Sabbatical 2022: Ireland

After our time in England and Scotland, it was a natural choice to make Ireland the next stop on our sabbatical trip. My family is Irish on both sides and I am fortunate to have visited Ireland many times over the years. Every time I return to the Emerald Isle, it feels like I am returning home. The people are incredibly kind and generous, the culture is rich, and the landscape is diverse and breathtaking. Ireland also possesses a very special, mystical energy, as evidenced by the many neolithic structures that can be found across the countryside.

We flew into Dublin from Glasgow and I rented us a car at the airport. Be warned. Renting a car in Ireland is very expensive as the cost of insurance is astronomically high. That being said, I do not think that you can fully experience the country without a car; so much of its beauty is found in remote and rural areas, so I took the plunge. In both the Republic of Ireland and in the north, they drive on the left side of the road. In addition to this, the driver’s side of the car is located on the opposite side to Canada…AND they primarily drive standard…so it took me an hour or on the highway before I settled in and my heart stopped pounding with panic. It is not so bad once you get the hang of it.

Our first stop was in in Connemara: the western region of County Galway. Twenty years ago, I stayed at the Delphi Lodge with my mother and I have always wanted to return. Delphi is an 1830s country house surrounded by the tallest mountains in Connemara and it overlooks the lakes and rivers of the Delphi Valley: famous for salmon and seatrout fishing. It is a remarkably beautiful place.

Rather than stay in the lodge, I rented us one of the cottages on their property, so we could cook for ourselves and enjoy privacy. Located right on the river, our place was well appointed and comfortable.

It was quite rainy during our time in Connemara, which is not unusual for Ireland; and this gave us an excuse to stay in with a good book and a cup of tea by the fire. My daughter also discovered some old DVDs of Desperate Housewives, which soon became a favourite. When we did venture out, some highlights of the local area included visiting Kylemore Abbey, horseback-riding in the grounds of Ashford Castle, and discovering places to go wild swimming.

The second part of our time in Ireland was spent in County Antrim. My great-grandfather and his brother lived in a little hamlet just outside of Bushmills, a town located on the northern coast of Ireland, very near to the UNESCO world-heritage site, the Giant’s Causeway. Although they immigrated to California over a hundred years ago, the property remains with our family, and we are lucky enough to have close relationships with the people who still live there.

I have visited the northern Antrim Coast many times but it never fails to take my breath away with its majesty and beauty. We spent much of our time catching up with friends: enjoying some lovely home-made meals, as well as going out to local restaurants, such as Tartine and the Causeway Hotel. One morning, I walked from the Giant’s Causeway to Dunseverick Castle, a two-hour hike that takes you right along the coastline; and I was also introduced to a lovely group of ladies who go wild swimming every morning in Dunseverick Harbour. We swam in large deep pool, called ‘the Slough‘, which is filled with ocean water and protected from the strong ocean currents. This was a particularly memorable experience.

I loved being able to introduce my daughter to Ireland during this trip. We had a great time both exploring on our own and spending time with the people we love. It was a fantastic visit and we will definitely be back!

Sabbatical 2022: And so it begins…

― Erin Hanson

Six years ago, when my marriage fell apart, I decided to do something special for myself. It had always been a dream of mine to go on a sabbatical. I had previously been waiting for my husband to take the leap with me; and when I realized that this was never going to happen, I decided to sign up for the deferred salary leave program through my work, and do it for myself. This program allows for an employee to save a portion of their salary, over a period of time, and take a temporary leave from their position at the end (between six to twelve months).

When I first joined the program, I did not really believe that I would make it to the finish line. It seemed like such a long way off and I had a hard time imagining that I could sustain the savings over such a long period of time; but it felt good to join the program and dream big for myself. I began telling people about my plan to travel with my daughter. I figured that the more I talked about it, the more likely I would follow through; and although it is hard to believe, six years flew by, and here I am about to embark on my grand adventure.

I am taking eight months off from work, with three of them spent in Europe. My thirteen year old daughter is accompanying me. Our travel itinerary includes a month travelling around the United Kingdom and Ireland and two months in France. We fly into England, continue up to Scotland, move onto Ireland, and finish up in France.

I have always been a heavy packer, so I made a concerted effort to pack light for this trip. As we are moving around so much for the first month, it makes sense to try to limit our luggage to carry on items; and I set myself a personal goal to keep things simple. It was a bit of a challenge as we needed to pack for all kinds of weather, including hiking boots and rain gear for the West Highland Way, and warm weather clothes for the south of France. Miraculously, we managed to squeeze all of our belongings into two small roll-on suitcases and backpacks.

After two years of living through a pandemic, I am finding it hard to believe that we can travel safely again. I feel nervous and excited about stepping out into the big, wide world. We begin our trip by flying from Vancouver to London, England. I am really happy to be returning there after almost twenty years, as it holds a special place in my heart. This whole experience so far feels very surreal but I am ready to be brave and take the leap. One. Two. Three. Here we go!