THROWBACK THURSDAY: Ireland Adventures

Oh yeah, I'm going there - throwing a little #tbt action onto the ol' blog, Toasty style! #basic

Now of course, we Toasty Avos make every day an adventure.  Our daily shenanigans are the spice of life.  But, sadly, not every day is exactly an EPIC adventure. Admittedly, sometimes I find myself staring out my office window and wishing I was elsewhere, doing cool(er) shit (insert obligatory "I love my job" comment here). 

For that reason, I introduce a new series: Throwback Thursdays.  Who cares if everyone's doing it?  Sometimes we need to reminisce on all the awesome things we did in the past as a reminder of why we work so hard in the present: to earn our epic playtimes, and to motivate ourselves to plan our future adventures. 

These past few weeks have been especially rough, filled with long work hours and appointments and "deadlines" - ew.  I find myself longing for a break from the hectic, claustrophobic L.A. lifestyle.  Then I remember, it was only this past April I traveled to Ireland with SEVEN of my relatives to visit my great-grandmother's birthplace.  It was quite the undertaking, but it was truly an unforgettable adventure. 

If you've never visited Ireland, I recommend buying a ticket A-S-A-P and venturing to the land of never-ending greenery and sheep, before tourist season hits in the spring.  

During our trip, we spent the majority of time in County Kerry, located on the southwest coast of Ireland, venturing across the south through County Cork and County Tipperary as well.  No matter where you go in the south, you will find lush hills and incredible farm life everywhere.

Waterville, County Kerry.  Where Charlie Chaplin lived.  True story.

Waterville, County Kerry.  Where Charlie Chaplin lived.  True story.

The best thing about Ireland?  Because there's so much open land and greenery, that means - THERE'S SO MUCH ROOM FOR ACTIVITIES!!!  There are SO many fun activities to do in Ireland, aside from the usual brewery tours and pub crawls (which you should most definitely partake in as well).

Seeing as I was the youngin' of the group, I spearheaded the planning of most of our activities. We managed to cram a lot into our short trip, and below are just a few of the highlights, as well as my personal recommendations.

Dingle Bay (hehe).  Ring of Kerry.

Dingle Bay (hehe).  Ring of Kerry.

1) Tour of the Ring of Kerry

County Kerry has many "ring" tours, or tours around their various peninsulas, but the tour around the Ring of Kerry is by far the most popular (though locals will tell you it's not the best!).  Being first-timers in Ireland, we decided to be #basic and take the route most traveled, and it didn't disappoint!  The landscape is gorgeous, and the views out to the ocean are breathtaking.  I highly recommend taking a guided tour with a wise local - they will share many incredible historical tidbits with you along the way.

There were many stops included along the way, including one at a replica of a traditional Irish thatch village!  Look at us kooks.

Irish gypsies

Irish gypsies

2) Visit one of the many eclectic museums

Museum visits are par for the course on any typical vacation.  And sure, you could go the normal route and go to a museum filled with traditional art.  I've BEEN to many of those museums, and I do love them.  However, I planned something a little different for our trip.

Two words: BUTTER MUSEUM.

BUTTER IS LIFE.

BUTTER IS LIFE.

Every country has a unique culture and historical background, so why not embrace the oddities?  Eat schnitzel in Germany; ride elephants in Cambodia; and learn about (AND EAT) butter in Ireland.  In Ireland, dairy farming is, and has been, the backbone of Irish culture for hundreds of years.  And as a die-hard butter fanatic, I promise you: Irish butter is god's gift to the world.  There is no bettah butta. 

The only negative review I have of the museum: there are no free samples. :(

This was our baby sheep.  We named him Jack.

This was our baby sheep.  We named him Jack.

3) Play with sheep, and farm animals in general

I was a little obsessed with the idea of playing with baby sheep when we started planning our trip.  They're so cute!  Plus, they're everywhere.  Seriously.  They're just hanging out on every corner.  

I sought out a farm that not only lets you play with the sheep, but also gives you a sheep-herding demonstration from their sheep dogs!  Watching those dogs do their thang was a truly awesome experience.  In fact, this was probably my family's favorite excursion of our entire trip.

Spring and summer are when most "working" farms open up for visitation.  It's also lambing season!

Precious family photo.

Precious family photo.

4) Get outside and hike

I walked my little tush off in Ireland.  Whenever we had down time and the old folks needed rest, I would set off on my own adventures.

Every turn is an opportunity to get lost in the woods and discover beautiful scenery.

"I should have brought my GPS." - Robert Frost

"I should have brought my GPS." - Robert Frost

And surprisingly, despite the typical dreary, cold weather, the Irish are very outdoorsy.  There's a huge cycling and hiking culture, with plenty of trails within driving distance of most communities.

On our last full day on the island, we visited Glenichiquin Park, a local hiking spot on the Beara Peninsula.  The area was owned by one family, who showed us a map that plotted out all the hiking trails and ranked them in terms of difficulty.  I chose one of the more difficult hikes that led me up behind a waterfall and gave me the best view of the entire peninsula.  Breathtaking doesn't even begin to describe the view.

Five minutes later, I ran into a sheep.

Five minutes later, I ran into a sheep.

5) Get out on the water

Ireland is an island, so it's surrounded by beautiful ocean views everywhere - duh.  As long as it's not raining or crazy windy, you can - and should - take advantage of all the water sports and activities the country has to offer.  My family wasn't too stoked on the idea of kayaking and paddleboarding around the bay of Kenmare, so we went with a more laid-back option: a boat tour of the bay.  I'm happy as long as I'm on the water, so this was quite the enjoyable experience.  There were plenty of sites to see - including castles, seals, and puffins! - and we left the boat feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.

On a side note: there is a HUGE surfing culture in Ireland.  Who'da thunk, right?  Rain or shine, they're out there catching a few waves.  During the spring, a group of Kenmare locals get together and go midnight surfing, setting up bonfires around 11 PM and heading out for some sweet late surf seshes.  They really know how to have fun. 

6) Hang out with the locals

Mingling with the locals.

Mingling with the locals.

Did I mention the locals know how to have fun?  I cannot even begin to explain how much I love the people of Ireland.  They are beyond friendly, super chatty, and full of historical knowledge.  Moreso - they're happy.  Life for them may not be the "best" by our typical American standards.  They may not have fancy jobs in big offices.  They definitely don't have a lot of money.  But none of that matters; they get by, and that's enough.  They work hard during the day, and spend time with friends and family at night.  They go to pubs, socialize, listen to and play music.  On multiple occasions the local farmers would bust out guitars in the pub and sing Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan tunes.  They get involved in their community.  One of our buddies took us to a local play, and who were the "actors"?  The local farmers and store owners.  And I swear to you, the ENTIRE town came out for the performance - which kicked butt, by the way.  Suck on that, Hollywood.  The Everyman is winning is Ireland.

Getting schooled in pool by our local friend

Getting schooled in pool by our local friend

Everyone is fiercely proud of their Irish heritage as well, especially in the south.  They are born storytellers.  The bartenders would recount incredible stories you would never find in history books.  Seriously, I learned something incredible from everyone who spoke with me.  And unlike your dad's college stories you've heard fifty times, these are stories you actually want to hear again and again.

7) Appreciate the experience.

This is a tidbit that applies to all adventures and experiences: appreciate the now.  This adventure won't last forever, so take the time to be in awe of the incredible life you're living.  On your next adventure, wherever you are, whatever you're doing - take a moment to thank your lucky stars for the opportunities this world provides, and the fact that you have the chutzpah to jump on those opportunities and make them YOURS.

Boom.  Adventure awaits.