During my high school years, several teachers and a group of students made up a club we called the Student Outing Adventure Club. Like many schools, ours had the usual big year-end trip to popular destinations in the region: New York City, Washington, D.C. or to amusement parks. However, the adventure club led to some off-the-beaten path experiences. These included:
- Winter camping – Ricketts Glen State Park
- Caving / Spelunking – outside of the Harrisburg area
- Rock Climbing – also outside of Harrisburg
They were all first-time experiences for me and to this day, I haven’t repeated these activities on my own for several reasons. I never decided to buy any of the necessary gear for them and later opportunities didn’t come along since then. However, I actually don’t mind that I never went on any of these adventures again. It allows them to remain unique, off-the-beaten-path excursions in my life.
In a publishing class I take this semester, we discussed travel writing and our how we go about our journeys. Are we tourists, immersive travelers or somewhere in between? I fell somewhere in the middle, based on a questionnaire about whether travels involve seeing well-known attractions or those lesser-known ones. The questions also counted having a set itinerary or going with the flow, familiar dining choices or eating like a local.
I love the idea of visiting all the popular points of interest in the U.S., such as our great national parks, as well as those abroad. Ever since I was much younger, I hoped to one day see the Parthenon, the Colosseum, the Tower of London, the Eiffel Tower and many other international sites. I also love finding the hidden gems of a destination. Before going to Dublin, I knew of certain attractions and once there, learned about others throughout daily exploring of the city. The trip had a mix of planned sightseeing and casually checking things out as we wandered the historic destination.
Among the places I visited in Ireland, the Guinness Storehouse was probably the most common tourist attraction. When I’ve seen friends’ photos from trips to Dublin, they include one of them standing in front of the entrance. Even so, when I took a tour, I found many surprises inside.
For the longest time, I’ve had a list of things to see and do if ever I had the chance to go to Ireland. My list didn’t include taking a cruise tour of Killary Harbour on the Connemara Lady. That was only because I hadn’t come across information on it until checking out tour brochures at a Dublin tourism office. For several reasons, though, I’d say the boat tour was the most off-the-beaten-path excursion of my time in the Emerald Isle. Sheep resting just along the edge of very narrow roads, mussel farms on the surface of the water, rugged mountains – one of which even looked like an ancient volcanic crater.
Even the way in which we boarded the Connemara Lady was an unusual experience. Instead of crossing a metal walkway and stepping down onto a deck, we walked along a long wooden board leading underneath the bow section and into the boat.
It was an adventurous last full day in Ireland and I was glad to have experienced this part of the country before flying back to Philadelphia.
As you travel, what are some of your favorite experiences among the popular attractions and those off-the-beaten-path?