A Travellerspoint blog

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If Not Now...When?

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We were surrounded by castles in every direction and water a bit further out, as we stood in the capital city of Edinburgh, on the coast of Scotland. People were buzzing around us - some of them clearly amidst their daily routine which was made evident by their attire and pace, while others, like us, were there to soak in the surroundings. Edinburgh is the seventh largest city in the UK and although words like "city" and "population" typically make us run the other direction, we knew when we stepped foot into Castle Square (also referred to as the Royal Mile) that several hours in this place before heading to northern Scotland wouldn't be enough. The city has a great feel to it and there is something to be seen in every direction.

We had put our pounds into the parking meter and knew our time in the city was now limited. We were standing on the street corner with a priority list that included food, castles, and photos - each item vying for first place. As we ventured down the hill to look for food, I caught a glimpse of one of the dark, looming castle on my left, with an opening of blue sky in the background. It would have been a perfect shot before the clouds rolled in. Food first, we'd decided. I wasn't three steps down the hill and already looking back (with a frown, I'm sure) before Luke turned me around to go grab the picture I wanted. I ran and set my shot up, while they walked slowly to find food. As I was happily snapping photos of the luminous castle, I watched the clouds roll in to take over its blue sky backdrop. I smiled at the opportunity I'd almost missed and the memory I'd just secured. I know better. If not now...when? There is no time to waste in this life. And this is just a castle and a photo. It was the same frame of mind that brought us to Scotland. We had a few extra days and were able to get very inexpensive flights from Ireland. If not now, when? I thought about my career in this light and know that the last several years have shown me that although patience is the skill of a warrior, movement is its counterpart and there will come a time when it is required (like it or not, thank you Sweet Jesus). My papa always told us travel was the best form of education. Correct, Papa Bear!

After Edinburgh, we found the William Wallace Monument in the middle of nowhere so that Jaden could swing Sir Bamboo at its base. For clarification sake, this is a piece of bamboo that he found on the beach in Sligo, Ireland, and he has been convinced that it washed up from China until a couple of days ago when he saw bamboo growing on the Blarney Castle grounds as well. Regardless, Luke used Sir Bamboo to knight him in Ireland and he is hoping to be knighted here in Scotland as well. I'd like to note that Luke made Sir Bamboo into a 3 foot weapon and stuffed him into his backpack for carry-on to Scotland for this purpose. For further note, Jaden was very disappointed that there was not one sword for purchase in Ireland and is hopeful that Scotland will be more promising, at which point Sir Bamboo may retire. That's a dedicated Dad.

As we walked around the Monument, I thought about my own life. If not now...when? I have much to learn yet. William Wallace said, "Your heart is free; have the courage to follow it." Those are tall orders, but I'm working on it. Speak honestly. Be bold. Forgive. Be grateful for what you have. Trust. And of course...Love always. Cheers to you, Braveheart!

Posted by akgearhard 04:20 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Into the Mystic

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It was dusk last night as we drove our moody, white Scottish SUV into our home for the evening. She had been arguing with Nüvi's GPS directions, making unexpected traffic announcements in the loudest voice possible over the top of all radio stations (and our connected iPod!) and left Nüvi frustrated to the point that he actually drove us out into the country, told us we'd "reached our destination", and excused himself by shutting off and stepping out of the owner-vehicle-GPS love triangle. Hmpfh. This was new behavior even for him! Our feelings were a bit hurt that he left us to rely on her and my mapping skills alone, but we managed and he came back around on the highway. What we didn't realize, as we drove into Ballachulish under last night's sliver of a moon is that we were coming into one of the most beautiful and unique areas that I've seen in my life...

As we headed outside this morning to toss our bags in the back of our naughty white car, there were bright remnants of a rainbow lingering over the loch across the street from us. The mountains at its base were fighting off low clouds while we were covered in a chilly mist of rain. Tall, rugged mountains surrounded us on all sides. Fortunately, I had some time to take a few pictures because the car battery was dead (i.e. she got up on the wrong side of the bed and needed more caffeine before speaking loudly to anyone). We received help from a very kind Scottish gentleman that assured us that the "baaaaat-er-ay" was "flot" and just needed a "wee bit more juuuuuise". It seems every word is at least triple its usual length with the accent here and is prefaced with 'wee' or 'quite'. So fun! Our Scottish lad and Luke did a slightly different version of jumper cables than I am familiar with and he revved his engine to the point that I was certain he was going to blow something up (like my face), but we finally got it started and hit the road.

We spent several hours today working our way around the highlands area (Glencoe) and on up into the Isle of Skye. I've already taken a peek at my photos and if they are worth a thousand words, they're still another 10k+ shy of describing what we are seeing. Outside of our own homegrown mountains, New Zealand and Switzerland have offered up two of the most speak-to-my-soul, head-back-in-awe, mountain settings in our travels thus far. The Scotland Highlands just joined my list today. We'll save a few of my own adjectives and tell you that this mystic area was used to film many of the outdoor scenes of Harry Potter, including various battles and Hagrid's home. The beautiful train tracks that head to Hogwarts each year followed along parts of our drive and we were able to see the backdrop for the Quidditch games. We also saw an area that had been used to build the village in Braveheart as well. It's one giant movie setting here! They call the mountains "hills", as they aren't terribly tall, but they definitely have a presence. Many are snow capped at just 3,000+ feet and their tips aren't visible as they drift off into the clouds or white sky. Their sides are covered with waterfalls, accented with crevasses, splattered with shrubs and then sometimes sprinkled with odd shaped boulders. It makes for quite a sight. As we headed toward our home base for the next couple of nights, the rain fell off and on from the low clouds, which allowed rainbows to appear and disappear quickly. Few things put life in perspective faster than realizing how small we really are on this earth. God has an amazingly artistic eye and is pretty darn handy with his rock and wood work too. Only one more thing to do - Zac Brown Band and his combination of 'Free / Into the Mystic' needed to join us as a soundtrack. Fortunately, even our naughty car held her tongue and enjoyed the scenery for this one!

Posted by akgearhard 04:14 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Isle of Skye

When a portion of the road connecting us to our current destination was marked as a "sky bridge" on the map, we knew we were headed in the right direction. The Isle of Skye is a rugged and remote area in northern Scotland that boasts a beautiful water / mountain combination package, highlighting the infamous black, rocky Cuillin Hills (trust me, they do not look like hills when standing at their base!). This area was high on our list to travel due to its uniqueness. If you have a moment and want to be wowed, as well as see an up close and personal look at the area, Google 'Danny MacAskill, Isle of Skye' and you'll see where we are.

I'm not sure what prompted the 80's music desire today, but we put the playlist on and covered every square inch of the Trotternish Penninsula and a bit more just because no one was ready to be done driving. We've apparently done enough damage to the kids over the years that they were able to hold up their part as backup band members and enjoy the torture. The weather brought rain, rainbows, sun, and some pretty intense wind. Trip highlights include Jaden being knighted at the cliffs of Kilt Rock and attempting to run through sheep on our way to the tip of the coast in brutal winds in an effort to see the Duntulm Castle ruins. We were like little kites doing our best to keep our feet in the pasture as we ran for the car. I'd like to personally thank the North Face and Smart Wool combination that I've adopted for this trip for saving my life. I have been as consistently warm as a lukewarm shower and in the rain and wind that has visited us - I consider this a brilliant success! My family also thanks you as they have not heard me throw angry words at the cold.

We stopped at a beautiful cafe on a loch and enjoyed a leisurely lunch. While sipping our coffees and cocoas, we were listening to the couple next to us and trying to determine where they might be from, considering their language. Their was a hint of familiarity in their words as I thought of our beloved Norwegian little ones that join us in the summer. We ended up chatting with them for a bit when they stopped by our table before leaving to find out where we were from. When they learned we were from the States, the gentleman smiled and pointed at Luke, saying it was quite clear that he is American. I quickly thought back to what Luke was wearing (he was sitting behind me) and nothing about a sweater, jeans, and boots screamed 'Merica. I didn't get it - until the gentleman bent his arms, puffed up his chest and said "basketball, football!" as he pointed to Luke. Better than our accents as a give away, I suppose! Side note: they explained the hint of Norwegian and how history has tied it into their Dutch language. I adore travel and the opportunity it brings for us to meet the world!

As Journey sang about a small town girl taking the midnight train going anywhere, we headed to our home in the village of Portree. We stopped by the market, perused their four aisles and found ourselves a suitable dinner and drinks to make at home. There's not much to the house, but it's one of the best electric showers we've had as of yet and it allowed us to do our first complete round of laundry this trip! On top of that, we had heat... I won't dare say too much heat - but heat - at the touch of a switch. It was like magic that came from the future. I curled up in bed toasty warm, to write and finish listening to the story about the city boy that fortunately took the midnight train going anywhere as well. With any luck, he'll meet up with that small town girl. Full belly, clean clothes, hot shower, warm, and tucked away with the family in a village in the Aisle of Skye... Yep, Journey, you've got a group of believers here!

Posted by akgearhard 16:48 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Loch Ness Monster: Real or Real?

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As we drove toward Loch Ness on our last day here in Scotland, we were going about business as usual, with me reading about the next stop ahead as Luke was playing foreign driver in the wind, ditching cars, and shifting on the wrong side of the car. We had to pull of the road for a quick emergency pit stop and as Jaden was hiding behind his door, a gust of wind came and blew so hard that the door hit him in the head and knocked him over. I had gotten out to take pictures (of the mountains, not the pit stop!) and had I not been blown backwards a good five steps and almost fallen down myself, I might have been laughing. Justice and Luke were safely in the car laughing hard at both of us. We'll say I used a wide foot base and held the door so Jaden could wrap things up safely.

There are two major exhibits in Loch Ness - Nessieland and the Loch Ness Exhibition Center. As you can imagine, Nessieland is a healthy injection of goodness for the imagination with its photos, stories, and large bright green Nessie statue out front. I cringed as I read about the "other" exhibit that we were going to and its scientific presentation on the Loch Ness myth. I knew that we were preparing to crush the dreams of the kid who sat in the backseat of the car with my camera in hand "just in case". The Center and presentation were...detailed. I'll summarize by saying that we essentially started at the beginning of time and through video and props, peeled every possible Nessie option to the core for a good, hard, debunking, chewed it up, then spit it out. While wondering if Nessie may have been a remainder from the ice ages, video showed earth's templates moving, the lights came on in the dark room we were standing in for long enough to see that everything was frozen solid so it didn't happen and that was that. Psssh! (That's my spitting out the possible sound). We sat underwater as the waves moved on the walls around us and we learned why the sounds coming from underwater weren't an option either. Psssh! Not happening. We joined the official headquarters that set cameras up around the lake in the 60's and spent over a decade watching the water. Psssh! They didn't see a thing. We then played games that come from my world in the psychology field where you give someone a photo and sing the "do you see what I see" song. Psssh! Glad they cleared that up too. As we were walking back to the car, I asked Jaden if he enjoyed his time. He did - and he was wondering if he could borrow the camera for our drive past the remainder of the Loch. Look at that! Science can't touch this boy! Don't worry, Justice's feet are firmly planted in the realm of reality and she rests easy knowing that there is no Nessie, but Jaden clicked away as we drove on into Inverness.

With a flight out to London at the crack of dawn tomorrow, we knew we wanted an early dinner and bedtime. We grabbed a seat in a busy restaurant down the street from our room. We figured we should give Scottish whiskey a chance while in Scotland (because there is no other reason for me to drink such a thing at home!). Our bartender gave us one 'mild' and one 'smoky'. I think they could be better referred to as one 'disgusting' and one 'cat formaldehyde flavor from college lab class' but I've never worked in a distillery, so I wouldn't really know. Blah. Check that experience off the list! P.S. Don't forget to set the clocks forward. Oops! Almost missed that one - and a plane!

Posted by akgearhard 02:04 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

'Ello England!

We had hoped to be done driving when we left Scotland, but we took one look at our options for getting to Stongehenge and decided that 2+ hours on a tour bus smothered in people was beyond what we had the ability to handle - off to EuropCar for another day of car rental! The sky was dark and the rain was pouring when we arrived, but we were so excited to see the stones stacked in the distance that it didn't seem to matter. We walked around the monument with our dripping headsets up to our wet faces, learning about the prehistoric rocks, what is known, and what remains a mystery still today. It is incredible to see the size of the rocks, consider their positioning, and think about the time and power that it took to place them as such. My fingers were frozen solid from taking pictures by the time we headed out!

The rain slowed as we started back toward London. We made a nice detour through Bath, so we could take a peek at some of the history and architecture. Beautiful city! We had been up since 4:45 this morning and the kids were antsy to get into London as the afternoon was coming to a close. In an effort to pass the time as we headed back to the airport to drop the car off, they spent over an hour playing a guessing game that involved humming every sort of tune imaginable. It has been great to see what these two have created in forced family fun time!

Important Note: We have booked 90% of this trip on AirBNB and have been pleased with our homes (sans Turbo). I've been eagerly awaiting four nights in the gem we booked here in London based on great views and location.

The first red flag regarding our London house came when we returned the car and were advised that it would be best to be out of the Elephant Castle train depot and tucked safely into the home that we've rented for the next four nights well before dark. Noted. The second red flag came when the first person that we saw in the train depot was stealing all the money from a metal box on the wall. Luke tried to tell me it might have been the guy that worked there collecting coins. I told him that I love how he sees the goodness in all people. That gentleman most have just forgotten his uniform and key today. Noted. The third red flag came somewhere along the 3/4 mile walk off the beaten path to find our actual house. Noted. Fourth red flag could be a man named Luis answering the door, rather than the woman named Merrian that I booked the house with. Luke suggested we got catfished?! Trying not to feel alarmed. Noted. He was doing laundry and appeared to be staying in the house too. Should that be a separate flag? Fifth red flag might be sending us upstairs and closing us in one room with 2 bunk beds and a bathroom. Where was the kitchen? Washer and dryer? This wasn't what we paid for! We were left with a rule sheet that told us that eating in our room was FORBIDDEN on top of it! Oh come on now. Noted. Seventy-eighth red flag flew up when I opened our curtains, eager to see the view of Big Ben and the setting sun that we booked this house based on and I saw nothing but brick walls. Nothing. I didn't want to be angry in London, but that one hurt. Noted. With little time left before dark, we ran a few blocks to the grocery store and snuck our food back upstairs. Think we should be concerned that we can't lock our room while we are away? Luis didn't speak much English and Merrian was nowhere to be found so we ate our dinner and opened up our reservation to see if we might actually be in the wrong house. No, the room was a match - it's just that everything else wasn't. As we sat captive in our room, we mulled over getting another place but we have already paid for this one and the rest of the world is on holiday in London, so a reasonably priced last minute room to stay in a good location is not exactly easy to find. When I heard a group of people running up the stairs toward our room and laughing just before midnight, I about lost it. Luke assured me that they were going to a room across the hallway (which I hadn't noticed existed - nor did either of us know we were sharing!) and I assured myself that we would be in a new location in London tomorrow.

Posted by akgearhard 14:02 Archived in England Comments (0)

Doinking London!

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Relocation was the first item on this morning's agenda and after much searching and God's good grace, we found ourselves an unusually exquisite hotel room (for us!) in the City Centre just beside the London Bridge and Tower. We dropped our backpacks off - smiled as we locked them in the room - and took off for the day!

I believe we were in Rome a few years ago when Luke coined the term 'doink' [doi-nk]. Verb (used without object). 1. to intentionally visit every large item site on a city map possible in a brief period of time: 2. to roam, rove, or stray by foot to as many historic sites as one can in a short amount of time: 3. the noise Luke makes when his finger moves from monument to museum (and so forth) on a map. I believe this paints the picture.

With the sun shining down, we took advantage of our location and began our doinking day. We walked the London Bridge and London Tower and strolled along the River Thames to check out Shakespeare's Theatre, the London Eye, and enjoy the people watching. With the weather holding, we walked further out and visited the tremendous Westminster Palace, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey. Someone was thoughtful enough to put a park next to these majestic buildings, which allowed us to sit for a moment and look at the city's profile and take it all in. We had covered over four miles worth of ground in today's doinking and put a nice dent in the list of items that we were hoping to see.

On our way home, we came across a small German restaurant and stopped in our tracks when we saw the word 'currywurst' on the menu. We stuffed ourselves with this, schnitzel, sausages, bretzel, and German beers. Although this restaurant wasn't considered a doinkable map item, it was the perfect end to the day!

Posted by akgearhard 00:49 Archived in England Comments (0)

Worth the Wait!

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Some things are worth the wait. Today brought three of them - along with more sunshine!

This morning, our wait was next to the fence outside of Buckingham Palace. We arrived early so that we could have a bird's eye view of the Changing of the Guards ceremony. A band could be heard in the distance as the somber soldiers in their brilliant red uniforms marched toward us with their guns and swords in hand. The crowds were massive and my left thigh engaged in a silent battle of its own with the girl behind me as she tried to push through me while we stood still. Luke knows better than to bring me into large, tight crowds (particularly after charging me up with a cappuccino). My patience disappears quickly at concerts when others are talking over the music I came to hear and at events like this when no respect is shown for historical property, soldiers, or the ceremony we came to participate in. I wanted to ask the crowd to use "library voices" and "show safe bodies" but fortunately for them after my thigh won its stand-off, the ceremony began. I took enough photos to make a running slideshow. Each soldier's diligence was beyond impressive and the obsessive-compulsive component to the ceremony, including the calculated pacing, was intriguing. The red-coated band concluded the guard change with a bold series of songs which opened with Indiana Jones, followed by Star Wars, and even included Aladdin! Worth the wait!

This afternoon, our wait was at Platform 9 3/4 in King's Cross Station. We waited in a lengthy line for our turn to get our photograph with Hedwig and the luggage cart that was halfway through the brick wall. The character working the platform was a fantastic Malfoy, which was fun to watch and he harassed the kids for their insistence on wearing Gryffindor scarves for the picture. It must have been Jaden's green eyes that made him so confident that he should be a Slytherin. We were also given Bertie Bott's beans while waiting. Luke had a sausage flavor, Jaden had vomit, Justice must have gagged before giving hers a label, and I managed to get away with marshmallow! The entire King's Cross Station experience for a family of Harry Potter lovers was definitely worth the wait!

This evening's wait came to a close after over 17 years. Luke and I started dating in the fall of 1997. If you missed my version of how our story unfolded, please go to http://gearhardsgo.travellerspoint.com and look for the blog in Germany that I believe is titled "Once Upon a Time". Luke tends to miss details around stalking, so stick with me if you'd like accuracy. I digress. We parted ways that winter and he spent a month between London and Paris getting art credits, while I took the month and backpacked through New Zealand for P.E. credits. After returning home, he promised he'd take me back to the top of the Eiffel Tower with him (check point in 2011!) and to see Les Miserables in London's Queen's Theatre. I had no idea what we were in for. It was a phenomenal production. As the kids happily ate their intermission ice cream, I linked my fingers through Luke's and looked around us. Seventeen years plus... All of it - so worth the wait!

Posted by akgearhard 07:36 Archived in England Comments (0)

Lotsa London!

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I'm not sure if it was because I sat up on night watch when we arrived or because our hotel bed is twice the size of a road in Ireland - but I slept in this morning - and it felt wonderful! No time to waste though.... Only one day left in the city!

There's a record album that sits casually next to the piano in our bedroom at home and the four gentleman on its worn cover are strolling over the crosswalk on Abbey Road. My dad gave me this album ages ago and I never would have imagined that our family would be following in their footsteps many years later to go check out Abbey Studios and the memorabilia in the Beatles Store down the street. Everything was pretty low-key in the neighborhood, as the studio is still in use today. Capturing a photo on the crosswalk was like playing a broken game of Frogger that kept restarting as I tried to dodge oncoming traffic and had to continually re-take photos in an effort to avoid other people that were working on catching their Kodak moment too.

Right around the corner was 221b Baker Street, literally, which housed the Sherlock Holmes Museum. Lucky for us (soak this statement in sarcasm!), Jaden chose a humongous Sherlock book with roughly 3 point font for his first typed book report of this school year, so Luke and I had the opportunity to learn allllll about the mysteries he and Watson had the pleasure of solving. Genius pair, those two! The museum was set up as their consulting detective business, with fireplaces in each room and solved cases displayed everywhere. The four story apartment was filled to the brim with details including dead mannequins (isn't that kind of like a double negative?), pipes, and clues. Let's just say it was quite the find on our part!

Afterwards, we hopped on the Tube and headed over to visit Hamley's, which is the oldest toy store in the world - established in 1760! We were greeted at the doors by a large man in a tutu with a bubble gun on one side and another gentleman flinging airplanes across the crowd on the other side. I'll summarize by saying we spent almost 2 hours playing in the seven floors of available toys and demonstrations. It was like a free Disneyland - well, with no rides really. I wanted the 18,000 piece puzzle that we found, but I don't really have room in my backpack to get it home and Luke noted that we don't have a 12'x6' space that we can use to build such a creation over the next several decades. Point taken.

We closed our night with dinner and dessert at a nearby restaurant and a stroll through the neighborhood. We packed our bags for Dublin tomorrow knowing that most of the items won't be unpacked until we step foot into our own house on Friday night. How is that possible? Where has the time gone? I suppose the better question would be to ponder where the time ever goes... G'night and g'bye for now, London.

Posted by akgearhard 00:40 Archived in England Comments (1)

Great Friday Eve

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Familiarity is a welcome feeling. Consistency is calming. Stepping back into Ireland felt just plain good, which I didn't expect. The kids were happy to see their Tayto chips in the vending machines as soon as we stepped off the plane, just as Luke and I were happy to see pubs every other building and know the warm feeling of their food and folk that awaited us inside. We chatted with our cabbie about driving the tight roads on the west coast near Galway like it was no big thing. We laughed about tourist traps and discussed varying Irish dialects, knowing we'd had the opportunity to hear many of them ourselves and discern the differences. We drove past large advertisements for Dingle Gin, smiling, knowing we'd just driven the Dingle Peninsula and seen it with our own eyes. What an experience it has been! Our cabbie informed us that with tomorrow being Good Friday, the city would be crazy today with people out and about. There are only two days each year that the bars close - Good Friday and Christmas. The streets weren't even close to what we experienced on St. Patty's Day, but he assured us everyone would be out scouring the markets and bars before they closed. You can think of it as an Irish Zombie Apocalypse.

I booked our last night in Dublin on a seemingly far-fetched request of Luke's that couldn't have suited us better! He wanted a room above a pub downtown. Why not? They checked us in at the front desk (i.e. bar) in between pouring drinks and chatting with the locals at O'Donoghue's Pub, which sits next to Stephen's Green in the heart of Dublin. We were given a warm welcome and assured them we'd be back to spend our evening in as we headed out for the afternoon. We retraced many of the steps that we had taken during the parade, but they looked quite different now that they weren't covered in people, flags, and green! We ventured back to the Temple Bar and were fortunate to walk in and have a barrel (table) with 4 stools open amidst a crazy crowd and live music. We quickly snatched it and settled in to enjoy our perfectly poured Guinness and toasties. As the music played, I could feel the emotions welling up inside as I thought of leaving something that I've come to enjoy so much. We recalled our last night in the small village of Mürren, in the Swiss Alps, where we sat with similar feelings. Travel allows us to meet and fall in love with a place and its people, but even more, it forces us to reconsider ourselves - who we are and who we are working to be. Is it selfish to say I could easily use more time for this?

We tucked the kids into our room tonight and Luke and I headed down 54 stairs to the small, open air portion of our pub that was filled with heaters and people. We toasted our Guinnesses and soaked in our surroundings. As we opened the heavy door in the pub to climb back up the stairs to our room, a guy standing nearby in the crowd looked over and said "Oooh! I want to live there!" Me too, I thought.

The laughter and singing from the pub was radiating through the floorboards and windows as we climbed into bed. I could nearly decipher the songs they were singing, but the floorboards, Gaelic, or Guinness may have been a bit too thick. Good night, Ireland. You will be an easy one for us to miss.

Posted by akgearhard 21:33 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Homeward Bound

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We are on the plane now. I've got J next to me, Luke and Beau in front of me, the loudest children known to man behind me, a blanket of blue water below us, my playlist on repeat, and a smoking hot cup of creamer with a splash of coffee in it at my fingertips. All things considered, life is good.

I figured I'd take a moment to reflect on a couple of things that we've learned this trip before we get home this evening and they fade away as our reality comes quickly back to life...

There's never enough time.
Home, away, working, playing, healthy, sick - it seems that there is rarely an occasion where life issues us "enough" time. It is up to us to be responsible with the time that we are given and spend it wisely when and where we are gifted with it. We will still likely find ourselves wanting more or wishing ourselves back. Time is so precious.

Swim sideways.
Somewhere along our trip, Luke and the kids discussed how to get out of an undercurrent ("swim sideways!") and in another conversation when discussing what to do when choking, one of our brilliant children tossed out an excited "swim sideways!" coining this the universal life-saving technique. As a backup, we'd also suggest throwing yourself up against a table when choking -WHILE swimming sideways - if additional emergency measures are needed.

It takes rain to make a rainbow, love.
This is as true with the bumps in our life as it is when the rain falls on the rolling green pastures in Ireland. The remarkable ROYGBIV rainbow will shine down, but not without the rain. It was a splendid message to be reminded of up close and personal on a daily basis.

Your name doesn't have to be Norm to be welcomed in Ireland.
As intimidating as those first few steps into the pub were when we arrived in Dublin, we came to realize that the close-knit community here is kind, welcoming, and happy to call you a friend as long as you're willing to do the same. Your name definitely doesn't have to be Norm.

5. Plan for change.
...and then accept it. There is a reason we don't make detailed travel plans. Truly. Items of permanency before traveling abroad include passports, international drivers licenses, and car and housing reservations. As you've seen, even these things change. Our lives are bound by schedules at home as we hop from soccer to football and Spectra to the firehouse. Freedom is fabulous and allows you to think and plan in the moment. Sitting captive as a family in our room in London wondering if we'd been scammed required some display of calmness on my part to show the kids how we respond in a potential emergency ("SWIM SIDEWAYS!" they said). We talked it through as a family, made the best of it, and moved on. The rest is just details.

6. Guinness pouring is an art.
Simply put, there is detail to pouring this masterpiece correctly, ensuring the right color of its foam, and placing a perfect four-leaf clover with the grace of a barista's hand in the whip on top. My gratitude to James for starting our education properly.

7. Good things are worth waiting for.
Mumford and Sons sings one of my all-time favorite songs, which congruently boasts one of my most despised phrases - "I will wait". I don't like waiting, which is likely why Sweet Jesus decided to upgrade his Patience Plans for me in both my personal and professional life to that of the mighty snail. Let's just say, I'm definitely working on it. As I am now looking at landscape through the lens of my camera that I've dreamed of while seeing photos online, I rest assured that good things are definitely worth the wait.

8. 'Feck' is a real Irish word.
I thought I invented the spelling based on what I was hearing (see the March 21 entry). Imagine our surprise when we found 'feck' magnets in Dublin yesterday. Enough said.

9. Stop Selfie Sticks.
I don't know what these things are really called, but after seeing hundreds of them attached to phones, cameras, and anything with a screen to assist with selfies, this is what I've come to know them as. I figure they can function dually as a small baseball bat used to lightly remind their owner that taking a picture of themselves while on the Cliffs of Moher to prove attendance is not more important than respecting the boundaries of those attempting to walk by safely with both eyes on the path. Look up. Look around. And please huck that stick. I will gladly take a photo for you anytime.

10. Enjoy the moment.
There are an infinite number of ways to document our journeys in life. Unfortunately, moments often slip by quickly as we work to capture them and share them with the world. I am terribly guilty of juggling my camera lenses in the heat of a beautiful moment in my best effort to capture everything about it. I figure the iPad can then catch anything the camera missed (the sound and the feel). After all that is finished, I can then hope the moment hasn't passed so that I can see the smiles on the kids faces or cozy up next to Luke to enjoy our surroundings. If only the moment I was initially captivated by were still around...

It's amazing to watch how much people miss in their best effort to prove that they were "there" as they twist, tweet, link, facebook, and photograph the moment away. I've found myself nearly sitting on my hands on multiple occasions this trip forcing myself to look, rather than photograph. It is far easier to actively be "_________" than it is to just plain BE. Note to self: Get out from behind your camera and join the world. Look around you. Take in the smell. Touch the grasses and the rocks. Listen to the sounds. Remember the looks on the faces of those with you. Enjoy the gift that you have been given. 'Now' is the only thing we have and for that, I couldn't be more grateful.

Until next time...

Posted by akgearhard 21:39 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

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