I am not Rick Steves. God love him with his great books, videos, website and tours, and his friendly outgoing social persona that gets every best delicious morsel out of his travels. We dream of being like him. But you see, I’m an introvert. I don’t mean the misconceived antisocial weirdo hermit image that just popped in to your brain. I love the way Laurie Helgoe describes it in her book Introvert Power: “We are a vastly diverse group of people who prefer to look at life from the inside out. We gain energy and power through inner reflection, and get more excited by ideas than by external activities. When we converse, we listen well and expect others to do the same. We think first and talk later.” So waltzing in to a strange Irish pub and striking up a conversation with the locals isn’t something I would gravitate towards. I would, however, enjoy sitting with a wee glass of wine by the peat fire there and listen to their stories.
My only sister shared with me that she and our mother had booked an escorted coach trip to Ireland, where our family’s ancestors had come from. A travel agent colleague had sparked the idea and they thought, “Let’s do it! With health and life, this may be the only chance we have to fulfill this dream.” Silence from me. Then I asked that which I didn’t understand how they had not asked themselves, “What about ME?” I wanted to go. I’m not exactly sure why, because aside from growing up listening to songs by the Irish Rovers, I really knew very little about the country. But I didn’t want to be left out. And the way she described the trip – with a set itinerary, fancy hotels, gluten free meals available to us (she has celiac disease & I have issues), comfy coach travel with a tour guide and no big planning to do, not to mention the two of them as travel companions – it sounded perfect! Back to the introvert part…
You might think that spending 9 or 10 days with 30 plus people on a coach touring around the countryside might be a nightmare to someone who needs their quiet space to recharge. Well, I not only got the quiet, I was able to share in the most wonderful experiences with fantastic people whom I still call friends today! I had to be added on as a single (3rd wheel so to speak) to their booking. We split the additional non-double occupancy fee among us, and agreed we would rotate the private room throughout the trip for some space. My sister and I also rotated the single seat on the coach so we would each have a chance to sit with our mom. Our guide/driver was beyond amazing with his stories of the history, the passion, the people, the humor, the struggles, the music, the culture – wow, we were transfixed on every word that came out of his mouth while our eyes feasted on the lush scenery outside the windows. We were all a part of something life changing and we felt blessed.
I personally think I would have missed out on all this had I tried to see Ireland by car like in the Rick Steves videos, and that’s not just because of driving on those curvy narrow roads! When we had a free day in Dublin at the end I still felt a bit fragile and unsure deciding where to visit or eat, and I wasted too much time doing the “I don’t know, what do YOU want to do?” Having the guided planned itinerary helped us see the good stuff without sweating the details and learn so much along the way. Some people are naturally great explorers and thrive with just a map and a car/bike/backpack – they should go to Ireland! Most importantly, they should also read up and learn the history – it’s what makes the country so special. For me, I needed to experience the story with my ears, eyes, and with others, to be swept away by what it stirred inside me, and I got that. Oh, did I get that. I love Ireland and am extremely proud of my heritage.
I highly recommend CIE Tours International from my own experience, but there are also other companies such as Insight Vacations, Trafalgar, and yes, Rick Steves, that can help you chose the perfect type of tour for you. Ireland is an amazingly beautiful island with a long, difficult history worth learning and seeing. The people are friendly, welcoming and the food, drink, music and craic are like nothing you’ve ever known. If it’s not already on your bucket list, add it today. And check back here periodically to learn more of what I’ve found.