THE EMERALD ISLE – A Glimpse into our Ten Day Journey around Galway

“The Irish: be they kings, or poets, or farmers, they’re a people of great worth. They keep company with the angels and bring a bit of heaven here to earth.”

We often hear the phrase, “travel moves you,” and while I have seen my fair share of the world, there has been no place that has touched my heart the way Ireland has.

It’s a land of legend, culture, tribulation, faith and pristine beauty, where the Atlantic Ocean batters rocky cliffs and brisk winds howl through the countryside.  The emerald grass and rock walls that paint the landscape tell stories of a time gone, but not forgotten.  The simple spirit of the warm-hearted, fun-loving people set my soul alive.  Gentle songs that have been passed down through generations drift down the cobblestone alleyways and linger in the salty, sea air.  Smiles abound, laughs are frequent, and a good pint of Guinness is never far out of reach.

Ah, yes. Ireland has most definitely moved me, every part of me.

I have just returned to America after a life-altering ten-day-journey of the Emerald Isle.  Ireland is the place of my ancestors.  My late grandfather, an O’Brien and descendant of the O’Briens of County Cork, never had a lack of tales of his family’s homeland.  My siblings and I grew up with stories of quaint villages, numerous Irish tunes and Celtic Legends.  It was the one place my late sister always wanted to see.  We had actually planned to visit when she “got better.”  Alas, she passed before we were able to fulfill her wish of visiting Ireland.

Witnessing the passing of both of these dear family members is what finally persuaded me to take a leap of faith.  No more “I don’t have time,” or “I can’t afford it.”  We have this one life, and what is the point of this life if we don’t do the things we want to do while we can still do them. So, my surviving sister and I, along with five of our dear friends, made the trip in honor of both my late sister and grandfather. The emotions were high and varied, but the love we now have for this country is deep, and inexplicable.

Ireland should truly be on everyone’s bucket list.  Not just because of the beauty that abounds, but because we can all learn from the Irish people on what “living the good life” truly means.  These folks have endured centuries of oppression, incomprehensible hardships, and have still managed to come out on top and enjoy life to the fullest.

We began our journey in Dublin, traveled by train cross country to the ocean-side city of Galway, and ventured to castles, landmarks, small villages, and, of course, frequented multiple pubs.  This blog will highlight some of our favorite places and will also offer some tips for travel.

Enjoy, and be awed.



After speaking with numerous travelers who had ventured to Ireland previously, and listening to information provided by countless travel podcasts, our group made the decision to fly in and out of Dublin Airport.  Many folks recommended Shannon Airport as well.  Our determining factor, however, was simple; funds.  We found it cheaper to use Dublin Airport, but I’ve heard many good things about Shannon, so don’t discredit it based on our choice.

With that being said, we found Dublin Airport to be highly efficient.  The staff are wonderfully friendly, the process of security and customs were quite simple and very quick, and there are multiple options for food and drink.


As Americans, the thought of driving on the opposite side of the car, the road, and witnessing how incredibly small the roads in Ireland are (I’m not joking, the roads seem more like trails to the American eye), we opted to take public transportation the entire time we were there, and are so glad we did! You can call a taxi from pretty much anywhere.  They also have Uber and similar services, although we found taxis and buses to be a more inexpensive option.

From the airport, we were able to hop on a bus which dropped us right in front of the Heuston Train Station in downtown Dublin.  The train ride was comfortable and only about 38 US dollars for a round trip ticket to Galway (*note: do NOT lose your ticket during your trip or you must pay for a whole new one).  By choosing to ride the train, we were able to save ourselves some heart-attacks, sit back, relax, enjoy an Irish Coffee and relish in the stunning views of the famous Irish landscape.

Once we arrived in Galway, we chose to walk, as the weather was pleasant that day, and it was only a fifteen minute jaunt through the city to reach our destination.  This allowed us the chance to take in the sights up close and personal.


While many folks who travel to Ireland use their time to drive around the country and lodge at multiple hotels, bed-and-breakfasts or hostels along the way, we decided that we wanted a “home base.”  AirBNB was the way to go, especially for a group of seven.

We found an amazing 1930’s townhouse within walking distance of EVERYTHING in Galway; Shop Street, the Salt Hill Promenade, historic sights, restaurants, pubs, bus stops and the ocean.  The cost was just over two grand for a six night stay.  Divide that by seven and it was about 350 US dollars per person.  Mind you,  this price included all of the essential amenities; full kitchen, washer and dryer, back yard, plenty of beds, a wood burning stove, undivided support from our hosts, etc…  It was so lovely and convenient!


TOP 5 MUST SEE/ DO in and around GALWAY

Afternoon Tea at Ashford Castle – Wow!  Just, wow!  As any little girl growing up in the states, I had frequent dreams of being a princess in a castle, but the only castle I ever saw was Sleeping Beauty’s at Disneyland.  Ashford Castle was a fantasy come true, and while I’m nothing more than a commoner, they treated me, and all of my companions, as royalty.

For just over 60 US dollars, we were able to enjoy an array of delicious sandwiches, pastries, teas, champagnes, and unmatched Irish hospitality while enjoying the historic beauty of the grand estate.  Unfortunately, there was a hurricane happening the day we were there, so we weren’t able to explore the vast and picturesque grounds, but I could think of worse places to spend a stormy day.

*Note – If you are without a vehicle, the castle was able to send a shuttle directly to our AirBNB for round trip transportation, for a fee.  It was about forty-five minutes there, and the same back.  Well worth it.

The Cliffs of Moher Tour – Attention all Princess Bride fans!  Do you remember “The Cliffs of Insanity?”  Well, you can see the real thing in Ireland!  Indeed, this is the very place where they filmed that portion of the beloved cult classic.

We joined a day tour through The Galway Tour Company.  At only around 30 US dollars, they will pick you up in downtown Galway, and you will spend the day (from 10am – 6pm) learning the history of the area en route.  On the way to the cliffs, which are located in County Clare,  you will enjoy visiting Dunguaire Castle, The Burren, The Gleninsheen Wedge Tombs, and a stop for lunch in the small, traditional village of Doolin.  Once at The Cliffs of Moher, you are allotted about two hours to explore at your leisure.  Once time is up, the bus travels back to Galway along the coast road, perhaps one of the most beautiful drives in all the world.

The one thing I will say about the Cliffs of Moher; GO.  No matter how you get there. We frequently see pictures of awesome places in books, online and in magazines, but nothing can compare to the grandeur of actually witnessing these places in person.  The Cliffs of Moher have no words that can measure up to actually being there.  To see something so gigantic, so beautiful, so majestic, truly makes one realize the power of the natural world.

Self-guided -or- guided history walk through Galway City – Anywhere you visit in Ireland will be full of historic sites, so you can’t really go wrong wherever you are.  Galway, in particular,  has a cluster of these ancient places all within walking distance; the Galway Cathedral, the Spanish Arch, the Galway City Museum, Eyre SquareLynch Castle,  and Atlantaquaria, just to name a few.  And all of these sights can be reached on foot!  On the weekends, be sure to check out the Galway Street Market, where Galway’s bohemian spirit comes alive.

Take a stroll on the Salthill Promenade – This 2km walk along the shores of Galway Bay is a favorite pastime for both locals and visitors.  Enjoy views of the Aran Islands, pass locals playing music, witness young and old alike taking a dip in the frigid ocean, or stop into one of the many local restaurants or pubs.

The Aran Islands – Speaking of the Aran Islands, take a ferry across the bay and spend a day frolicking on these ancient islands. There are a total of three islands that are located at the mouth of Galway Bay, and offer visitors a chance to see breathtaking scenery and glimpses into an ancient time that has long since disappeared from the country.  You can either purchase tickets before your adventure or can simply stop into one of the tour offices when you arrive.  Something to note, if the ocean is angry, the ferries will not run.


Ireland has stolen my heart.  The Irish people have shown me what it means to be genuine, to find hope and humor in any circumstance, to learn from, and cherish the past, while living fully in the present.  From the country’s modern cities, dotted with ancient remnants on every corner, to its thatched countryside cottages, to its grandiose castles, Ireland has captivated me, mind, body and soul.

In conclusion, I shall leave you with an old Irish blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

It’s a Great, Big, Beautiful Life – Steps to Finding Your Purpose and Making it a Reality

Great, Big, Beautiful Grief is heading into its second week, and oh, so many encouraging comments, follows, shares and, most importantly, an abundance of genuinely loving support!  Thank you to everyone who has reached out, read and absorbed.  It means the world and fills my heart with the utmost gratitude.

When I first introduced the blog to the public, I assured folks that “although the title was ominous, the content would be anything but.”  Well, sometimes the path to our most joyful destination, the place filled with sunshine and bliss, requires us to trudge through the dark, dreary valley first.

So far, we have discussed that grief is real.  Grief is highly normal.  We’ve talked about the five stages of grief.  We’ve talked about how each person deals with grief in their own, unique way.  I’ve shared some personal stories about my own grief journey.  Overall, lots of grief, grief, grief!

Therefore, I feel the time has come to blow up the happy bubble of inspiration and get cracking on that Great, Big, Beautiful Life portion of this Great, Big, Beautiful blog!

In recent months, I’ve turned into a massive podcast junky.  I’m not a techy-type and had truly never experienced podcasts before.  Books have always been my jam.  Anyhow, shortly after my sister’s passing, I became obsessed with listening to stories about Near Death Experiences (which I now understand to be quite normal for someone who has just experienced the death of a loved one).  My obsession with those types of programs soon transitioned to subscribing to podcasts pertaining to living a happy life, doing good and being good, and being your best self, (perhaps after all of those near death experiences, I wanted to be doubly sure that I knew where I would be going when my time here is up – yeah, some of the stories didn’t take place in Heaven). These programs have been incredibly insightful and have opened my eyes to new ways of being.

About two weeks ago, after I had finished showing a home to a client (I’m a REALTOR by trade), I was feeling the need to be inspired, once again.  Over the nearly two years I’ve spent as an agent, the world of real estate has been a never-ending rat race, and the pressures of being the biggest and the best have constantly weighed on my heart and mind. While it feels good to follow through with a transaction, to see the joy on a client’s face when you have found them the perfect home, the process leading up to it is an incredibly stress-filled obstacle of negotiations, persuasion and paperwork – ew.  Lately I’ve been questioning my purpose in this field, this life, more-so than I ever have before.  Am I truly making a difference, or am I just one of the several billion people in the world existing to work and die?

Anyhow, as I began the drive home, a million questions were swirling around in my mind while I browsed through the episodes of one of my newfound, favorite shows, The Good Life (highly suggest subscribing by the way).  In a particular episode I came upon, the hosts were interviewing a woman named Cathy Heller Reinstein, an aspiring singer/songwriter who took her talents a different direction and started a podcast called Don’t Keep Your Day Job.  Her message was all sorts of inspirational.  Basically, she encourages her listeners to figure out their passion, their purpose, and turn them into a profitable, thriving, full-time career.  I was hooked, and instantly started downloading her episodes, listened to each one, intently, with hope in my heart and one glorious thought in my mind; I actually can make a difference, no matter what I’m doing!

Today is a beautiful day in the Northern Midwest.  The sun is shining brightly, the leaves are beginning to turn, and a long bike ride was calling my name. I love being out in nature, whether on my bike or on foot.  It’s quiet, peaceful, and allows ample opportunity for reflection.  As I rode down the Dakota Rail Regional Trail, passing by lakes and lowlands, forests and pastures, I felt completely at peace.  I felt happy.

Then Mr. Brain took over, and I began to question myself; Why am I so damn happy?  This isn’t right?  Surely there must be something I should be stressing about?

Isn’t it funny how so many of us have conformed to the belief that life isn’t easy, and unless we are stressing about something, we must be doing something wrong?  Simply feeling happy and free isn’t normal.  Why is that?  Are we supposed to be stuck in an office, answering emails, wearing business suits, working a typical nine to five?  That’s the definition of success, right?  That’s how successful human beings spend their days, isn’t it?

But, why?

And here is another question for you, how many of you have a job where you truly feel like you can be your best self?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure some people are where they are supposed to be and are fulfilling their life’s purpose, and that is amazing.  To those folks, you have my respect.  Bravo for making your passions a reality.

Then there is the other part of the working population, the dreamers who have succumbed to the norms of acceptable, societal standards, watching their life’s purpose slowly disappear in the breeze.

For as long as I’ve been a “professional” I’ve been a searcher, a seeker.  Sure, I’ve taken a few leaps of faith here and there, but always had the almighty dollar in mind, and therefore held multiple positions where I felt like I was dying inside, everyday.

Not anymore.

My sister’s illness and death opened a portal into a new way of thinking.  There really is no need to be stressed out every minute of every day wondering why we are doing what we are doing.  Here’s a couple of thoughts… do something else, or find a way to work your life’s mission into your job!  I’m thirty-six years young and I feel like, only now, do I truly have a firm grasp on what it is I’m supposed to do with my life.  THIRTY-SIX YEARS ON THIS PLANET and am just figuring it out.

And I’m cool with that, because each experience I’ve had, each career where I have felt my soul slipping away, has gotten me to where I am.  Cliche?  Maybe, but it’s the truth.

So, how do we take that leap?  Don’t we need the proper resources, time, experience?  Will our family support us in our quest to fulfill our purpose? Or maybe we feel that we can incorporate our mission at our current place of employment, but how do we accomplish this?

Stemming from my worlds of experience, and having recently tested the waters of these concepts, I’d suggest doing the following:

Step 1: Write down the top three things in your life that you are passionate about. Art? Helping others to improve their lives? Fitness?  WHATEVER.

Step 2: Brainstorm ways to project that passion into the world, perhaps by way of writing, speaking, traveling, researching, whatever you feel comfortable doing.  Truly take some time to think about what your strengths are. We live in an age where anything is possible, so tell that little doubting voice in your head to shove it.  YOU CAN DO IT.

Step 3: DO!  Seriously.  Just do it, whatever that it might be. For example, I launched this blog knowing full-well that I still had some kinks to iron out, but the path to purpose can be a process. Still, I just did it.  I’ll tailor what needs tailoring as I go.  I’ve also started to submit articles to magazines, as writing is a passion and an excellent way to project my energy and mission into the world, and low and behold, I will be having one of my articles published in a prominent MN publication this October!  As far as implementing my passion and purpose into my work-life, I’ve tailored my real estate brand to focus on living simply, as so to educate my clients to not miss out on life because they are “house poor.”

I’m. Just. Doing. It. Because my purpose is to shed light on a dark world, and I want to be a voice, even if it is just a small voice in a great big stadium, screaming at the top of my lungs that life is great, big, and beautiful if we only have the courage to make it so.


Remember the Journey – Focusing on the Means

The following post was written three months after my late sister was diagnosed with cancer.  I wanted to share it here as the words I wrote then, when she was still alive, have become even more prevalent since her death and have greatly helped to inspire this new venture.  The lesson, I believe, is priceless, and will open the eyes of anyone struggling with grief, loss, depression or who are simply seeking inspiration to find meaning in their lives.

I can still remember the hot sun beating down on my face as I struggled to keep up with my dad and two older sisters; the smell of sweat, dry dirt and pine infiltrating my dusted nostrils.  My legs ached and scratched from trekking straight up the manzanita-filled, boulder-lined incline from the base of the meadow to the top of the pinnacles.  With each breath I longed to be finished with this day.  Why had I begged and pleaded for them to take me with?  Why had I agreed to “not complain one bit” when my dad had warned me about the strenuousness of the trail?  I was eight years old, hiking with my father, a seasoned outdoors-man, and my two pre-teen sisters, also decent hikers.  I just wanted to be included.  I’d always had a longing to be in the woods.  I’d always liked taking walks on trails, but this God-forsaken, high-desert scorched landscape, and these unfathomable vertical trails were getting the better of me.

Skip forward to later that day, as I sat perched on a rock about the size of a semi with a ridiculously huge smile spread all the way across my sun-burnt face.  I had a perfect three hundred and sixty degree view a mile above the Earth below. On one side, a vast, mountainous landscape.  On the other, a desert stretching all the way to the base of the Sierra Nevada.  This was my first summit.  It was a day that I will never forget, and a moment forever frozen in my memory. Eight years old, standing on top of my southern California world, feeling the wind blowing through my hair, cuddling up next to my dad and sisters; that was what it was all about.

I never complained on a trail again after that day, because I knew that the journey would be worth it.

It is thinking back to that day that gives me strength these days.

Almost three months ago, one of my sisters was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. (Simply writing the “C” word still makes me cringe).  For me, cancer is a word that is synonymous with unfair, why, how, no, and please. For years I have known folks who have had friends and family members get cancer.  Sometimes those afflicted would pull through, and sometimes they would pass away, but I never fully grasped the hell that is cancer until my beloved sister, a person whom I’ve always looked up to and who has always been a rock in my life, incurred the disease.  As many cancer support groups, books, websites and medical professionals remind us, it is not only the person that is battling the cancer who suffers, but those who love them the most who suffer right along with them, sometimes even more-so, as those folks use every ounce of energy to keep spirits up and positive, and happily do what they can for the person affected, all the while concealing their inner turmoil.

There have been days when all I want to do is curse the world and say “to hell with it all.”  Why did my sister have to be the one to get cancer?  Why?  Why?  Why?  And what can I do about it?

Hearing the news that somebody you love has been diagnosed with a potentially fatal disease is likened to a near-death experience; the memories you’ve had with that person suddenly speed-race through your mind.  Then, everything slows down, and you remember certain moments and times so clear it is as if those moments and times just happened in slow motion, seconds before.  One of those moments was that day at the pinnacles; the trip when I was eight, and thought I would die, until my heart become a part of the trail and the journey.

As we grow older, life happens, beautiful and terrible as life may be.  Our careers get in the way of our passions.  Our children take up any free hours that we once cherished.  Mortality becomes very real and ever present.  We stop taking chances and risks for fear of this mortality.  We wind up spending any glimmer of free time sleeping our lives away. We end up focusing on the end instead of the means.  And yes, I am guilty of all the aforementioned.

Learning to cope with my sister’s unfortunate situation has rekindled a dying flame inside my soul.  Throughout these past months since the disease became a part of my life as well as hers, I have noticed things again; the beauty of a sunset, the simple way in which an autumn leaf floats on the water, the innocent laughter of the children, the incurable longing I have for separating myself from civilization as often as I can and actually following through.  I’ve also found myself taking risks again and remembering things that I loved to do before I became another victim of focusing on the ends.  

And all of this has become evident because someone I love is battling cancer.

My sister was the person who plowed the trail before me so that I could make it through. Don’t I at least owe it to her to prove that I can do the same?  As a society who has become ever invested in our ends, let’s strive to enjoy the journey again.  Let’s not take for granted the little things we pass by on the trail.  It might be the last time we are fortunate enough to see those small, insignificant, beautiful details.

Thank you, Marnie.