“All right!” Grami proudly declared, beaming at me from across the kitchen table as she handed me a sheet of yellow, lined paper. “You said you wanted to plan your own trip, so here are the guidelines.” My generous, 83 years young grandmother was giving me an opportunity for the trip of a lifetime: $5,000 to go anywhere we wanted, grandmother and granddaughter, off to explore a new corner of the globe. I shrunk slightly at the idea of being the director of so much responsibility, having many ideas, but wanting to make a choice that would be enjoyable for the both of us.
After numerous hours of pamphlet shuffling, we finally decided on a 13-day tour of Ireland and booked our trip at the local AAA office. Both of us were skeptical as to whether or not we would enjoy assuming the role of the ever-busy, conspicuous tourist. Although I’ve since decided that I prefer to travel more discretely, the tour provided a wonderful way for Grami and I to travel together. Cruising through the lush farm country of Ireland in the comfort of plush, gray seats, Grami and I became veritable scholars of Irish history. Grami being hard-of-hearing was definitely the greatest challenge of the trip, so in the future I hope that tour companies will offer assisted listening devices to help the elderly hear and learn more about the area they chose to visit. While we rode on the bus, I took notes on the lectures so Grami could drink sips of the stream of information floating through bus intercoms at a later time.
Aside from some of the challenges, traveling with the tour group provided new and exciting social interactions. Through the course of the week, Grami and I dined with and related to people of our group hailing from places such as South Africa, Iowa, Australia, and Florida. Coming from Seattle myself, and having never really interacted with anyone outside the United States, I learned that traveling with that kind of group opens doors to an invaluable global perspective on political and social issues of the world. While we shared the traditional Irish brown bread and butter in cozy pubs sheltered from the summer rain, we shared our opinions on topics ranging from universal healthcare to the Iraq War. Just as the Irish struggled with the brutal oppression of Oliver Cromwell and the stark human loss of the potato famine, we came together to recognize our own struggles as part of the human race. Through the sharing of our lives, and the values we hold most dear, we constituted a microcosm of the world community full of concern for the present and hope for the possibility of the future.
Grami and I felt that these conversations intertwined with the vibrancy of the Irish music, landscape and other facets of culture to make for a wonderful getaway. As Grami has said more and more in recent days, she never thought that she would live to be this old (she’s now 84) and the fact that she wants to spend some of her time with me bonds us in a very special way. I will cherish the memories we created in Ireland, observing fabulous Irish crooners and step dancers, getting drenched and giggling endlessly waiting in line to see the Book of Kells, the friendships forged around the many tables and towns… These are memories I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Travel makes it possible to see the world in so many new ways.
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