B&B

We stayed at Haynes Bed & Breakfast in downtown Greensboro. It was adorable! The couple was lovely, very knowledgeable about the area, since they live in the home. Similar to most b&bs, the house was complete with beautiful antique pieces. I think my favorites are a tie between the couches and the silver coffee pitcher. Simply stunning! You got to choose what you wanted for breakfast as well each morning, along with what time you’d like it served. Simply wonderful service and a beautiful, comfortable place to stay.

Eat

There were many local restaurants around the downtown area. Though many were closed on Mondays regardless of the holiday, we managed to find a few great places to eat.

Most notably was Natty Greene’s Pub & Brewing Co. We stopped here when we got into town the first night and were not disappointed! They serve their own beer, a wide variety of wines from the state and delicious food. Their veggie burger was house-made, always a good sign, and was way delicious. Paired with their Wildflower Witbier (Belgian-style with citrus flavors), this place was a win for sure. Mom had the Cardinal salad: mixed greens, strawberries, chicken and bacon with a lemon vinaigrette. She gave it two thumbs up, as her mouth was too full to say anything.

Mellow Mushroom pizza

A Southern chain, Mellow Mushroom delivered one of the best pizza-eating experiences I’ve ever had. Their Holy Shiitake Pie was da bomb! And paired with another local beer, Cherchez La Gemme (a milk stout) by Gibb’s Hundred Brewing Co, the meal was perfecto.

Do

Bog Garden

The Bog Garden. A really neat garden in the middle of the city, there are plenty of walking paths to keep you busy and wandering for an afternoon.

Iron Gate Winery

Wineries! North Carolina has an abundance of wineries to visit. We checked out Iron Gate Vineyards. Mom had a reisling and I had a chambourcin, which was a perfect dry red. So perfect, in fact, I had to bring a bottle home with me.

Stroll downtown. A very walkable downtown area is complete with an abundance of antique shops! Thankfully for our bank account, many of the shops were closed for Labor Day. But that didn’t stop us from window-shopping and redecorating room after room in our minds!

Woolworth

Visit the International Civil Rights Center & Museum. Again, this was unfortunately closed during our trip, but the entire town is steeped with signs and plaques commemorating different people, buildings, moments from the civil rights movement. There is a ton of history in this little town that a history tour would be well worth the visit.

Overall, I would say check out Greensboro if you’re already in the area. There are plenty of other towns nearby to do a really great road trip.

Where have you been recently that you’ve enjoyed?

Travel

Airplane Essentials

July 21, 2015

Packing for travel is totally different than packing for your trip. I don’t need two pairs of jeans on the plane, but I definitely need at least two books. See, totally different!

What you pack for your car/bus/train/plane ride will depend on what kind of entertainment you like. Personally, I love reading and doing crosswords. And yes, I have been called an old soul, thank you very much!

Here is a little list of what I’ll pack, along with what I wear, when it’s travel day.

  • Shoes that can slip off easily (for quicker security checks)
  • Jacket or sweatshirt (because it’s always freezing once your plane hits altitude)
  • Scarf. I always plan my travel outfit around a scarf so I can use it as a makeshift eye mask/blanket
  • Empty water bottle. You can’t bring liquids through security, but once you’re through, you can fill up with water all you like.
  • Gum. My ears have problems with planes. Gum helps.
  • Chapstick. Cause planes dry everything out. (Some people recommend bringing a little spray bottle to spritz your face with water while you fly. That’s a bit too intense for me, but you may love it!)
  • Pen
  • Notebook
  • Books/Nook. I’m generally a hard copy book person, but on longer flights, I tend to opt for my Nook since I know I’ll go through a few books. Ah, who am I kidding, I totally still bring books!
  • Fully-charged iPod and headphones. There’s nothing worse than wanting to drown out the noises of a plane only to find out you’re out of battery.

I also take any important electronics with me on the plane, such as my camera or a computer. It gets cold in the baggage area, and I never want to take any chances with technology.

Alright, what am I missing you guys?

Travel

Packing your suitcase

July 13, 2015

There’s a whole lot that can be said about packing for a trip. Do you want to bring a carry-on only, check a bag, bring a suitcase or a hiking pack? Since we’re going on a pretty standard trip (and one checked bag is free on international flights), it made this decision quite easy for me as far as what type of case to bring.

What to fill it with, however, is a different story.

Start by researching the weather at your destination. Look at average temps and weather patterns for previous years. If you know someone in the area, ask them! We’re lucky because my mother-in-law can give us daily updates. We’re going to Ireland in August; the weather is decent: probably a few rainy days, generally cloudy, hopefully one or two days of sun, temperatures should be in the 60s.

Once you know more about the weather possibilities, it’s time to hit the closet. Since the weather will be pretty typical fall weather like we have in Minnesota, I’ve already got a good start; however, there are a few holes in my wardrobe. For example, I know I need one or two new pairs of jeans and some comfortable yet cute walking shoes/boots.

Layers will be key on almost any vacation. I bought a cute jacket a few months ago, so I’ll grab a few t-shirts to put underneath it and pair with scarves. Then, if it gets warm, I can take off my scarf or jacket, depending on just how warm it is. Whoever invented layering is a genius.

On top of all that, you have your personal items and extras (think books, camera, etc).

Actually packing

There are two ways to pack: weeks before and days before.

I’m a days-before kind of gal.

I make a list about a week before we go and then one afternoon, I’ll gather everything from the list and put them into piles of outfits. This way I make sure every piece goes with something else (preferably they’ll go with more than one item to better utilize space!).

By packing close to when we leave, I’m prevented from checking my suitcase every two days to make sure I packed these shoes or pulling out a shirt I needed to wear to work and possibly forgetting to wash it and put it back in. However, I know people who love packing everything early. Everyone has their own style.

Here’s a little run-down of what I’ll pack:

  • Two pairs of jeans
  • One pair of shorts
  • Five to six semi-nice tops/t-shirts for day trips
  • Casual jacket for during the day
  • Two nice tops for dinners
  • Pair of awesome walking shoes
  • Two to three scarves (no more because I guarantee I’ll buy at least one three when I’m there)
  • Comfy pants/sweatshirt for evenings in
  • One going-out outfit (and heels only if I have room)
  • Raincoat (it is Ireland, after all)

That’s packing basics for ya! It’s crazy to think that it’s almost time to start packing, yay!

Let me know…did I miss anything?

Travel

Trip planning advice

July 10, 2015

My husband is really into triathlons. He is also from Ireland. Last year, when he heard about a half-Ironman in Dublin in August 2105, he immediately signed up to register (that’s a process in and of itself). He got in and, wanting to be a supportive wife, I am forced to schlep along with him to Ireland.

Woe is me.

To top it off, one of my dearest friends is joining us for the trip.

How will I ever survive?

In all seriousness, this trip is going to be ridiculously fun. Having been to Ireland a few times before, I feel like we’ll be able to hit all of the important must-do things while still maintaining enough free time for unplanned adventures.

Planning a trip like this can take a lot of work. It helps if you break it up into different planning sessions. I’ll have a few posts over the next week or two about executing a successful trip. Here is a rundown of how we planned this trip.

6-9 months out

1. Passport updates. Having gotten married and changed my name, I needed to send in for a new one. Don’t wait until the last minute unless you’re okay paying for expedite service and dealing with a bit of stress (I wasn’t, so I did mine early).

2. Come up with some flexible dates. This will help in purchasing your tickets. We were a bit limited by the race date but we chose to keep that at the beginning of the trip to fully enjoy the vacation after.

3. Start looking for tickets early. Since I’ve taken this trip before, I had an idea of what prices would be. That was helpful, and we were able to avoid buying a few times when prices were higher. By giving us enough time to look, we saved a significant chunk of change.

4. Once you know dates, come up with a general route. We got together one afternoon in March with a map and calendar and roughed out three different routes we could take. We let the ideas percolate for about a week and picked one after factoring in transportation and how scheduled/unscheduled we wanted to be. Then start booking places to stay (I’m sure you can guess this will be coming in a post soon too!).

4-6 months out

5. Set aside specific travel money. We decided early on that we would take a chunk of our tax refund and save it for this trip. If that’s not an option for you, set aside a bit of money from every paycheck. Again, make sure you start early.

6. Think about what you want your trip to be. I will have more on this in an upcoming post, but for now, know that you can do anything from touristy/guided trips to free-reign adventures.

1 month out

7. Start researching the weather. Ireland is having some great weather at the moment, but it’s notorious for being rainy and windy at the drop of a hat. Layers will be key. Which brings me to another post about packing, coming next week!

8. Now that you have your route solidified, create a more detailed itinerary. Look into every city you’re staying and decide what are the must-dos and what are the would-like-to-dos. Do any research you might need on hours of operations (some places are closed random days, so take that into account) and bring your list with you when you go.

1 week out

9. Gather all your essentials: tickets, passport, money. My mother-in-law is great about reminding us about these three items every time we go anywhere. You can buy pretty much anything else, but you’re stuck without these three. Also consider medications and making sure you have enough before you leave. And adaptors so you don’t fry any electronics.

10. Start packing!

This is a basic rundown of how we’ve planned for our trip. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a few more posts coming with more information about packing your suitcase, packing for the airplane, booking places to stay and more. As they say down south, y’all come back now, ya hear?!

Thanks to my awesome cousin Michael for letting me use his photo for the post image. He’s my coolest cousin, just ask him!