I recently spent eight days in Ireland…on my own. Yes, I left my kids and husband at home and trekked all the way there. On my way I slept intermittantly, read a book and drank a glass of wine. For six hours, I was able to focus on myself, not something that’s easy to do when we travel as a family.
To clarify, my kids are naturally born travelers, but our trips tend to revolve around them. Solo trips bring out the best of me and pushes me beyond my comfort zone.
Don’t think that I’m alone. Taking a solo holiday isn’t strictly for the single women —its also for women with partners and children. According to a report by Booking.com, 72% of American women will travel solo this year. A few years ago, a girlfriend and I took two weeks away from our families and went to Vietnam. It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip and I needed it to be solo. You can call these trips “Eat, Pray, Love” trips if you wish, but they are so much more than that.
Take my recent trip, for example. I joined up with Insight Vacations for an eight-day tour of Ireland. This luxury vacation provider takes groups of no more than 40 in coaches with ample leg room and free Wifi around countries, giving them access to some of the best hotels, restaurants and attractions. We were led by a native Irishman named Mike who told us continuous stories about the country’s rich history and heritage. I was with a group of other writers from around the world, most of whom I had never met, and my conversations mainly revolved around our shared love for travel, our work and our passions. My inner explorer truly came out during my week away – it was released and truly nurtured.
The trip contained one unique experience after another. Ireland has so much to take in – from the views to the lively pub life to its Celtic traditions, to its majestic castles to its authentic cuisine and Insight took us to the best of the best.
In Kilkenny, we learned the art of hurling; at the Rock of Cashel, we experienced a medieval castle and learned its history through a local guide; in Killarney, we went on a horse and buggy ride, passing by a castle dated 1693 and a medieval cathedral and hiked through the woods; in Dublin, we toured Trinity College and wandered through its famous library and took a private tour of the Guinness Storehouse; in the Ring of Kerry, we took in views of towering cliffs and strolled through remote villages; in Dingle, we took in even more majestic views and explored early Christian monuments.
There were so many highlights but I’d have to say that our stay at the Ashford Castle is one experience I’ll lock up in my memory vault and will never forget. Insight gives you access to unique experiences like this one, and I appreciate that it was one I’d probably never have had on my own. We were literally led over the drawbridge upon arrival by a bag piper into a castle, once owned by Ireland’s famous Guinness family, that has been renovated and restored to its genuinuity. And the result is so priceless that the hotel was recently voted one of the best hotels in the world by Virtuoso. I truly felt like I was staying with the Royal family with a collection of antiques, tapestries and classical artwork spread throughout the castle.
While at Ashford Castle, we were given a full day to explore. I was able to partake in its falconry school (see picture above – it was a bucketlist-worthy moment with hawks swooping down on my arm from the woodlands!), go on a lengthy bike ride around the property’s woodlands, take a lovely boat ride around the castle, explore the property’s gardens and enjoy a gorgeous dinner in the George V Dining Room with dishes from the kitchen of acclaimed Chef Philippe Farineau.
My tour of the Green Emerald was a once of a lifetime experience and Insight Vacations made it memorable. I’ve been quietly smiling every since my return, remembering the good times. Having emerged from this luxury travel experience, I certainly feel changed. Insight introduced me to the best of Ireland – from its undulating meadows and cliffs to its kind people and diverse culture and history.
I’ve also returned a more thoughtful and focused parent, ready to take on what lies ahead. There is much more to say about this trip and this is only the tip of the iceberg. Stay tuned for links and news I am writing across the Internets.
If you’re interested in taking a similar tour, Insight is offering Irish Elegance (Country Road Vacation) starting April 18th. Head here for more info.
Disclosure: I was invited as a guest of Insight Vacations, along with 20 other journalists from around the world, but as always, all opinions are my own.