For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to explore Ireland. Maybe it was the rainbows with the pots of gold at the end or the little leprechauns running around the country side. Whatever it was, I've had this idea that Ireland is a magical place ever since I was a child so when I realized that place tickets were actually cheaper if we stopped over in Ireland than flying directly to the states, I jumped on the opportunity. It was only after I bought the tickets that I realized that international vacations are rather expensive and we were just starting to get back on our feet after Adam was laid off at the beginning of the year. We certainly weren't in a position to be tromping around the world living it up.
Keeping all this in mind, Adam and I decided to try traveling in a way that we had never thought of traveling before: with strangers. We have a friend who is from Ireland so we contacted her and asked if she might know anyone we could stay with. Then we also put out some requests on couchsurfing.com
We spent the first five days of our vacation staying with my friend's brother and his family in Dublin. They are the nicest family. They welcomed us into their home, fed us, and made us feel instantly comfortable. Their children played with Ilya and they showed us all the good places to visit. We loved wandering around Dublin city, but what I will remember most fondly is the kindness and warmth this family showed us.
The next leg of our journey took us to Kilkenny where we had arranged to stay with a couple that we found on couchsurfing.com. This wonderful couple, who we had never met before, picked up us from the train station and drove all over the city showing us around. They took us to all the big spots like Kilkenny castle, but also showed us their favorite local places. Right before we left, they took us to this old church (built in the 13th century) that we could explore. It wasn't on any map and if we hadn't known someone local we never would have seen it.
We are currently staying with our friend's other brother in a small city called Clonmel. He drove all the way to Kilkenny to pick us up and has been giving us rides into town everyday to go to the music festival. He's taken us to the coast and shown us all of his favorite local spots as well.
Six months ago, the thought of staying with complete strangers would have terrified me, but looking back on this trip, I know that it is these people that I am going to remember most. While I didn't see any leprechauns or even any rainbows, this trip has been the best trip that I've ever taken.