This summer, my family threw together four suitcases, nine carry-ons, and six umbrellas one fine June morning, and hopped onto a plane. Destination: Dublin, Ireland. We had planned this trip for a year in honor of my parents’ silver anniversary. The day before, we were all gulping down Dramamine on the porch like there was no tomorrow. It was our first ever family vacation.
Family vacations – even basic trips – had always sounded more stressful than restful, since my mom was constantly pregnant, chasing a toddler, or both from the time I was born until my sophomore year of college. Sometimes two or three siblings would go to visit relatives, but the entire family only traveled when we moved. Now that the age range spanned twenty-two to eight instead of fourteen to one, traveling with nine people felt effortless. We jumped on and off the trains, subways, and planes as needed, dragging our luggage behind us so that my mom could focus on calming my younger sisters, who had never flown before. Once we arrived, we peeled off in small groups to go exploring at random times, before or after the whole family ventured out for the day’s adventure.
One memorable adventure was visiting a pub, one of my personal priorities. My brothers and I were drinking age by Irish standards, so our dad went out with the three of us on a Saturday evening. We found this place called “The Headline” with a selection of fifty-seven beers. After ordering a tasting tray with six different beers to try, we talked about life and beer over a plate of fish and chips. It was there that I discovered a love for Guinness, which increased with our tour of the Guinness Storehouse.
The storehouse was an intriguing museum for Guinness’s advertising history, but the seventh floor was incredible. Known as the Gravity Bar, it was packed with people from all over the world, with a 360 degree view of Dublin. We arrived just as the misty clouds were fading. Emerald mountains rose above the city with a lone volcano peeking out from behind them. St. Patrick’s steeple looked like a tiny twig poking through the rooftops below us while the sea stretched out to the east. I loved sitting there quietly amid the buzz, sipping beer and watching the seagulls fly by before the clouds returned to hide it all.
When we weren’t drinking, we were walking – or in one case, floating down the Liffy. My brother had arranged a river cruise for the family, so we all boarded a boat with a handful of boisterous Austrians who had flown in for a soccer match between their homeland and Ireland. Sailing under the seven bridges that connected both sides of Dublin would have been a unique experience at any age, but now I was old enough to appreciate the history behind each bridge. The most striking one was the Samuel Beckett bridge shaped like a harp, Ireland’s national symbol. Even so, my favorite was the beautiful Ha’penny Bridge that was covered with “love locks,” padlocks that couples would fasten to the bridge to symbolize their eternal love (until the city hired professional lock pickers to remove them). We also saw the magnificent eighteenth century Custom House that separated old Dublin from the new. The guide peppered us with so many historical facts during the forty-five minute ride that I felt practically native by the end.
The end of ten days found us exhausted and happy to be home. No one complained that my parents had waited twenty-five years before going on vacation. Instead, we found that postponing the trip until the family was older ultimately made for relaxed travel and mature encounters with the people and places overseas. I think we all enjoyed the trip because we were more independent, willing to pull our load, and eager to make memories that would last for years to come.