Traveler Zoe ventured across the pond on our Highlights of England, Scotland & Ireland tour, and took her mom along for the adventure. Here, she shares her story and what she’s still dreaming of now that she’s home.
As I sit to write this, what is most apparent is my disbelief that I am writing about my experience in past tense. After so much time looking forward to my tour of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, I can’t believe it is all over! I’ve found that the joy that comes from travel cannot be contained to the time spent abroad. The preparation and planning of the trip builds excitement and the slow, often reluctant return to normal life at its conclusion is rich with souvenirs, photos, and the priceless archive of incredible memories. The space in between—the trip itself—moves so quickly! Taking in another culture and atmosphere in a place you’ve only imagined can be pleasantly overwhelming, and being uplifted and energized by all the newness is what traveling is all about.
My mom and I have been on three adventures with Go Ahead so far (with hopefully many more to come!). We try to make it a point to travel together once a year since we both work in different cities. Since she has been a teacher and educator for a long time, she holds, and has instilled in me, a grand love of learning.
A trip for us begins with choosing a destination. I had traveled to Scotland before, but sharing this amazing trip with her was so special. Even the moments in transit, aboard the train from London to Edinburgh, provided a picture of a country so lush and beautiful. Of course, like any good Harry Potter fan, just passing platform 9 3/4 in London’s King’s Cross station was an unexpected joyful moment for me. Though, unfortunately, my Hogwarts acceptance letter got lost in the mail years ago. (I still tried to get through the barrier!)
On our tours, we’ve always enjoyed a good mix of structure and free time. Traveling with Go Ahead, you receive a plethora of information and historical facts and then are given time to digest it all (sometimes literally–I’ll get to the food in a minute!) and enjoy your destination on your own time. In a way, you are led to the water and then you drink as much as you possibly can!
During our free afternoon in Edinburgh, we were able to spend the time with my aunt and cousins who live there! Together, we took in the Royal Botanic Garden and Fringe Festival, an incredible arts festival, that was bustling right outside our hotel doors.
The ride from Edinburgh was a dream of beautiful fields, and William Wordsworth’s gardens were lovely in a way that can only be accurately described in, well, a love poem.
After an enjoyable ferry ride across the English Channel, we landed in Ireland. As during the rest of the trip, we happily found that Ireland was full of street music and every meal provided mini adventures for our taste buds and an insight into the cuisine of the regions. From scones and tea to exquisitely prepared salmon and lamb, we were intrigued by the unique tastes. Also, we learned a fun fact: Guinness can be served with blackcurrant added! That is my new favorite way to drink it, though mom still firmly believes in the pure version…we agree to disagree.
A profound moment came to us as we were making our way around the Ring of Kerry, wonderfully narrated by our guide. We were let out onto a cliff looking out on an uncharacteristically clear sea. The pictures do it justice, depicting a vast green hillside meeting a mirror of water holding in its depths the mirage of silver and blue sky.
This is the stuff postcards are made of.
Beneath our feet were sprigs of purple heather that I could see also covered the distant hillsides. On the air was the smell of the sea and mild scent of nearby sheep farms. I was wearing a lambswool scarf from Edinburgh that was soft on my neck, and on my mind were the songs we had just been listening to on the motor coach. At that moment, in that place, my heart was full. Sometimes the world gives you everything you ask for, even if it’s something you didn’t even know you were looking for.