Joe and I didn’t go to Ireland this year. I was pretty sad about it at first. We actually booked flights in January to go at the end of September. It’s our favorite time of year to go. Fewer people, no lines and nice weather (ok, that’s a gamble, but we’ve been lucky).
But there are a few things that are more important than Ireland.
This happens to be one of them:
Isn’t he the cutest baby you’ve ever seen (seriously though, isn’t he?)?
He was due November 16th. Technically, we could have still gone on our trip and been within the safe-to-fly window, but I didn’t know how comfortable I would be flying at seven months pregnant. So we cancelled. Good thing we did. Because on the day we would have flown back to the states, my water broke–six weeks early.
To say it was a scary experience would be an understatement, but our little guy is a champ, and, with just two weeks and one day in the NICU, he was home, happy and healthy.
Welcome to the world Alexander Henri Chastain (affectionately known as Alexander Salamander or just Sal). Your mom loves all things BBC and chocolate. Your dad is a genealogy nut and likes old man ice-cream (butter pecan). They both love Ireland and now you!
While obviously Alexander was the highlight, this year was filled with so many blessings. February marked year two of Ireland travel coaching, where I help first-timers plan their trips to Ireland. I was so lucky to work with 59 different couples, families, solo travelers and even a few groups of college students.
A little note to those I worked with:
Thank you for letting me live vicariously through you this year. I loved mapping out your itineraries, hearing your fears, and creating plans to tackle your biggest challenges. You stretched me, made me grow, and helped me learn more about my favorite place.
Thank you for giving me updates throughout your trip or later emailing me your funny pub story. Thank you for sending me that little cafe you found when you made a wrong turn or sending me photos of your beaming faces in front of round towers and castles (they warmed my heart more than you’ll ever know). Thank you for recommending me to your friends traveling to Ireland next year. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. It was such a joy for me to work with you.
Another blessing this year was getting to support the restoration of Tullaun Castle. With every purchase of a coaching package, I was able to give to their work. It has been so neat to watch the transformation of this historic landmark back to its former glory. If you like melt-your-heart-take-me there-now Ireland photos, you must like their Facebook page. Their adorable dog Tilly is also found often in front of the castle and the camera (I am going to submit our application to be the castle dog sitter –you need three people to do that job right?)
2016 wasn’t without challenges though. I struggled to find time to write on the blog between travel coaching, working full-time as a study abroad advisor (didn’t know I did that, did you?), and cooking a baby (I am pretty sure that was the toughest gig).
I have high hopes for 2017. I plan to write more. With about 50 posts swirling around in my head at any given moment, I have so much more to share with you.
I think the reason I didn’t write much in 2016 was because I feared that if I didn’t write my usual 1500+ word, uber-researched posts, you wouldn’t find value in them. Reading that out loud now, I realize that was probably a little silly. The best way to help someone plan a trip to Ireland is simply by getting information out there in whatever format I can (however short or long it may be).
In 2017, I am going with a less is more philosophy. With a little one in tow, I am finding it hard to get more than a few minutes to myself at a time (hi there shower, I’ve missed you). While the posts you see here may be a little shorter than usual, I promise to always make them useful.
One thing making a comeback in 2017 is free group coaching. These have been super popular in the past and a fun way to get your questions answered by me and other Ireland lovers. Previously, I set up a Facebook page where you could post questions and I would type responses. This year I plan on doing live video, which should allow me to answer more questions (and guarantee that I get a shower that day—win-win for everyone!). Keep an eye on my Facebook page for updates.
Last but not least, I will be headed to Ireland in May! At least that is the plan at the moment. Joe, Alexander and I will be making the trip across the pond for a couple of weeks. I cannot tell you how excited I am to share Ireland with little Sal. I know it will be really challenging, but I think it will be worth it (read: I am freaking out a little…give me all of your baby traveling tips).
So here’s to a bright and wonderful New Year. I hope yours is filled peace, happiness and a trip to Ireland.
And one more photo of Alexander because I have become that parent. :-)