On a very rainy day my last few days on Achill Island, my mom and sister met me at my little home on the edge of the world. They were tired, but had the same admiration of the Achill landscape as I had my very first day on the island. The next day was our last day on site and we backfilled our beautiful trench. It was my birthday and I got a lovely cake from our site director and it was a great treat to off-set the backbreaking work of filling in our six-weeks of work. That night the other students, my mom, my sister, and I went out for my birthday dinner. It was a wonderful way to end my time on the island and a great way to start my 25th year. The next day I would be off with my mom and sister on a week and a half adventure around Ireland, the UK, and Norway.
We ended up renting a car in Ireland and the UK, and I have to say it was the best decision for the number of miles we wanted to cover. I love driving and renting the car gave us the freedom to go wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted. My favorite moments in Ireland were probably the night we stayed in Letterfrack in Connemara. Connemara National Park contains some of the most beautiful scenery in Ireland. Visiting Kylemore Abbey and then driving around the backroads taking in the scenery was a great start our long days of driving.
After several days in Ireland, we hopped on a plane to Edinburgh. I love Scotland and it was great to be back, but we also needed to make our way to Wales and then southern England. This was probably the most driving intensive part of the trip, but also the most spontaneous. With so many miles between each destination, it gave us the chance to follow signs and make detours. I really enjoyed our time in Wales. Snowdonia National Park was beautiful, and it was a real joy to drive through it. We also were able to stop at Caernarfon Castle and walk around the medieval fortress. With a brief stop in England, we headed back to Scotland and into the Highlands. I love the Highlands and we even spent the night in an inn built in the eighteenth century.
Norway was the final stop on our adventure and we got to spend much of our time with family. We journeyed from Oslo and stayed in our ancestral city of Fredrikstad. Getting to know family members I have never met before or haven’t seen in years was amazing and seeing the places where my ancestors lived really spoke to my inner historian.
Studying abroad isn’t all about traveling, but it is an important part of the experience. I am not saying that you should spend all your money on trekking the globe, but if you can hone your budgeting skills and plan your travels on a student budget, you would be surprised by how much you can do. My advice is to keep an eye on cheap flights and compare different accommodations (Airbnb, hostels, B&B’s, etc.) and modes of transportation (planes, trains, cars, and buses). You can also save money by getting food at grocery stores or getting accommodations that include breakfast. Also, remember to always ask about student discounts. It may take you a little longer to plan the trip, but your wallet will thank you in the end.