Wrap Up: October 2017

Wrap Up October 2017 - Road Trip around Ring of Kerry, Ireland | Europe Travel

I know I say this every single month, but whoa, where did the time go? I’m not sure how we’re already into the second week of November, but here we are.

With that said, one of my goals before the end of this year is to get into a better habit of mindfulness. I want to be able to value the passing of time more, to take one day at a time, and to not always feel like I’m running one step behind.

October was bursting at the seams, which is probably why I felt so exhausted by the end of it – I barely had time to catch my breath. Note to self: slow down in November and December. Your body, mindset, and bank account will thank you.

The month started with a fun travel blogging conference, then turned into two weeks of road tripping and traveling around Ireland by myself, and finally ended with my return to California after over a year of being abroad.

So, let’s dive right in and get to the good stuff. This was my October!

PLACES & MEMORIES

Killarney | As soon as October started, I was on my way down to Killarney to join in with hundreds of other travel bloggers for the annual TBEX Europe conference.

The conference consists of a bunch of travel bloggers who get together, go on sponsored trips with local tourism boards, network with travel companies and each other, and attend sessions and talks to learn more about the industry and how to improve.

Wrap-Up October 2017 - TBEX Killarney | Europe Travel
TBEX crew.

And I have to say it went a whole lot better than my first TBEX in Fort Lauderdale. Most importantly, I didn’t forget my business cards this time. Adulting, I’m getting better at it.

The conference itself was only two full days, but with all of the trips and pre and post parties, I ended up staying in Killarney for a week.

After the conference, I took a day to rent a bike and go around Ross Castle and Killarney National Park. You don’t realize how many shades of green exist until you get to Ireland, and the national park was no exception.

Cork | Once I had my fill of Killarney, I took the train over to Cork and dived into the student-friendly atmosphere. Like many Irish cities, it’s based around a river, the River Lee to be specific.

Cork is known for its cool, hipster-esque cafes. Luckily I found the cool factor to be high but the hipster attitude to be low, so the cafes in town were perfect to work in.

Wrap Up October 2017 - Cute Streets in Cork, Ireland | Europe Travel
The colorful streets of Cork.

In Cork, I met up again with my friend Lauren, who blogs over at Justin Plus Lauren, and who I hung out with a lot throughout our time at TBEX Killarney. This is the third time we’ve met up around the world, so it was lovely to see her again.

This is also where I decided to rent a car and embark on a legendary road trip around Ireland for five days. My first day driving on the opposite side of the road was a tad hilarious, but it soon came back to me.

I owned a car while I was living in New Zealand, so driving on the opposite side is not completely foreign to me, but it did take some getting used to again.

Ring of Kerry/Dingle Peninsula/Wild Atlantic Way | The Ring of Kerry was the first part of my road trip and probably the most scenic drive of the trip.

I stopped at the famous Blarney Castle on the way to the Ring, and ended up having to kiss the Blarney Stone four separate times because none of the elderly couples in line could figure out how to use my camera. It was a hoot.

I would kiss the stone, get up, they would walk away, and I would check my camera only to find that they hadn’t actually taken a picture. So, I had to ask three different people. By the fourth try we got a winner. On the plus side, I must really be a smooth talker now.

Wrap-Up October 2017 - Blarney Stone, Ireland | Europe Travel
The money shot.

After the castle, I hightailed it to the colorful little town of Kenmare, where I started the Ring and had lunch. From there, I drove up to the windy Molls Gap, and back down to the coast, hitting Derrynane Beach, Ballinskelligs Castle, and the tiny town of Portmagee.

I was staying in Dingle that night which was still a long drive away, so I had to cut through Ballaghisheen Pass, aka the scariest drive I’ve ever done by myself.

Although it was a beautiful day everywhere else in Ireland, as soon as I climbed a few feet up the mountain, the fog rolled in to the point where I could barely see a foot in front of my car.

Combine this with the fact that it was a narrow curvy mountain road that was only big enough for one car, and the little-to-no barrier between my car and the edge of the cliff, and you could call it a harrowing drive. This was also my first day driving on the opposite side of the road, so there’s that.

Luckily, I only came across a couple of cars going the opposite direction, and it just so happened that there was a turnout nearby, but my knuckles were pretty white by the time I got back down to the coast.

Wrap Up October 2017 - Ireland Road Trip | Europe Travel
Before I went through the pass and it was still beautiful blue skies.

Before I arrived in Dingle, I made a brief stop at Inch Beach. I had just missed peak sunset by about 15 minutes, so that was a bummer, but I did walk around the windy beach long enough to not be able to feel my face and then jumped back in the car.

I was imagining that the Dingle Peninsula was going to be even more stunning than the Ring of Kerry, but I found the Ring of Kerry to be slightly more grand in terms of views. However, it was also really nice weather for the Ring of Kerry, where as it was rainy and overcast for most of my time on the Dingle Peninsula.

Wrap Up October 2017 - Ireland Road Trip | Europe Travel

I didn’t make a ton of stops along the peninsula because I had such a long driving day to get up to Galway, but I enjoyed the coastal views when I could. The only real stop I made was at the Gallarus Oratory which was basically an ancient beehive-looking structure that had some interesting history to it.

From there, I made my way mostly in the rain up the Wild Atlantic Way until I reached Galway, where I stayed for the next two nights.

Galway | Everyone I came across, Irish and tourist alike, talked up Galway to the extent that I thought I probably wouldn’t like it because of the high expectations I had for it.

I guess it shows how awesome of a city it really is that it didn’t disappoint. It was easily my favorite city in Ireland after this trip, and I somehow ended up on pub crawls two nights in a row.

Wrap Up October 2017 - Galway, Ireland | Europe Travel
My pretty little Galway girl.

Suffice it to say, I had a lot of fun. I also did a free walking tour while I was in town and learned more about the history, both medieval and more recent. There were plenty of tall tales about past residents too, which is an Irish specialty – embellishing stories from the past.

If you’re looking for quintessential Irish pub culture, Galway is your place. Plus they sing Galway Girl pretty much every night in any bar that you go into. The Steve Earle version though, not the Ed Sheeran one. I know, I was disappointed too.

Northern Ireland | I made my way up to Northern Ireland through a detour to Slieve League, aka the tallest cliffs in Ireland. Unfortunately the fog was heavy by the time I got there so you couldn’t see the full cliffs, but they were still impressive and worth the two hour drive out of my way.

I stayed one night in Derry, my first stop in Northern Ireland, and the following day drove along the Causeway Coast. I stopped in at the Giant’s Causeway, as well as quite a few Game of Thrones filming locations because I’m a nerdy fan like that.

Wrap Up October 2017 - Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland | Europe Travel
The Causeway Coast was ridiculously pretty – bonus points that it had a bunch of GOT filming locations.

I made it back to Dublin with five minutes to spare before the rental place closed. My road trip was not a pace that I would recommend (i.e. breakneck), but I did see a lot of the country in a short time and had an incredible time doing it by myself. More to come on this soon!

DublinI found myself back in Dublin to round out the end of my time in Ireland. I had spent a few days here at the end of September, and I luckily found a much nicer accommodation (4th time’s the charm!) with this visit.

It was probably one of the nicest hostels I’ve stayed at, ever. It seemed to have a lot of longterm expats who lived there so maybe that’s why. It was clean, well thought out, and my dorm even had its own private loft area where you could hang out. AND, The free breakfast had homemade crepes! What!!

Wrap Up October 2017 - Dublin, Ireland | Europe Travel
Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland

If y’all are looking for the best accommodation in Dublin (believe me I’ve tried way too many shitty hostels in that city), check out the Gardiner House. You will not be disappointed. Also, make sure to book early!

Funnily enough, I also ran into my Greek-Irish friend, Stefanos, who I met in Malaysia earlier this year, who was staying at the same hostel. We went out to dinner together my last night in Ireland to the oldest pub in the city, and it was a quintessential Irish night of fresh mussels and Guinness.

San Francisco | And finally, after one year and one day abroad, I made my return to California! Words can’t describe how ecstatic I was upon landing and seeing my sister again, who met me at SFO.

Without a doubt, it has been quite the year. I knew it was time to come home for awhile and I’m so glad I listened to that gut feeling (again).

I immediately ordered a California burrito as soon as I got to my sister’s apartment, and honestly, I really haven’t stopped eating Mexican food since. How have I gone so long without authentic Mexican food in my life?!

After a quick trip down to Southern California for a wedding, I celebrated pre-Halloween weekend in the city dressed as French toast one night and a dragon (Rhaegal, obviously) the next.

Wrap Up October 2017 - Halloween, San Francisco, California | USA Travel
Halloween festivities in San Francisco.

Since then, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the Bay, reconnecting with some of my oldest friends, watching Thor in theaters, going to a pumpkin carving party, and experiencing the Instagram haven that is the Museum of Ice Cream. In other words, feeling like a normal California resident again.

You can probably tell already from my enthusiasm, but it has been great to be back in the Bay.

Wrap Up October 2017 - Museum of Ice Cream, San Francisco, California - USA Travel

Temecula | My sister and I went down to Temecula the day after I got back to the US. Literally, I got four hours of sleep before heading back to the airport and hopping on a flight to Long Beach.

One of my sister’s best friends got married and I got to be my sister’s date! It was such a fun weekend in the desert, and I fought off jet lag long enough to get through all the rehearsals, dinners, and the beautiful ceremony and reception.

Wrap Up October 2017 - Wedding in Temecula, California | USA Travel
California wedding vibes.

This was also a brand new part of California for me. Temecula is a big wine region but not one that’s easy to get out to unless you’re dedicated, so I never made it there, even though it’s not too far from San Diego where I went to school.

Santa Cruz | I’ve been in my hometown off and on since I arrived back to California. I’ve been hitting up all my favorite spots (i.e. El Palomar, Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company, etc), and spending a lot of time near the ocean, usually with a burrito in hand and beautiful sunny weather to enjoy.

Santa-Cruz, California Surfer Vibes

My main focus before the end of the New Year is to get a whole lot of work done (what’s new?). I’ve picked up yet more client work for my business, and I want to spend more time writing for this blog and other publications. I have a lot to catch you all up on from the last year.

READS

Despite my week-long conference festivities and being on the road, I did pretty well with my reading goals for October, getting through two books in total.

The first book I finished was Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind Of Girl, a memoir of sorts that I’d heard mixed reviews about. I liked it more than I thought I would.

I found it to be a refreshing, funny, and sometimes sad commentary about modern day hookup culture, friendship, sexual assault, and how hard it can be to find your own self-worth sometimes.

I also read the touching, although fairly depressing, We’ll Always Have Paris: Trying and Failing to Be French by Emma Beddington.

I picked it up at the famous Shakespeare and Company Bookstore in Paris, and I thought it fitting not only because I was visiting Paris at the time, but because it’s also a city that I’ve thought of potentially moving to.

10 Reasons to Visit Paris, France this Summer

The British author’s dream was always to live in Paris, until she actually moved there with her French partner and realized that it wasn’t everything she imagined it to be.

Of course, her portrayal of Paris is through the lens of her depression and right after her mother’s death, so that is something to be taken with a grain of salt.

Regardless, it did make me think more realistically about Paris, and if Parisian culture is really something I’d ever want to dive into fully.

PLANS

Without a doubt, being home has been wonderful. I’ve mainly been focusing on family time and catching up with friends in the city. I’m feeling centered and healthy again, and like my mind can finally rest for a bit from the perpetual planning and traveling, which is a comforting feeling.

I’m doing a sober month for November to see if it will help with my energy levels and productivity (aka no hangovers, yay!).

It should be interesting since I’ve never done a sober month before. So far, it hasn’t been too difficult though and it’s already almost mid-month.

When I’m out at bars, I simply order a ginger beer instead or something similar and find that I’m just as chatty sober as I am tipsy. It’s a nice reminder that I can be just as outgoing and have a good time without having to drink. It’s kind of freeing in a way.

Wrap Up October 2017 - Ring of Kerry, Ireland Road Trip | Europe Travel
Looking forward to November <3

And honestly, it has made me realize how long it has been since I’ve gone to a bar and not had at least one drink. It’s so much a part of our culture.

With that said, I am looking forward to kicking it with a few beers once December gets here. 🙂

I plan to have a pretty chill rest of the year in California, although I’m of course already looking ahead to my next few trips around North America in 2018. There are quite a few travels coming up after the New Year, which I’ll be talking more about soon in my next couple of wrap-ups.

Until next time, friends! <3

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Mimi McFadden
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Mimi McFadden

Travel Writer/Blogger at The Atlas Heart
Mimi founded The Atlas Heart to create a community of travelers inspired to see the world. The Atlas Heart is a space where you'll find anecdotes on slow travel, craft beer, outdoor adventures, and all the eccentric bits in between that this world has to offer.
Mimi McFadden
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