When I was at home recently, I came across a shamrock-covered notebook and my face lit up. I knew that this was my journal from when I went to Ireland with my family in 1998, when I was 13. I’ve come across old journals before, notably from my second trip to NYC when I was in high school, but this journal contained details about my first adventure outside of America, to the homeland of half of my ancestors.
Unfortunately, my journal was only kept for half of the trip, but, man, there are some gems in there.
- A written out copy of our itinerary, which I never would have remembered, complete with places we stayed (which included one spot I’m sure we chose just because the owner shared our last name)
- Intense live-journaling of the airplane ride out there which made me laugh out loud:
- “We got on the plane at 8:50 after going on a really scary monorail to the terminal. It only gave you 22 seconds to get all your luggage through the door! We almost didn’t make it!”
- “Katie and Mom’s steward gave them pretzels. I didn’t get any!”
- “Mom gave me her pretzels, so I’m chowing down on them.”
- “Katie and I are listening to Boyzone (apparently the Backstreet Boys of Ireland). They will probably be popular in New Jersey soon.”
- “Seinfeld is on the television, so I’m going to watch it. K?”
- A sugar packet from Aer Lingus taped into the pages…
- A description of my dad’s driving (sorry, Pops):
- “I was really scared to be on the other side of the road, and Mom and Katie made me sit in the front. Mom kept shrieking as Dad would turn. We almost hit a lot of cars!”
- An early pun attempt (14 years before this cheesy post):
- “We went to Coole Park where Lady Gregory (a famous Irish poet) lived. We were looking for an ‘autograph tree’ which has many famous poets’ autographs carved into it. We came across many that we thought were it, but it was a huge – seriously – purple tree with the widest trunk ever. That was ‘Coole!'” (GROAN.)
- Receipts from the souvenirs I bought taped to the pages, even those without the store names and just dollar amounts on them
- A card with a description of the Clauddagh Ring story, a type of ring I still wear today (and have in both silver & gold) although my original was destroyed somehow in high school
- A story of when we visited the valley and stone house where my great-grandfather who came over to America grew up with his parents, 11ish siblings, and many sheep. It’s on the property of a farmer and still stands (though in ruins). All of us have a piece of the house, thanks to my cousin Mike and his wife Kara who visited years later. This remains to this day my favorite travel memory.
- “We headed to Leenaun, where my great-grandfather, Philip Faherty, was born and raised. Dad was determined to find Letter Schneatell* or something else. We stopped at the church that he went to, then to a small farm. Joe O’Neill was the owner of the farm. Dad told him of the village and Joe lent us high boots. He told us the route to take, and told us it would take 20 minutes to climb up the mountain.”
- “We started off and soon came to a creek we had to cross. My boot had a crack in the toe, so my foot got pretty wet. We started up the mountain. I stayed with Dad while Mom and Katie rushed ahead. I slipped in the mud more than thrice. I was really scared, but even up just a little, the sight was remarkable! There was another mountain right next to it. I kept thinking, ‘This is what I want to see when I look down from heaven.'”**
- “It really was awesome. We kept climbing for what seemed like hours! We could see the village! Dad went right next to the village, but it was too far and dangerous for any of us. It was cool – way! One of the most beautiful things I ever saw!”
* The name of the “village” where they lived is actually “Lettershanbally”, pronounced “Letter-shan-boy-yah”
** Okay, Erin.
I wish that I had kept up my Ireland journal, and really that I started this travel blog a hell LOVE a lot earlier than I did. Instead, the main website I decided to start in middle school was dedicated to ‘N Sync, which turned out to not be a bad decision either.