Exploring Irish Roots with Family
My husband Jason and I have always been drawn to travel—we met in New Zealand while studying abroad and have been so fortunate to be able to travel often. We would much rather have experiences and time together over lots of things and a big house. We work hard to set aside money every month to save up for travel and are so lucky our jobs offer us the time to take extended trips.
The longer length of trips, typically about a month long, really helps us disconnect from the daily grind and focus on being in the moment. I think there is something to spending so much time with someone that you run out of things to say. A longer holiday is excellent for building better communication in a relationship. The extended time forces you into a deeper level of conversation. Daily life often pulls us all in separate directions, and extended travel seems to pull us back on the same track and give us these opportunities. It also allows us to get off the tourist trail and visit more remote regions.
When I remember the best parts of the trip, I see my daughter Adelyn's face as my husband Jason swung her around on a beautiful, quaint Derrynane Beach we happened upon and decided to spend the afternoon. Or the sound of Adelyn and her cousins chatting while they explored Cong Abbey. Or the light over the quiet countryside as we road tripped between towns, the Connemara region. Jason and I are researchers, so we always do some extensive reading before we go to the best spots to visit but, in the end, the memory almost always trumps the location.
Page is actually a fairly uncommon Irish surname so we were able to track the Pages family to a small town in the middle of Ireland established near Lak Derg. The owner of the guesthouse we stayed in put us in touch with a few Pages she knew in the area, and we were able to grab a drink with them. But, unfortunately, no royalty or heroes in the lineage that we know of. We think it is so important to ground our children in the sense of history and connectedness through knowing where they came from; I think it gives them roots.
All the things you hear about Ireland are true, the people are warm and hospitable, and the scenery is beautiful and rugged. As I was taking photos of the landscape, I found this weird contradiction between delicate, simple beauty, and a steadfast toughness. Like flowers with thorns and waves lapping at sheer cliffs. I felt that this was a good way to sum up the country in general; that joy and beauty had persevered through the hardships. Or maybe it was the other way around, the hardships created a deep persevering beauty and strength. Either way, it evokes a sense of wonder and wisdom that we were only beginning to grasp.
TRAVEL TIPS WITH A LARGE FAMILY, AND SMALL BABY
The trip began when my husband's father, Dick, wanted to take his aunt to Ireland to trace their family lineage. But the trip was canceled when Dick had to have back surgery and would be unable to help his aunt and wife with their baggage and getting around. I knew it was special to Dick and ould be for special Jason as well, so I encouraged Jason to offer to go with them. From there it turned into a family affair, with a total of 14 of us total traveling together!
It is valuable to talk in advance about expectations in order to maximize time together while meeting everyone's needs, as well as to come up with a general budget everyone eels comfortable with spending. But if the priority of the trip is to explore as a family these items are of lesser importance. We went in with the intention of making space to spend time together as a family. Naturally, that meant we wouldn't be traveling how we do as a couple, and that we would have to make compromises. There are so few times in our lives we get edicated time togethe as a family, so we were happy to make this our priorit.
With that in mind, the focus became striking a balance between getting quality time together and carving out the personal space we've become accustomed. We decided to spend two weeks with family and the other two weeks on our own. That gave us a good balance between compromising for the benefit of the group and being able to set our own itinerary too. We found accommodation where we could all stay together (one was an actual castle we found through VRBO!) o have a home base which allowed people to travel during the day based on their family's needs and all come together in the evenings. Knowing our personal space would be a little tight we made sure to rent our own car so we could have a refuge when we needed it.
Our daughter, Adelyn, was 18 months when we took this trip. We were very lucky she slept pretty much anywhere so many of her naps were in her car seat while driving the countryside or in a stroller while exploring a castle. Without that, we would have had to go at a little slower of pace. There are a few things I gleaned from this trip that I'm happy to share.
It was so great to travel with Adelyn. Everything was new and exciting. She was content just jumping in the puddles and showing her baby doll —nose pressed against the window— the sheep.
Just watching her excitement really added to the trip. There were times we didn't get to stop somewhere we had planned for because she, for example, wanted to walk along the Cliffs of Moher instead of ride in her carrier. But she was happy, so we were happy, and that led to great memories.
Secondly, we traveled to Europe on IcelandAir which offers free extended layovers in Iceland, so we spent some time there on either end of our trip to break up the flight and help with jet lag. I was worried about the time change, but Adelyn did better adjusting to it than we did. Her schedule was disrupted, but she slept a lot and recovered well.
Thirdly, I would suggest packing lightly. We took a good stroller and car seat she was used to sleeping in and a carrier we like, but very little toys. She was plenty busy without them. We also chose not to pack any emergency items. You can always purchase these items once you get there, if necessary. One tip I recommend to all of my friends is to get a KidCo PeaPod tent. It folds up to be about 18 inches in diameter and 3 inches thick, but pops up to be big enough for your child to sleep in. We used this instead of a playpen. Playpens can be difficult to coordinate when traveling and the tent eliminated the need for one. It fits in our bag and can go everywhere with us.
Lastly, go with the flow and make the hard times a fun challenge. My husband, Jason, had to go home a few days early, so it was just Adelyn and me on the flight home. Long story short, I planned to use her car seat on the last flight, and carry her using the carrier. But I left the carrier on an earlier flight. Then she got car sick on the descent, so I had to carry both her and her car seat covered in throw up through customs to baggage claim. It was definitely not ideal, but I got an arm workout out of it! And luckily I was able to keep us both in a good mood. I have learned that things are only as stressful as you make them out to be.
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Full Story Credits: All photographs by Michele Hart Photography