Why I won’t say “I would never” anymore…

21 Feb


Hearing plenty of pro-life talk, the common theme seems to always be some variation of women who choose abortion are irresponsible and selfish.  Judge-y adjectives to describe people who could never be “like me.”  Not me, not any of my friends or family.  Those types of adjectives serve one reason–to separate the people using them and make the people using them feel superior. “We would never make that choice.”


And for a time, while I have always been pro-choice, I would even say it–“I would never do it, but if someone else chooses to, that’s her choice.”  Just that statement alone, in some way, casts judgment on a woman who chooses abortion.  I would never…


And man was it easy to say I would never have an abortion when I’d never been in a position to have to make that choice.  I’ve never even been pregnant, via “mistake” or attempt to get pregnant.  So I’ve never had to face that difficult choice.


Until I did have to face it.


In our quest to become parents, there have been plenty of ups and downs, and ultimately no kids, despite years of trying, fertility treatments and even a brief foray into the world of fostering. But wait…what does any of that have to do with abortion??


After years of trying to conceive, we’d exhausted all of the “easy” oral treatment options, and had to move on to the “big guns”–needles and IUI/IVF.  I remember being told that before we could go any further with infertility treatments, we had to attend a class on injectables. I was already heart broken over the previous failures, and there were many. I was tired, depressed, scared, nervous about the prospect of needles and all of the possible side effects of over-stimulating my ovaries. But going to that meeting, we were faced with yet another possible “side effect”–the possibility of “selective reduction.”  And yup.  That’s exactly what it sounds like–in the chance that too many eggs fertilize (with injections/IUI/IVF, the chances of this happening are increased), genetic testing would be conducted and then we would be asked to select embryos to eliminate based on health and gender.  To protect my life, to protect our babies’ lives, to give us the best chances of taking home healthy kid(s).  Selective reduction.  AKA selective abortion.




At first, I was incredulous–I couldn’t help but laugh.  What are the chances that after years of trying to conceive ANY baby, we’d be faced with TOO MANY babies???


And then I sobbed.  What the actual fuck.  We were sitting around the doctor’s waiting room, with 4 other couples we didn’t know (who were in the same baby-making boat as us), having a conversation about aborting babies.  The real possibility of having to make that choice.  And before we could proceed, we had to acknowledge that we understood this possibility and would be ready to make difficult choices as needed.


And so we talked.  We cried.  I cried some more.  I cried a lot back then–when I think about how I was feeling during that time frame, it’s pretty dark.  Infertility is hard.  Maybe the hardest thing I’ve done.


I can’t imagine judging someone for making the decision to have an abortion.  I had always been pro-choice for a million different reasons.  Because I am a feminist.  Because I believe women should have control of their bodies and therefore their lives. Because I KNOW you can’t take that decision away from someone. Because abortion will always be an option–it’s just a matter of whether it’s a safe one or not.  Because I have seen what happens when kids are born to parents who aren’t ready or able to care for them–I’ve worked with many of them through the years, and it’s devastating and heart-breaking.


But being in that moment, having to possibly face that decision, I had an all-new respect for the women (and men) who have to have those difficult conversations and make those decisions.


And so we ultimately decided to go for it.  To cross “that bridge” if and when we came to it.


But then I cried more, agonizing over the fact that “if and when we got to it,” we would be judged by people.  People who would say there’s no reason to have an abortion, no circumstance–my life, our babies’ lives–that could justify it.  People who would tell us that just by pursuing these treatments, we were wrong, we were messing with “god’s plan” and that we needed to leave it alone.  Some people, after all, just aren’t meant to be parents (the number of times I’ve heard this sickens me).


All that judgment shouldn’t have bothered me…maybe it was all the fake hormones…but feeling that, whether real or perceived, was at times paralyzing.  I felt like no matter what decision we made regarding my treatment, someone would be upset with us, someone would feel what we were doing was wrong.


We obviously never became pregnant.  “That bridge” was never crossed.  And for that I am thankful because I can only imagine the heartbreak and sorrow it would cause.


And so one more reason, a much more personal one, was added to the reasons why I will remain staunchly pro-choice. And that I won’t say “I would never” anymore. Critics of this reason will point out that selective reduction makes up for a very small percentage of abortions. But my point will continue to be that abortion, for whatever reason, will always be a deeply personal, deeply emotional decision.  I used to think that the face of abortion was the irresponsible, selfish woman.  Now I know that abortion has many faces.  And some of them look just like me and, yes, even you.


if you’re lucky enough

16 Oct

It seems to me that the past few years have involved an awful lot of “letting go of expectations” and “trusting that things will work out.”

I am not naturally good at either of those things. I like to think that I am a hard worker (except for when it comes to cleaning the house…then I am mostly a failure) and that the result of my hard work is that my expectations match reality and things go well.
But the truth is that there are things in life you can’t control and that’s ok. Even the biggest disasters eventually fade away. Bad choices can be corrected with subsequent choices, and mistakes are very rarely permanent.  So maybe the trials and tribulations of my younger years were all situations out of my control, all put there by some outside force to teach me lessons in letting go.

We bought 123 over 8 years ago. It was going to be our starter house. We planned to have kids there–I had secretly plotted out the nursery and imagined our brood playing in the fenced yard with the cute puppy after eating dinner together in the dining room like the quintessential 60’s family.

And now, years later, countless treatments and years and heartache later, we are leaving 123. No babies. Never did make that nursery. Letting go of the life I had planned.  

And on the one hand, that’s so sad. But on the other, we are about to start another new journey full of who knows what kinds of adventures (hopefully fun water sport ones and not roof caving in ones).  I’m trying not to plan this one out too much…

At final walk through, the other realtor asked if we had kids. There was a time when that stupid question would’ve made me cry. But it’s becoming so easy to just dismissively say no. Don’t get me wrong–it still stings somewhere deep down. But maybe it’s like when you touch a bruise–it hurts and then it’s gone. It doesn’t take much to make a bruise hurt. Sometimes the lightest brush can sting pretty deeply. But then it’s gone again. 

We have had a ton of great memories at 123–chain sawing trees, learning how to make home repairs and improvements, campfires, parties, holidays…8+ years of love and laughter.
I am excited to leave though. To leave behind the expectations of what life was going to be when I was  in my early 20s, barely out of college, newly married, naive in so many ways. 

72 carries with it uncertainty. Everything about this move makes me nervous. But instead of trying to imagine what we will be doing in 2, 5, or even 10 years in the new place, I am trying to remind myself to take it one day at a time, to enjoy life as it comes, and to remember that the bad days always get better. 

And really….if you’re lucky enough to be on the lake, you’re lucky enough.

A slight change in plans

4 Sep

Guys, I can’t run.
No. Not true. But for the past few months, I have not wanted to run, which in some ways is worse. Watching Eric sit on the couch miserable for not being able to run reminds me of that every day. I have been given a gift to be able to run, and I’ve been squandering it. 
I have no idea why. I have a lot of theories. Perhaps the best one is just plain overtraining. For over a year, I’ve been hammering miles…more miles than ever before. In the course of the past year, I’ve raced 2 50 mile races, 2 50k races, and a marathon 6 hour effort. And to run that many distance races, there have been a LOT of training miles. 
And all those miles have been tough but fun, painful but illuminating, challenging but awesome. 
But I think I am just tired. When I reflect on my excuses for skipping runs, at the bottom of all of it, I see a girl who just doesn’t care enough right now to get out of bed early (or when it’s hot, or when there’s a cooler option) to go run. 
And that’s ok. My libra brain tells me balance needs to be restored in my running. 
This summer, the runs that have felt good have been the “different” ones–ones in new places, or workouts on the track, or my run yesterday…the fastest run I’ve had in probably 2 years…and it wasn’t even “that” fast (which is silly to say bc fast is all relative anyway). 
I  registered for a small 50k last spring, thinking I would train hard all summer and go win it. But the truth is that I am not interested in running it, not even “just for fun.” And so I’m going to DNS, a decision I’ve been kicking around and have decided to put into writing in public so that people hold me accountable and so that I can get over feeling like a complete failure for this choice. 
This fall, I’m going to focus on some speed work and shorter stuff. Normally, I hate both of those things–Ive always said I would rather spend 4 hours at a relaxed pace in the woods than 30 minutes on the track wanting to puke. But right now, shorter and faster sounds more doable (and yes that’s what she said haha). This should leave me some time for cool things like cross training (I want to start seriously lifting again and get back on my bike, especially since we are going to be living very close to some new shorter trails!) and also house projects when we move (I will be so glad when all the house drama is done and we can settle back in). 
I’m not done with ultras.  I still love them, I just know that my body has been asking for a break, and I need to start listening rather than trying to force it.  I figure the fast training will be a nice break, I can go into the winter ready to build base (it’s all about that base) and then decide what I want my spring/summer to look like from there. 
It’s weird because over the past year I feel like I’ve let my identity really morph into ultra-runner. So to think I’m going to break from ultras for a bit is a little disconcerting, like I’m having an identity crisis or something. But the truth is that I don’t want to confine myself to just one type of running–I am Shme, and I am a runner. And I am excited for what my running future holds, whether that’s more races, never running another race again, doing lots more ultras or sticking to shorter distances.  Because ultimately it doesn’t matter what I’m running, as long as I’m out there.

running alone

11 Aug

I run alone a lot.  I trained for my first 50 miler almost exclusively by myself–it was HOURS of me time in the woods.  When I first started out trail running, I would never have dreamed of venturing on the trails alone–what if something happens to me out there?  What if the bad guys try to get me?


When I finally got “brave” enough to go it alone, I got questioned by well-meaning people in my life–what if something happens to you out there? What if someone tries to hurt you?


And so I found myself having to defend the solo running.  Having to explain why I feel safer out on a trail alone than I ever would on a road, especially if it’s trails I know well.  That I run with my cell phone on, Eric always knows where I am going/approximate routes. That sometimes I’ll even carry pepper spray and a knife (when I remember, which is admittedly not often).  And I never really stopped to consider what having to defend my running meant–that ultimately it was because of my gender that I had to take extra precautions.


I remember talking a few different times with Eric about things that worried me, concerns that maybe I shouldn’t run alone at this particular place at this particular time, even calling someone on the phone when I was feeling sketched out by someone I’d seen on the trail…hoping that would be a deterrent if the guy really was a creep.  Eric was incredulous that I’d even think that way.  And that was the first time it really dawned on me that men don’t have to think about things the same way that women do.  That for the most part, men don’t worry that someone might hurt them or rape them, that they might not be powerful enough to fend off an attack.  But women…we do…we carry that burden when we go places alone.


Or don’t we??? Do we worry about those things because people ask us to justify doing things like going for a run alone–something that should be so ok.  So safe.  Maybe the fear surrounding “alone” activities comes from cultural expectations that women don’t go places alone, that we want to (need to?) be social, that we are fragile and need to be constantly protected..


This topic has been written about so much by outdoor women all over–runners, hikers, cyclists…so I don’t need to elaborate on why so many women feel so comfortable and confident hitting the trails alone, whether that is a misguided notion or not.  Lots of women do lots of stuff alone, and most of the time, they are perfectly fine.  But when they are not…then we hear about it.


But I think what we always seem to forget in these discussions about safety is WHY we even have to have them in the first place.


A couple of years ago, my car (along with several others in the parking lot) was broken into while I was out for a run. The cop scolded me for leaving a bag out in the open (full of clothes for post-run, a library book and my glasses).  If the thieves hadn’t seen it, they wouldn’t have targeted my car.  And so I found myself feeling bad, like it was partially my fault (and maybe it was) for doing something so stupid as to leave a bag in my locked car. This is a constant issue in the Monroe County Parks…so much so that they spent money to install new signs in all the parking lots, warning patrons to lock up valuables and leave nothing visible and report suspicious activity.


And I was PISSED the first time I saw those signs.


Those signs are the equivalent of the news articles now suggesting women never run alone, or the ones after someone gets raped saying how she was dressed in skanky clothes and got drunk so what did she expect. I just read this article from Runner’s World, and it got me all fired up over this.


The fact is, as a woman, I DO have to be more careful.  And that sucks.  I DO have to put everything away when I leave my locked car.  I DO have to think about which parking lot I use and whether it’s easy to see from the road, making it (and me?) less of a target (hopefully) for douchebags.  I DO have to think about what I wear, how much I drink, and who I am around and whether those three things will combine to create an unfortunate situation for me.


But the fact is ALSO that I SHOULDN’T have to.


If something is not yours, you don’t take it. I shouldn’t need to even lock my car, much less hide things away.  And that goes for my body, too.  It’s not yours. You don’t just get it because you want it. That’s Kindergarten 101.


If you see a woman and think she’s cute, you find an appropriate way to express that…and no, screaming and whistling and making vile suggestions/comments is not appropriate.  If you wouldn’t want someone saying it to/about your mom/sister/daughter/wife, then you probably shouldn’t say it at all.


If you are a man, and you are around other men making vile suggestions/comments that are not appropriate, you call out those men.  Because standing by while it happens makes you part of the problem.


And really….the violence that happens against women starts small–it starts with those small comments that are “jokes”…it normalizes that women are less. That it’s ok for women to be treated as such.  That we are fragile and need protecting (because therefore men have power over us and can wield it for good to protect us, but also for bad to hurt us).  It can lead to worse. Watch this Australian ad.  It’s actually one of the best ads I’ve ever seen.


I don’t even know how to end this rant.  All I know is that I should not have to worry about my sisters the way that I do.  I should not worry about my friends who are heading out for runs to clear their heads.  I should not worry about myself out on a run.  And the solution to the problem lies not with women being smarter and safer, but with men not being creeps and calling out the guys who ARE creeps and raising little boys who will turn into men who aren’t creeps.  So work on that, mkay, guys?  Your women [running] friends will thank you tons!


8 Aug

I’ve always found water to be soothing. The sounds, the smells (most of the time haha), the feeling of swimming…I loved swimming, and was fortunate enough to grow up with a pool in my backyard. 
On weekends, we would head to Lime Lake, where my grandparents owned a cottage. We’d swim, water ski, tube and just relax. I. Loved. It.


one of the first times we ever went there together

After we got married, we started to camp more. We headed to Indian Lake in the Adirondacks and fell in love with the paddle, camp on an island, hike, swim, watch incredible sunsets over the lake lifestyle. This summer is the first in a very long time that we didn’t spend our anniversary there…and man did I miss it.


home is wherever i am with you


and if we love the water, picasso super loves it


seeing if it sinks…then seeing if you can paddle a sinking canoe…


just chilling

We went to Bermuda for our  friends’ wedding. Of all the places I’ve ever been, I think it’s my favorite. Because it’s such a small island, there were beaches and water everywhere. 

a girl could get used to these views


exploring one of many incredible beaches

When training for my road marathons, I planned long runs to cut up to the lake, where I’d run with Lake Ontario to my right and one of many ponds (the size of small lakes) to my left. I would run by the waterfront houses and daydream about living in them. Water made those runs beautiful. They flew by. 

When I switched to trail running, Durand quickly became my favorite–running around all the ponds was the best!


Of my Facebook cover photos, the majority seem to have water (or have been taken while I was very near water). 

So…I love the water. It’s soothing and calming and beautiful. I feel happiest, most centered in places where there is water nearby.  And Eric loves it as much as me.

We have talked about buying a house lake front for a long time. We didn’t know if we could afford it. We started looking,mostly for fun. Nothing serious. We like our little house. It’s served us well. We recently looked and realized there was a house we really liked. It reminded me a little bit of my grandparents’ cottage at Lime Lake. 
We put in an offer..and it was accepted!!!! Holy hell we are thisclose to living ON water…not visiting it, not vacationing to it…actually living there. 
Tonight after we finished the race stuff, we decided to drive up toward the house to see it again. I’ve been telling Eric all weekend to temper his excitement. “Don’t move in yet,” says Oliver, our realtor. We still have a home inspection and selling our home to get through. 
But tonight, watching Eric walk out on our dock (yeah…it’s apparently ours in my mind haha) I got so happy. So peaceful. Content. This could be my view every day.  

I feel so lucky. Like how did I ever even get to this point??? How do u deserve this amazing life??? I don’t know. I just have my fingers crossed all over the place that this works and next summer we’ll be swimming off that dock and enjoying lake front living.

picasso’s morning run

17 Jul

This morning’s run, told through Picasso’s eyes:


Mom and Dad wouldn’t get out of bed today. I was lounging on the couch in the living room when I heard her whisper to dad that she was going to take me…she forgets sometimes that my hearing is incredibly good and whispering doesn’t hide anything from me. I got so excited I paced around the house crying, especially when she took out my harness and leash.  I don’t even like those stupid things, but I like all the places we go when they put them on me. Mom took forever to get ready…stupid humans and their stupid clothes.

We got in the car and I hung my head out the whole way, which was really cool when we went by a deer! We started to run and a mile in I saw a mud puddle I just couldn’t resist. I almost dragged mom in, too, in my mad dash to get there. I thought it was funny. She was much less amused. She let me poke around in the mud for a good long while, which was super cool.


shaky shaky


this stuff smelled so unbelievably good. decaying things and mud. my favorite.

Then we kept running down to the lake because mom said I was gross from being up to my shoulders in mud. So I swam while mom talked to a friend she knew there. Then we kept running.


glad mom got distracted by a friend so I could enjoy some extra water time

After the mud puddle incident, I was on my best behavior and followed all of her commands, even “leave it,” even when all I wanted to do was go meet that big, angry-looking Rottweiler. I think being friends with me would make him want to kill less living things, but mom said no…


running down the bike path, which means getting closer to the lake!

We finished running and went back to the beach. Mom even came in the water with me!!! I swam a bunch, then we got back in the car. It was a very good morning indeed.


doing what I love most (after eating, of course)

Top Ten Things We Learned About Traveling to Ireland

14 Jul

**Disclaimer: This is a small novel. Short version: We had a great trip, a ton of fun, and learned a lot while figuring stuff out on the fly.  If you’re going to go to Ireland, take the bus, book rooms as you go (except on weekends), bring rain coats and good walking shoes, and plan on wet weather.**


When Eric found cheap (relatively) airfare to Ireland this winter, he booked the trip pretty abruptly.  We had no idea where we would go in Ireland and hadn’t even booked places to stay.  I am a super-planner, so these facts gave me some anxiety, but also made me feel a bit adventurous.  We had decided that we’d spend our almost 2 weeks in Ireland driving around the country in a rental car, stopping at various places to camp for the night before heading out to see more.  This seemed like the most perfect plan…

But perfect plans on paper are not always perfect plans in reality, and what little planning we’d done went to shit early on.  Over the course of 12 days on the Emerald Isle, we learned an awful lot.  I know Ireland is a bucket-list trip for so many people, so here are the things I wish someone had told us about traveling to Ireland.

  1. Do NOT, I repeat DO NOT, think you are going to drive yourself.  At least not easily.  We rented our car, left the parking lot, and promptly broke down on the side of the road.  After some tense conversations between ourselves and also with the rental car place, trying to explain where we’d gone so that they could find us, we were delivered back to the airport.  We decided against even attempting to get a new car. Sure having a car would have been convenient–we could’ve gone exactly where we wanted, exactly WHEN we wanted (which crossed my mind every time we were waiting to go somewhere via bus).  But in my opinion, the bus was the better option for many reasons.  First, it was cheaper (Bus Eirran, the national bus company, has an open road pass that is relatively cheap–we paid just over 100 euro each, way less than we’d have paid for a car, insurance and gas, to use it for unlimited trips for 6 days…additional days could be purchased for 16.50, which was less than most tickets between cities would’ve been).  Because we were on a bus, we could both just watch where we were going instead of naviguessing navigating  or focusing on the road and driving.  Apparently roads in Ireland aren’t labeled, or are labeled very differently from ours (see Number 5 for more info), so following directions without a GPS could be nearly impossible.  Read: If you are getting a car, you are going to want to pay for a GPS, too.  But perhaps the best reason to just bus it was that the roads are SUPER narrow and wind-y.  There were times when vehicles had to stop and inch their way around each other.  The side mirrors on many cars are ripped off. Combine all of that with the “weirdness” of driving on the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the road, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.  The bus system in Ireland is a little tricky–the bus schedules could be hard to find (especially to get to small towns) and you had to be very careful to read them correctly.  But they were clean, comfortable (most of them) and even had power outlets to charge stuff and free WiFi!

Glad this guy had to drive and we didn’t. Thanks, bus drivers, for getting us safely around the country!

2. As much as it sounds crazy, you should try to book your rooms as you go.  The only times when this seemed false is for weekends and/or if there is a festival going on in your destination.  The reasoning for this is that if you get to a town or city and really love it, you might want to spend the night.  If you get somewhere and hate it, but have already booked a room, you’re kind of stuck there, and it sucks (we learned both from experience).  The nice thing about the bus pass was that if we couldn’t find a place to stay, we could just get back on the next bus (so travel early enough to do that haha) and head to another town. Having no plans made us able to be really flexible. There were a wide range of hostels, hotels and B and Bs in every town, even the really tiny ones.  We stayed in B and Bs and hostels mostly–I had stayed in some when I lived in Spain, and they were mostly the giant room with bunk beds and shared bathrooms, so basically college again.  In Ireland (and maybe this is true now of other places), you can get a room with a double bed and “en suite” (aka your own private bathroom) in a hostel.  Which means you have your privacy, but also can access lounges with games and books (I learned how to play chess on the trip!) and the kitchen (so you can cook your own meals if you want to save some money!) at a bit cheaper rate than a hotel or B and B. A lot of pubs/restaurants also had rooms above them to rent for the night.  Since the buses had free WiFi, we would often book a place to stay either on the bus trip to the next place or even more daringly in a cafe/pub when we’d arrived and realized the place we were at was cool enough to want to stay put and explore more.

3. Make sure you bring a good rain coat because it WILL rain.  In fact, bringing clothes to layer is a good idea, since the weather in Ireland can change dramatically in the course of even just a few minutes.  You always hear this, but I didn’t understand just how quickly the changes could come.  We were hoofing it around Limerick and I was digging through one of my bags to find my sunglasses.  Not five minutes later, we felt a couple of rain drops, which turned into a deluge two more minutes later!  No worries, though, because 15 minutes later it was super sunny again.  You need a rain coat.  And sensible shoes.  High heels on wet cobblestone is not smart, as evidenced by the wide number of women stumbling around like baby giraffes when heels got caught in uneven stones or slipped.  Also, ladies, if you can’t walk in your heels, you shouldn’t wear them out.  You look ridiculous.  But I digress. (Side note: I used to wear heels in Spain all the time…fml…I think I’m just getting old…fml.)  Also 60 degrees may sound like t-shirt weather, but it is not that warm–I had at the last minute packed a couple of extra sweaters, and I pretty much lived in them except when we were out hiking/walking and I had on my rain coat.


Thanks, Columbia, for amazing rain gear that kept us mostly dry during what was apparently a very rainy (even for Ireland) two weeks!

4. Because of all the rain, things are not going to dry.  We’d packed lightly thinking we were going to have a trip similar to camping–so we’d wash our clothes at some point and hang ’em up to dry and be good to go.  Except nothing dried, except in the hostel that had the “drying room.”  I rarely blow dry my hair because it air dries quickly (like within 30 or 45 minutes usually)–there were mornings where I’d washed my hair and 2-3 hours later it was still damp!  NOTHING seemed to dry well there.  Leave heavy cotton, jeans, etc at home because if they get wet (when?) they will take FOREVER to dry.

5. Ireland does not believe in street signs.  If there are street signs, chances are good they will be on sides of buildings on the corners (so look there first).  BUT don’t count on it.  We were over a week into our trip and stopped into a tourist information center for our second set of directions to our hostel (the first ones were confusing–another fun fact is that people in Ireland give confusing directions).  There was another couple inside, asking for directions.  The man said, “Are there street signs in town for us to follow?” and the woman at the counter just laughed.  We got our next directions…and still had to stop one more time to confirm directions.  So three stops for three different sets of directions (WITH a map to follow btw) all to get to our hostel, which was ONLY a half mile from the bus stop.  Ask for directions.  Multiple times if need be.  I consider myself to be pretty good with a map and directions, and I found myself struggling a bit to find my way around some of the cities we visited.

6. Most places closed down in Ireland by around 6 pm, and many things weren’t open at all on Sundays. We aren’t big shoppers, so that was ok, except that tourist offices, where you could get maps of the city/ideas for things to do were closed on Sundays.  Which made getting off a bus in Galway city on a Sunday a little daunting–luckily I had grabbed a map in another city’s tourist office and had pre-looked up directions to our B and B for the night on the bus.  If you’re going somewhere on the weekend, you should probably book your room for the night and at least get directions to that before you get there.  I suppose that’s cheating a little bit on the “don’t plan anything, just see what happens” front.

7. Walk.  I’d say this about traveling anywhere new, though.  You will see more, experience more, learn more if you are walking and not driving.  We walked a LOT–and in Ireland that meant that around every turn was something new or cool or funny to see.


If you walk, you could find cool rocks to climb… or cannons… or sheep that have escaped and are being chased by their farmer…

8. If you don’t want to walk, rent a bike.  I am a nervous cyclist, but drivers in Ireland were very respectful of us.  I never felt like I was going to die (except going up some of those hills…when they tell you a route isn’t very hilly, just know there will be hills to climb).  And we were able to leave the little town of Letterfrack in Connemara to explore places that would’ve been too far to walk to.  Looking back, we probably should’ve rented bikes a few more places…it’s relatively inexpensive and a quick way to get around, particularly if you’re in the countryside.  Also they are going to tell you that you don’t need bike locks and no one steals things.  Try not to be too surprised by this.


The views from our bike ride through Connemara were pretty incredible! Mountains to one side, coast to the other!

9. When booking flights, if possible, book overnight flights and get there early in the morning and then book flights out in the evening, so that you can maximize your time there and not waste money on hotels for a night when you didn’t actually get to do or see anything.

10.  If you are limited on time, based on our travels (Limerick, Killarney, Cork, Waterford, Galway, Letterfrack, Clifden, Cliffs of Moher), here are the best/worst things we did that we’d recommend to you:

Things/Places Not To Miss: 

  • Connemara:  The whole area, just outside of Galway, was really beautiful, and I’m not sure you can go wrong anywhere.  Think tons of small coastal towns, which means beautiful rugged coastline, awesome mountains (the Twelve Bens were something we missed but wished we’d had time to research more and do), fresh seafood (if that’s your thing), small shops to bum around in, great bike routes and walks.  If you go to Clifden, stay at The Inn to the West–it was by far the coolest place we stayed. People will act like it’s far from town–it’s MAYBE a half mile walk. And totally worth it.
  • Clifden Castle:  This is in Connemara, but I’m giving it it’s own bullet point because it was my favorite thing we did.  Take the Sky Road Loop from town…it’s a pretty walk on its own.  Stop for a trip up to the Darcy Monument, which is unimpressive, but the views from up there are sweet.  Keep walking.  Old castle ruins sit at the bottom of a muddy, rocky farmer’s road.  To get there, pass under the old castle gate and by the farmer’s house, walk by all his cows and horses and sheep, and eventually you’ll see a handwritten “castle” sign with an arrow.  Keep going.  It’s totally worth it to explore the old, busted castle and try to imagine what it really looked like and who lived there and what things had happened on the ground you are now standing on.  So. Cool.

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  • Kilkenny:  An old medieval city, the new stuff is built right around the old…and it’s really cool.  They offer a pass book for 25 Euro to get into most of the “tourist” sites (think: castles, cathedrals, Smithwicks) and if you do 3 of the things, you’ve already saved a ton of money.  We did pretty much everything (except the cycling because we didn’t have time for it) and it was so worth it!  Smithwicks was really well done (not just your average brewery tour–they go thru the history of the company, which involves the history of the country as well), the castle was cool (who doesn’t love walking around castles???) and the cathedral and climbing the round tower were incredible.  The best part was the ghost tour–you’ll feel like a total tourist doing it, but the guy who gave the tour was super informative and hilarious…also ours was 2 hours, so it’ll finish around 10, which means you are going to have limited food options at that hour (most restaurants there seemed to close around 9 or 10), so plan ahead.
  • Killarney:  This city was so festive and cute and the walk to Killarney National Park was pretty cool (there’s also a bus if you’re so inclined).  This place is the perfect mix of small city (bustling shops, busy streets, street music, live music in pubs, etc) and outdoors scene (bike rentals, the national park with places to hike, Torc Mountain and waterfall trails are right there, too).
  • Cliffs of Moher:  The Cliffs themselves are super amazing.  The Visitor Center was cool–lots of interesting information about how they formed and the history of the site as a tourist destination.  Cooler still, and what we wished we had known about, you can get off the bus in Doolin and hike all the way along the Cliffs, up to the Visitor Center (and another bus stop) OR all the way to Hags Head and then to Liscannor (another bus stop).  So basically you have options for a really beautiful hike all the way along the Cliffs.  Put it on your list of things to do.  You won’t regret it.

Things/Places to Skip if You Have Limited Time:

  • Waterford:  The oldest city in Ireland, it’s a port town with some cool history and buildings to check out and of course the crystal factory (if that’s your jam).  However it’s not a place I’d recommend staying in.  If you’re going to check it out, I’d recommend making it a pass-thru stop on your way to better things!

Overall, the trip was really awesome.  I think backpack/busing around the country was especially cool, and I feel like we really saw and did a lot of cool stuff. I wish we’d just planned to do things this way from the get-go, because I would’ve done more pre-planning, but ultimately it was a great adventure.  There were, of course, some frustrating moments, but figuring shit out on the fly is part of the adventure of traveling, especially international travel.  We’d normally be hiking mountains, paddling our canoe, and camping it up for our anniversary, but this was a pretty cool, different adventure for this year.  Here’s to an awesome 7th anniversary trip, and to an even better next year of marriage–and beyond!


Doesn’t matter where we go as long as we go together!