MODORAMMA IN ICELAND

Arriving in Iceland, just as our plane was coming in to land in Reykjavik, the aerial view was overwhelming! The lyrics of David Bowie’s song “is there Life on Mars” pretty much sums up my initial reaction to the vast snow covered mountains and black lava rocks peeking up from under the snow. Land that was totally barren and not a tree in sight! (There are very few trees growing in Iceland because of the sulfurous volcanic terrain apparently). The land ahead of us, stretched for miles as we travelled by bus from the airport to Reykjavik. I was gobsmacked at the spooky moonlike appearance of the land and yet it was beautiful at the same time. There was certainly an Armageddon type feeling about the place. Not a live animal in sight either. The growing of plants and flowers is a huge challenge for the people living here (only 350,000 in total). Two thirds of the total population live in the greater Reykjavik area with the remainder living in other small coastal towns scattered around the coastline. No one lives outside of these regions and there is nothing living or growing outside of the small, sparsely populated coastal towns. Everywhere else, including the central part of the island is totally barren and mountainous with volcanoes splattered throughout.

We arrived in the city of Reykjavik by bus late in the afternoon in a blizzard of snow. The driver told us that we were lucky to be able to travel from the airport to our accommodation as there had been severe snow storms on the days previously which blocked all roads from the airport to Reykjavik and beyond. The view as we entered the city changed from the barren black landscape to fabulously designed buildings, a snow-covered harbour with huge fishing vessels from Greenland (the nearest neighbour), yachts and buildings covered in beautiful graffiti artwork, apparently done by a very famous local artist. Litter is non-existent and the city streets are quaint with cozy, brightly lit, colorful houses that wouldn’t go amiss in a Hans Christian Anderson fairytale. The Icelandic connection with Denmark was severed way back in 1944 when Iceland secured its own independence and established its own Government. The local people are so knowledgable about the history of Iceland and will only be too delighted to educate visitors arriving in their country. It fascinated me that every Icelandic native that we met, young or old, was highly educated in every aspect of their country’s heritage, particularly about the history and geography of it and it is very evident and understandable that they are extremely proud of their country.

We stayed in a guesthouse pretty close to the centre of Reykjavik, the Alfholl (the Elf Hole) Guesthouse, run by a lovely young Icelandic native, by the name of “Hawk”. An extremely well read, educated man, Hawk was once a psychologist working within the prison system in Iceland and gave it up to run Alfholl Guesthouse. Interestingly, crime is pretty much non-existent in Iceland. It is one of the safest countries in the world to visit, and feels very much like that when you arrive. Safe! There are only about 150 prisoners in total housed in 5 prisons on the island, of which a minuscule number are for serious crimes.

Having struggled up the hill from the bus stop on compact ice and snow with our haversacks to Hawks guesthouse (Torville and Dean had nothing on the pair of us), we were delighted to arrive to a warm, clean house with a kitchen and dining area right next to our bedroom. Well, that was until just after 7 a.m. the next morning when the other guests began to arrive to cook breakfast in the kitchen . In fairness, we were so tired that we were only vaguely aware of the rattle of cups and cutlery and became accustomed to it as the days went on. The warmth and friendliness of Hawk and our fellow guests made up for the small inconvenience of the noise from the kitchen area. The accommodation was so cozy and comfortable that it felt like home away from home, and even better, it was great value for money. And so, it was naturally time to take my morning shower. Now, having a hot shower in Iceland is not for the faint hearted. Once the tap is turned, you really need to breathe through your mouth and try not allow the sulphuric smell from the water permeate your nostrils! If you can imagine a really bad egg smell, or maybe more like those stink bombs that we used to get from the joke shop and smash on the ground as kids. Well that’s the smell that hit me. After my first shower I complained to Colm that there seemed to be something wrong with the plumbing and we should tell Hawk about it immediately. And when we did we were assured that it came from the geothermal water system that is used in 85% of households here to heat the water. How innovative! They just pull it from under the ground and into their houses to use for underfloor heating and hot water and general household heating. So that’s the smell, it’s the naturally heated volcanic sulphuric water from under the ground! It’s how the Geysers work here. It’s cheap and free and the best demonstration of environmentally friendly heating I’ve ever seen. The locals don’t even smell it anymore and find foreign visitors reaction to it hilarious!

The next thing that hit us, albeit not unexpectedly as we had heard about this before we arrived, was the cost of food and alcohol! Folks, thankfully Hawk’s guest house had excellent cooking facilities, (and if you’re considering visiting this uniquely fantastic country you need to make sure that these facilities are available) because if not, we’d be home, broke, after a week of eating out and drinking here. To give you some perspective on the cost of food. A packet of cheese slices that we can get back home for about €3, is about €14 here. A single red pepper is approximately €3.50, for just one, yep, just the one! The cheapest pint of beer (outside of the happy hours that the pubs and restaurants put on to entice the likes of us) is roughly between €10 and €15 a pint. I kid you not! Even to buy food in the supermarket is crazy expensive. The supermarkets don’t sell beer/wine. There are state run off-licenses that are highly regulated where you can get alcohol at slightly cheaper prices than in the pubs and restaurants. They close at 6 p.m. on the dot! So, the only thing for it is to follow the bars that have happy hours and do a pub crawl basically til you run out of pubs and happy hours and money and slide home at a relatively early hour. It takes a bit of getting used to for sure.

Sadly, the recent snow storms have hampered our chances of seeing the Northern Lights and doing our tours to the famous geysers and waterfalls, as many of the roads have been blocked with every nights new snow storm. But it has given us a much needed opportunity to relax, and dare I say, chill.  We’ve heard that they have to bring food and supplies to people in a nearby town through an underground tunnel when storms like this happen, so we don’t feel too hard done by when we hear about their isolation with snow storms. When we get even the smallest fall of snow back home, children are quick to be outdoors building snowmen and having snowball fights. I didn’t actually see any snowman built anywhere here which was very different to back home, but given that we were in the city area, that may well explain it.

The Blue Lagoon is one place that we had so longed to visit and thankfully we got to do that on Monday evening. We were so thrilled that it hadn’t been cancelled even though the snow was still pelting down and roads were pretty dodgy with the build up of snow. So, the visit to the saltwater thermal spa (heated again with natural geothermal springs) didn’t disappoint and was a truly magnificent experience. Outside, in swimsuits, bathing in minus 6 degree freezing cold with snow pelting at our faces and we were so cozy and warm under the thermal water. We looked amazing in our Algae face masks, and could sip a beer at the bar in the middle of the pool. Oh my, what a sight to behold!

In a nutshell, would I recommend this place for a holiday? Absolutely, yes. I would come back in a heartbeat. The place has a uniqueness about it that I’ve never quite felt or seen in any other country i’ve visited. It’s exquisitely beautiful with such a touch of class to everything that it offers. It feels extremely safe (apart from the icy paths). For every degree of coldness here, the local people make up for it in abundance with their genuine warmth and friendliness and their eagerness to make our stay the best it possibly can be given the current weather conditions.

For example, we dropped into a local indoor hot-dog stand on one of our days out walking and happened upon a local guy who was also having one of Reykjaviks famous hotdogs. He started chatting to us and on discovering that we were Irish chatted to us about DNA tests that are carried out by a pharmaceutical company here in Iceland. Icelandic’s apparently can avail of these DNA tests for various medical reasons, including genetic testing which is a whole other discussion in the context of pregnancies and illnesses that they are trying to identify within families etc. but it is also used for exploring genetic heritage. He was delighted to tell us that he had had the test carried out a few years ago and discovered that he was 52% Irish. Given that he had red hair and sported a red beard we were kinda convinced he was telling us the truth. Before we had a chance to finish our hot dogs he was excitedly beckoning us to come walking with him around the city so he could tell us some more about the history of it. We followed and then en-route he swung by his house and invited us in. His house was once the only funeral parlor in the city. It was eerily magnificent with giant stuffed Polar Bears greeting us as we walked through. Now, under normal circumstances, there is not a chance that we would take the risk of taking a stranger up on an invitation into his house, but for some strange reason we followed him. When we spoke about it to each other afterwards about how risky it was, we both said that we felt in our gut that this guy was a genuinely good guy, and again the feeling of safety we had sensed since we arrived may have lulled us into that sense of security. Lucky for us (and for him – remember, he was bringing us, strangers, into his home too), he was an absolutely fantastic and wonderfully colorful character who shared some really interesting local stories with us. It turns out as we followed him around his house that he was a well-known Icelandic ship designer and builder. To our surprise he took out the Icelandic equivalent of our Hello magazine and showed us his photo on the front of it, and it quickly dawned on us that this was no ordinary tour guide showing us around. He was an absolute breath of fresh air to listen to his stories about his life experiences, his time spent in Greenland as a fisherman many years ago, about his country etc. We ended up heading to the local Irish pub with him (where the happy hour was on of course) and spent a few more hours chatting to him. The Seanachai was definitely evident in him and on leaving him we exchanged numbers and contact details and have now gained a new Icelandic friend who we will certainly be meeting up with in the future. He will be no doubt one of many that we’ll make as we travel around the world.

Iceland, I was delighted to discover, is also one of the leading countries in egalitarianism, which in today’s world is a rare find! This is the country where it is great to be a woman. Women are highly respected for their contribution to society both inside and outside the home. Out of 144 countries in the world, it ranked number one in political empowerment of women. Their political leaders and Presidents have been mainly women and almost half of board members of listed companies are women. It also ranks number one for closing the gender income gap. Parental leave here is divided equally between men and women, with both parents being able to avail of 80% of their salary while on leave. Research has shown that this has resulted in men being significantly more involved in child care and domestic duties. Women make up 66% of graduates from University, and hold almost half of the countries parliamentary seats. Now that’s what we need to aspire to in Ireland! The health care system here is also one of the top health-care systems in the world. A visit to a GP costs no more than €10 compared to to €50+ back home.

Finally, while the continuous snow storms have hampered our travel plans, these have been an experience in themselves and created different, unexpected events which have been just as fantastic. Before starting our journey we resigned ourselves to the fact that no matter how tightly we plan each part of the trip, it will take us where it will, and we just have to weather the storm so to speak. That’s part of the beauty of the trip. The uncertainty and sense of adventure when you’ve no idea after arriving in a country what’s going to happen and where it will lead you.

And so, the Irish granny takes her leave of this beautiful country of Iceland and heads for yet another snowy adventure in Toronto and Hamilton in Canada. See you there soon 

STRIPPING GRANNY

Sitting here in the Departure Lounge of Dublin Airport, and I’m pinching myself. This is it! It’s actually happening now! The plane to take us to Reykjavik in Iceland has just rocked up to the Departure Gate and it’s looking Wow!

Now ..when we were discussing the idea of doing this world trip way back, we thought naively that it would just be a matter of walking out the door with haversacks on our backs and flying away on the wind for two years. When I say I was a small bit naïve … well, let me put it this way, I was a wayyyy ginormous bit naïve! I finished work just before Christmas and at the time thought, “sure that’ll give me lots of time to do my TEFL course, to write my blogs and to basically have some much needed ‘down time’ before heading away.” But you see, it doesn’t quite work like that at all. I was absolutely delusional! It’s been an education in itself since. Detaching from all of the material things here and stripping back everything to one haversack is a bit more time-consuming and overwhelming than I could ever have imagined.

The realization that I couldn’t do just that came as a bit of a shock if I’m totally honest. It kind of crept up on me slowly (as things usually do with me) once Christmas was over and little Harry had returned to Chicago with his Mum and Dad. Gazing out at the car in the garden and thinking…what am I going to do with that while we’re away? Naturally the answer was to sell it…and then it dawned on me! Paperwork, bureaucracy, all of the stuff that needs to be sorted before we leave. And then the panic began! Now those who know me know that “Diva” is not my style (ahemmm)…anyway, things that I thought would come naturally being a civil servant, hit me with a bang. All of the work discussions and meetings about the importance of “Customer Service” really rang through. But this time, I was on the other side of the desk and I did not like it one bit! Ringing about car insurance/travel insurance/network access abroad and all of the other items that were raising their heads and screaming out to be sorted. Being asked by voice machines over and over would I mind “holding the line” for what seemed like hours, with music that’s supposed to calm you but irritates the s**t out of you after about two minutes waiting. Receiving the wrong documentation in the post after spending almost a half an hour or more on the phone only to have to start the whole process all over again! I’ve concluded that we need to go back to having real people instead of voice machines when we want to make calls to various organizations (now that rings of granny stuff I hear you say:-))

Then our Vaccinations. Now there’s a whole new experience! And certainly one that I hadn’t given any real thought to in advance. Three weeks of shots – against everything and everyone except each other! Yellow Fever, Typhoid, Hepatitis, Diphtheria, Polio, Tetanus, and the one that took me by surprise the most – Rabies! I mean, I didn’t even know that it was still a thing. But no, apparently in some of the countries we plan to visit, monkeys running around wild are a threat and if they decide to nip you you’re in serious trouble. Imagine that?! On my first visit to the Vaccination Bureau in Dublin, I was squealing like a baby pig and the nurse hadn’t even taken the injection out of it’s wrapper! But the Doctors and Nurses were just fantastic and gave us such great advice (and lollipops btw) about keeping safe and healthy during our trip. The numerous packets of Malaria tablets and other prescribed medication that I’ve packed might mean me having to wear my hair in a bun for some time when we hit Peru, if you know what I mean 🙂

And the wonderful moments crossing my mind this morning in the run up to us just about to board this plane. The various farewell dinners, nights out and visits to and from friends and family. Spending time with the in-laws in Wexford, with life-long friends from Dublin, with family and extended family, cousins, aunts, uncles, neighbours, work colleagues and all of the thoughtful gifts we have received. One of my favourites is a quaint silver locket with a photo of my Mum and Dad placed carefully and lovingly in the photo section of it so that I’d feel they were with me throughout my journey. This was a gift from my beautiful Godmother/Aunt Anna and I will cherish it throughout our trip. Holy medals to protect us from every possible disaster from another wonderful wise aunt (who has persuaded us that having read an article from a reliable source, that St. Christopher is not the saintly figure of travel that he made himself out to be and sure we couldn’t possibly carry medals of his after that. It’d be a recipe for disaster :-)). She kindly researched it further and provided us with a more worthy saints medal to carry on our travels, St. Michael. Who knew? A moment of enlightenment for sure! I have all of these gifts packed into my bag and when I wear each piece it will remind me of each and every one of you that we spent time with before we left. Also, the efforts made by a certain individual to make sure we had our Visas for China sorted is so very much appreciated too. (you know who you are!). Sometimes there are just no words enough to thank people for taking the time and effort in the last few weeks to spend time with us and help us on this journey. And to those too who wanted to but couldn’t and sent us well wishes, thank you! You will all be sorely missed!

One such hilarious night with two of my childhood friends from Dublin that I must mention. We had decided to book a family room in a hotel in Tullamore and have a girls farewell night out. So, after some good food and wine it was time to hit our beds. Three beds in a row, each one of us vying for the position of Goldilocks 🙂 and just as we were about to nod off we heard this unmerciful snore. She (who will not be named) was woken abruptly by the remaining two, and told to put some higher pillows under her head to stop the snoring. Her response…”sure I couldn’t do that, I wouldn’t get a wink of sleep” … and then it all started, the fits of giggles went on till the small wee hours and we were 12 years old all over again!

So onwards now and my boys are also well and truly sorted. One is living in Madrid and the other is loving his accommodation between college in Dundalk and his new lodgings in a lovely house in Tullamore. His stunning girlfriend Aoife has become a welcome addition to our ever extending family. He will be joining us to visit Alison, Jonny and Harry in Chicago shortly and will then re-connect with us in China. And the whole family will all be meeting up in different parts of the world as we go. Family on tour is right 🙂

To anyone considering doing this, I can safely say that the biggest task is preparing the family home for renting. We are extremely lucky to have secured a lovely family to rent our home relatively quickly with the help of an auctioneer who has guided us so professionally through the entire process. The new family are coming to Ireland to live with their children and cats. Yes, cats! Bringing these little creatures with them as part of their family from abroad. How fantastic is that, and how lucky are these little guys to have such loving owners? Like, if there is such a thing as re-incarnation, I want to come back as one of their cats, without a doubt 🙂 They will be the new occupants of our home for the foreseeable future.

There has been a constant flow of tradesmen and cleaners coming and going. The whole process has been all consuming time-wise. The exercise of decluttering our home after almost seventeen years living in it has been a life-changing experience for sure! If I’ve learned anything so far, it is that we, (as in, all of us), accumulate material items to the point of it being almost immoral! After the major clear out, about fifteen bags and many boxes of items went to charity, a full car load to the dump. I found so many of those enchanting impulse-buy special offer items from Aldi and Lidl. Remember those Thursday offers? Lads, seriously, they were still in their boxes in my presses! And I know there are more of you out there who do the very same!. What are we at? Clothes with labels still on them that I had forgotten I had bought. Children’s clothes the same. To say I was ashamed to see the absolute waste of money over a lifetime is an understatement. Stripping back to one haversack is the most liberating thing I’ve ever done. Of course, the sentimental items have been put into storage, but what I have kept compared to what went out of the house in those black bags is nothing short of a disgrace. I would highly recommend that even if you are not moving house, that you go through each room and declutter ruthlessly as though you are. You would be amazed at what you discover about yourself in the process.

Another not-so-nice learning curve has been the fact that when we tried to get travel insurance for our trip, I was shocked to learn that there are almost no travel insurance packets for this type of trip if you are over 49 years old! Now that is just so disheartening is it not?. It almost sends out a message that if you’re over this age you won’t be needing this type of long-term travel, back-packing insurance?!!! Do the insurance companies out there think that once you hit 50 that you just sit in your armchair and watch the soaps until you pop your clogs? Now come on! How and why this is allowed to happen? It is something that I will certainly be following up on.

Granted, Colm has been getting an earful from me over the last two weeks about putting too much coal on the fire to the point that I am suffocating with the heat. I was freaking out! I mean I genuinely thought he was coming down with some serious infection as a result of the vaccinations and had suggested he take a trip to the doctors surgery to make sure that he hadn’t contacted some serious deadly virus as an indirect consequence. Some horrible sickness that was making him feel so cold the whole time maybe?. The house was so warm and I was thinking “What the hell is wrong with him?” And as the days went on and I had to have my own medical checkup before we left….well ahemmm…you see it wasn’t him at all. It was me! 🙂 The separate journey of the aging process which brings with it its own thermal heat is not something I’ve taken to graciously as you might guess! 🙂

And today, as we leave, we have in our possession a new pair of boots each, a coat, a hat and scarf that my dear friend Mary crocheted for me to keep me warm in Iceland and beyond, that I just love! My teddy bear with his “Irish Granny on the run” jumper clearly visible and secured to my haversack. (He’s so visible that when we were walking down Grafton Street in Dublin yesterday with teddy tied to the haversack on my back, I heard someone shouting my name! A friend from primary school who had followed my blog and had seen a picture of my teddy bear on it, realized it was me from the teddy and we stopped and chatted for a bit. How wonderful and random is that?).

We have our phones and gadgets for keeping in touch with the world as we travel, minimum amount of necessary clothing (and I mean minimum to the point that we may have people giving us plenty of space on those warm trains as we travel), gifts for Harry, some oestrogen (naturally), Malaria tablets and gifts that we received over the last few weeks. And now, having stripped back to just this, there is a wonderful feeling of freedom. This is where we wanted to be all of those months back when we made the decision first to travel. Right here and now, after months of bureaucracy, the physical work of decluttering our lives, emotional farewells and long goodbyes, the medical checks and packing. This is the start of our wonderful journey. Where the excitement really begins. Granny has well and truly stripped :-0

See you all again shortly in Iceland for the Northern Lights and the Blue Lagoon experience … and we’re off!

“It’s the journey, not the arrival that matters” T. S. Eliot

Oh Holy Mother of Divine, save me! There’s so much involved in preparing for this journey!! (Eye roll)

When we decided to do the trip, I was filled with aspirations and dreams of freedom, of flying high, of putting a pin in a map on any given day, getting on a plane, train or automobile. Rocking up to the frontiers of each country and receiving a welcome with open arms from the national security lads of whatever country we landed in. The natives letting us have the run of the place ‘til we tired of it and wanted to move on! Yeah? Isn’t that what we all dream of doing when we think about going travelling? Well let me tell you something lads, it’s a very different thing than that altogether! That song “No Frontiers” is a gimmick!

From getting the house ready to go on the rental market (I mean, where on earth does one put all worldly belongings collected over so many years – well not that many, ahem!) to booking our visas, flights and accommodation. Nothing could have prepared me for the hours spent poring over websites! Nor the feeling of being the third giraffe trying to get onto Noah’s ark when sorting our Visas. 🦒🦒🦒I have, however, been pleasantly surprised at the warmth, friendliness and enthusiasm of some of the hosts we’ve been communicating with while sorting our accommodation between here and China. It has most definitely added a new dimension to the excitement of our trip and I already feel that we have made new friends around the world. In particular, our hosts in Beijing, Shaohui and Shufang, and Ash and Nate in Hamilton, Canada have been extremely helpful. It’s sooo exciting now 💫

At this point we have managed to put together the guts of an itinerary for the first 6 months of our 2 year trip and it’s looking something like this (it’ll be interesting to see if it actually happens like we’ve planned…watch this space)

First stop is Reykjavik in Iceland (as I write I’m hearing reports that the Volcano might erupt shortly. 🌋…noooo!), then on to Toronto. On to Hamilton in Canada and back to Toronto where we will take a 13 hour train trip to New York City (Manhattan), visiting Niagara Falls as we go. On then to Chicago (which will be the absolute highlight of our trip), to see Allie and Jonny and Harry and to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in style where the Chicago River will be dyed green for the day with vegetable dye I’m told. No doubt we will down a few shots of Egan’s Irish whiskey while we’re there. My boys will fly out from Ireland to join us for this part of the trip. Precious family time for sure!ter almost 5 weeks in Chicago we head to Seattle. When we feel like it, we’ll take the Amtrak Coast Starlight train along the West Coast of the USA. We’ll stop off at places like Eugene, San Francisco and wherever the mood takes us to be honest, until we eventually hit San Diego. This train looks spectacular and we will get to view the beautiful scenery of the West Coast of America as we go. From San Diego we will head to Los Angeles, stay a while there and will then take a flight to Tokyo in Japan. Hang around there for a bit with the Japanese and then fly on to Beijing in China.

While in China we will fly from Beijing (after about 3 weeks in Beijing) to Yangshuo in southern China’s Guangxi region, with its dramatic karst mountain landscape. We will stay at a cool hostel called “The Giggling Tree” which is a total hippy experience and in such a scenic rural location (this is the piece of the trip to China for me that is a little glimpse of heaven on earth). I had visited this very spot with my daughter Alison in 2013. We went to see the Li River Fisherman’s Light Show while we were there. The show, a major musical production, is directed and produced by the guy who did the whole opening ceremony for the Beijing Olympics. To say there is nothing in this world that can compare to it is an understatement! I remember we both cried at the end of the show, overwhelmed with awe and emotion and wishing everyone that we loved could be with us to witness such a remarkable and moving event. (Ya’d have to be thereJ). The show was held just as the sun set on the Li River. The mountains and the river became the backdrop for the stage lit up with colourful beaming lights. Chinese Fishermen sailed out onto the river on bamboo rafts with lanterns …. I get goose bumps even recalling the show now. When we arrive there I will post as much as I can to give you a taste of the whole experience. It’s inconceivable and mind-blowing! I’ve been raving about it to Colm since I met him, so it’s fantastic that at last he’ll get to witness the actual event (and not have to listen to me harping on about it the whole time) 🎧

After that it’s Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and Bali (if the volcano stays quiet of course).

I have to admit though, there is a certain level of funny anxiety spells that goes into preparing for a trip like this. I’ve taken to waking at the small wee hours of the morning with totally irrational questions and ponderings going around in my head. Poor Colm who is already sleep deprived with his daily 5.30 a.m. start each morning, is being prodded by me asking him all sorts of questions that have been going around in my head throughout the night. So what’s been popping into my head? Well, ya see, when we booked our flights from Chicago to Seattle, we talked about the option of doing the Amtrak Coast Starlight train along the coast. But when I checked it out it said that it went from Los Angeles to Seattle. My worry was that this train wouldn’t work for us because we were going in the other direction?!!@@@ Colm, thankfully reassured me that the train travels in both directions and I went back to sleep..haaa haa! 😴

But just then another one popped into my head. The website that tells us about travelling on the train from Toronto to New York states that we must expect delays due to border control, and we should bring along some reading material. So should we bring a copy of Lord of the Rings or a quick guide on travelling around the Aran Islands? While in the USA should I pretend that I think that Trump is doing a great job? Or avoid discussing the Apple tax debt in Ireland? I mean these things must be thought through in advance I believe to avoid running into difficult situations 🙈

Likewise, when booking flights, I’m insisting that Colm check out the safety records in painful detail, of all airlines that we are travelling with. Also, being new to all of the preventative measures we need to take when travelling the world, I’ve been wondering, you know… if you get vaccinated against a disease, will the vaccinations we get before we leave make us sick for weeks before we go? If we get them all together will we get a bit of each of the illnesses like Yellow Fever and Typhoid and Malaria? Irrational or responsible? It’s a thin line I’ve discovered 😜 I’ve also discovered that my husband has the patience of a saint, I swear it! And now to focus on Christmas preparations and the anticipation of the arrival of my beautiful daughter, her husband and the cutest lil grandson everrrr…Harry who are all coming home for Christmas in Ireland… Merry Christmas y’all and I hope you also get to spend it surrounded by the ones you love 🤶 More to follow ….

THE QUANTUM LEAP 😱

Now that I’ve reached the decision to make the transition from the institutionalised existence of a full-time Civil Servant and Mother, to an Irish Granny on the run, living from day to day from a rucksack, with the uncertainty that lies ahead, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have mixed feelings about this whole thing.  (When starting this blog I committed to giving an honest account, warts and all, of the journey I am about to embark on)! The fear of entering the realms of the unknown is palpable.  I have really known nothing outside of the regular routine of a full-time job in the Irish Civil Service coupled with the responsibilities of being a full-time Mum (mostly as a lone parent) to three amazing, grown up children for the past 32 years.  (I have, of course, travelled for short-burst holiday’s abroad. However, there is a particular level of comfort in knowing that after a few weeks you can come home to the familiarity of surroundings and get back to the routine of daily life).  I guess such a huge change will take a bit of getting used to under the circumstances. The unwavering support of my best friend and husband Colm joining me on this journey is without doubt the greatest comfort of all.

It certainly feels like I’m about to jump off a cliff!  But nonetheless, the excitement of taking such a quantum leap into this “life-adventure” at my age, coupled with the wonderful anticipation of meeting new people from various cultures, experiencing a completely unfamiliar way of life, not just travelling to holiday destinations but actually integrating with different cultures around the world, will, I’ve no doubt, be a mind-blowing and educational experience!

My first thought is that preparation is the key to making this work! That preparation involves, for the foreseeable future, letting go of many things that give me great comfort in my life.  I will be relating to the advice continuously given by the Dalai Lama and Buddhists generally, not to overly attach to any material things in life.  The little that I know about this principle will most definitely be tested now.

Living in a different country to my adult children will certainly be an excruciatingly painful step, (despite their reassurance that they’ll be fine and that I will be bringing them out to wherever we are at every given opportunity).  Leaving friends and family for such a long time (albeit only 2 years to start).  Putting the family home on the rental market.  The thoughts of someone else cooking big Irish fry-ups and bacon and cabbage in my kitchen, sleeping in my bedroom and my children’s bedrooms! Strangers using my showers and bathrooms!  Material things like my piano, my cosy couch with my snuggle blanket.  Not to mention my daily routines; the luxury of putting my make-up on in my magnified mirror, shopping in Aldi, Tesco, Dunnes, and oh the pain of not having the excuse of popping into Penny’s for a pair of socks and coming out with half of the clothes on display!That is almost too difficult to endure ha! I’ll be lucky to have shampoo and shower-gel for parts of this trip and clean underwear will be a luxury I believe!  Although Colm assures me that he has found a site that sells underwear with three leg-holes that can be rotated each day and then turned inside out and rotated again…a good weeks supply in one go 😜 😜

Giving up my full-time job might not be so difficult from a work perspective, but leaving behind my family of incredible work colleagues who have had to endure the whole minutiae of my daily life for years;  being subjected to continuous photos of my kids and grandson, my new husband and our wedding preparations for our big day in huge wigwam tents overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Dingle, Co. Kerry. And the whole aftermath that goes with that. Sharing almost every waking moment with these people!

Not having them around will be hard.  Not for them mind you!  (I was sure I heard a muffled sigh of relief and a “yippee” when I announced my plans to travel 😂) On the absolute plus side…spending time with my only daughter, her husband and of course Harry, my Grandson who lives in Chicago. Every son-in-laws dream, eh? Having his mother-in-law come for a lengthy stay 👍👌

So, warts and all, it’s happening… we leave after Christmas for Iceland to start..there’s no going back now.  Look out World…here we come!  And now, just to finalise flights and accommodation. We have the pins, we have the map!   Oh…I hear choirs of angels singing…”Freedom…oh Freedom”

So, if any of you have any recommendations on places to visit, or travel tips (I’ve already had the incontinent pads tips and they’re packed lol) please let me know in comments below. Be back soon with more updates! Now for some Complan and a bit of Sudoku before bedtime 🤪🤪

GRANNY KNOWS BEST!

Hi, I’m new to the blogging world.. An Irish granny with a beautiful 20 month old Grandson called Harry, writing my first blog. The mind boggles….how and why? Well, it all started with Harry barging into the world just before my 50th Birthday. This little bundle of love turned my world upside down with joy. Harry brought with him a very special gift for his new Granny. The greatest gift of all…PERSPECTIVE! This wonderful new perspective has resulted in me making the decision to take time out from my full-time job of 32 years to travel the world for the next two years, with a back pack and a pair of boots. Persuading my soulmate and husband to join me! To be free as birds, to spend time with our grandson in Chicago, to hopefully do some volunteer work and to basically put a pin in the map of the world and spread our wings and fly! And all because Granny knows best 😉 I plan to blog all about our adventures of surviving on the contents of a rucksack, in budget accommodation all over the world as middle aged old foogies. I would absolutely love ye all to join me in our travels where i’ll be sharing the highs and lows of our journey. First steps ..to get planning. So far, we’ve earmarked Iceland, Toronto, New York, Chicago, Seattle and the west coast USA and on to Asia. So lets have fun and join in with Irishgrannyontherun.

an

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