Living with Infertility in a World that Doesn’t Understand.

With social media we are bombarded with pregnancy announcements & baby photos and our lives are constantly being compared to others. I’m going to give you one piece of advice that you will probably roll your eyes at right now, but I hope by the end of this post you might find a new perspective.

You are exactly where you need to be.

Ever since my infertility journey began, I have felt pulled away from my faith. I couldn’t put my trust in God, someone/something I couldn’t see. As a trained scientist I have always struggled with my faith but praying for years to a God that never answered was my breaking point. I was at my lowest. I struggled with suicidal ideations, I cried constantly, and I had never felt so cynical, angry, hurt, and frustrated at the world. I needed to find some type of hope, but I was grasping at straws. This tormented me. After 2 years of trying, I finally met a wall.

I knew infertility treatments weren’t for me instantly. We gave it a good college try, but it didn’t fit with our schedules in a world that does not and cannot comprehend what it is like to want to be a mother and know it may never happen. I gained weight, I struggled with my emotions and it was draining my husband and I of our dignity and our savings. Infertility treatment was wrong for us and I am here to let you know, it may be wrong for you too and there is NO shame in that. If you are comfortable with the infertility treatment process and the way the world treats you, you can skip this lengthy blog post, but for some of us there is nothing wrong with letting go and learning to cope with the cards life has dealt you.

So, here are some words of wisdom to all the women struggling with fertility who can’t conceive and are looking for a little bit of comfort:

You are not alone. There are many of us out there and unfortunately the way our society treats infertility as taboo is painful and isolating. Many of us don’t have a good support system. Know you are not alone and millions of men and women around the world are suffering in silence beside you. I believe regardless of the way people will react, it is extremely important to be open and honest about what you are going through. We need to stop the stigma and start being vocal about the emotional pain we go through or the way people deal with it will never change. Be open with as many people as you can. Even though it is a difficult topic and no one wants to hear about it, it is very real. You might even help someone else struggling in silence along the way. Being vocal about my problems was an unspoken invitation to women who were suffering in silence to step forward and privately message their support. I found a strong support system of people who actually understood. A support system will help you heal and feel less alone, but you’ll need more than just women who understand around you. I also strongly suggest seeing a licensed therapist if you haven’t already and finding someone who specializes in Infertility is even better.

Ignore the ignorant. It’s true that unless someone has struggled with infertility they cannot begin to understand where you are coming from. You are going to get words of encouragement from women who tried for a year and got pregnant on their own and you are going to hear a variation of the following phrases:

-adoption is a great option!

-just get drunk that worked for me!

-It’ll happen when you stop trying, that’s life!

-why don’t you foster?

-just go to fertility treatments! My friend did one round of IUI and got pregnant right away.

-just get your doctor to prescribe Clomid.

-my one friend got pregnant after 2 years of trying.

-Have you ever tried manifesting it?

-Have you tried standing on your head/laying upside down for 10 minutes/putting a pillow under your butt/drinking fertility tea/(etc.)?

-JUST RELAX!

-Can you just get over it?

-You should get a grant or start a gofundme for treatments

Need I continue? Or do you get the jist?

Ignore it. They are ignorant and they don’t know what they are talking about. None of those methods are proven to be true for everyone and everyone’s body is different. If you are searching for help talk to a specialist and ignore the peanut gallery. This is the main reason I recommend seeing a licensed therapist. Other people are stupid, let them act a fool and laugh at them behind their backs, it’s kind of an inside joke between all us “infertiles” anyway.

Be the right amount of selfish. It is extremely important to take care of yourself and that means by any means necessary. Skip your family member’s baby shower. If it’s going to be painful for you to be around all the baby fever, then don’t go. Yes. I know it’s selfish, but if you cannot physically deal with the torment don’t go. Protect your mental health, send a gift, and go get a massage that day instead. Living with infertility is hard enough, you don’t need to have it shoved in your face. It’s not worth it and don’t do it to yourself.

Find your happiness. I can promise you; your happiness is out there. When you are struggling with infertility it can consume your life. It tends to suck the soul out of you and makes you a shell of who you were before. It might take a while but force yourself to find another passion in life. Once I had broken free of the chains, I kept in place for myself, I realized the potential of my life with or without children. As painful as it still is to consider what my life would have been like had I been able to conceive I was able to turn my shattered world into something bigger than me. The important thing to remember is that you are here to make a difference in this world, and you may have a bigger purpose or something you need to accomplish before a family is a possibility for you. The universe puts things in your path to strengthen you and so you can help others along the way. One of my favorite quotes is by Stephanie Sparkles, “I love when people who have been through hell walk out of the flames carrying buckets of water for those still consumed by the fire.”

After searching for a new dream to focus on, I realized I had a great responsibility to help other women who are just like me. Some women are comforted by the success stories of infertility treatments and natural conception after years of miscarriages or not conceiving, I was not. I know there are women like me who feel the same way.

I am in no way shaming women who decide to continue infertility treatments, continue fighting their disease, or want to continue trying to have a child. If adoption, infertility treatments, or faith in God is for you then you should continue your path and there are tons of books on infertility that have happy endings out there.

For some of us though, that happy ending isn’t the same. Contrast to what many of you reading this may believe, my choice to stop pursuing fertility treatment and children in general is still a happy ending for me. I have never been in such a good place mentally and physically in my life. I’ve chosen to pursue a path where I can spread awareness and help others in the same situation. I did not let infertility define who I am. I did not give up and roll over, I gave in and found peace. I am happy with my choice and where I am in life regardless of what other people think or tell me and you should find that happiness too. No matter what it looks like.

I promise you too can find peace. Don’t let the weight of infertility consume your life. There is so much more to live for.

 

3 Instagram famous locations in Chicago

Where To Next??!

Aside from the crazy depression I have been battling over the last 9 months, I have been giving away my time to everyone else around me as if it weren’t priceless. I actually think that a lot of my depression and anxiety comes from waring myself so thin. Writing is one of my favorite things to do. It helps me process my thoughts and feelings so they make sense and it relaxes me.

This year I devoted all of my PTO from work and my writing time (which I was scheduling weekly previously) to weddings and other people’s plans instead of my own. As much fun as all of that time I had with my friends and family was, I didn’t give myself any of that time. We all need a break once in a while. I started giving a lot of my time to my church, work, and buying/transforming our house into a home.

Now that life has settled down slightly I am happy to say that I am finally making time for my writing, and I feel inspired in a way that I wasn’t previously. I have new ideas, bigger plans, and a more calculated approach to my blog. We have a few trips in the works for the next 5 months and I can’t wait to share it with you all! Stay tuned!

I Deleted My Facebook For 7 Days

Ok, so I am definitely straying a bit from my brand with this, BUT I think it is somewhat connected to this suddenly popular travel/nomad lifestyle. Every single person with a social media account should be able to relate.

Welcome to the 21st century! It has become completely normal to have everything including your dirty laundry hung out to dry on the internet. What would be absolutely terrifying to someone in 1901, is now the social norm. In fact, people who aren’t using social media are laughed at, and seldom taken seriously.

I tried something. I deleted my Facebook for 7 days. That’s nothing, I know, but I realized how much of our lives depend on social media now.  Here is what I discovered:

  1. The most common source of all news is Facebook.
  2. A HUGE amount of human interaction nowadays takes place on Facebook.
  3. I had less anxiety and depression and it actually cured a lot of my insecurities for the 7 days I disconnected.
  4. People are more likely to look at their phone than have a conversation with someone sitting across the table, or on the other side of the couch.
  5. Being without social media is lonely.

I was back on Facebook the second my week was over. I of course have some excuses as to why, BUT really none of that matters. One of the things I noticed more than anything was that I felt extremely lonely. I realized that I have isolated myself and my friendships are superficial, because it’s only through a screen. I realized Brandon and I spend more time on our phones looking at a newsfeed than we do talking to each other, doing things together, or just interacting at all.

It’s a catch-22 though. I feel less alone on my social media accounts, but the second all of that is taken away I realize how alone I really am. Everything revolves around taking the best photo to post on Instagram or Facebook. Downloading the newest apps like boomerang, or Tik-Tok to just keep up with everyone else, but is keeping up with everyone else really helping?

Travel blogs and other travel accounts are always so inspirational, and I get how hypocritical this is coming from someone who writes about travel themselves, but it’s also seriously depressing. A lot of people don’t know how to save money traveling and can’t afford to travel due to personal circumstances, and I think that is awful. Everyone should be able to travel. Don’t even get me started on the price of plane tickets, because it’s a rip off.

As a healthcare worker I have noticed 3 things in my short time working in a primary care clinic. Depression is an epidemic. Whether it is related to social media or not, the majority of the population feels inadequate and terrible about themselves and their lives. I can’t help but feel that addiction to social media plays at least a small part in this. Two years ago we were not screening for suicide unless a patient came in for depression or mentioned it during a visit. Today, more and more clinics are starting to screen at every single visit, and you know what? More and more people are being diagnosed with crippling depression and many people have SI (suicidal ideations).

Taking a break from my Facebook account even though it was only for a week, opened my eyes and showed me that there is so much more than just flexing about your life on social media or playing into everyone else doing the same. The truth is, what people post is a very small part of their lives and many people are hiding their sadness behind selfies of themselves and photos of them out partying with friends every night.

This experiment was very personal to me. I have been struggling with my own depression related to my self image as well as some other personal health struggles. I disassociate myself from my friends, my family and my husband frequently. Depression is very real for me and social media is a huge trigger. Seeing everyone else posting happy, perfect family photographs is hard to swallow. There are nights I don’t sleep and days I sleep for over 18 hours. There are days I go without eating and days I eat everything in sight. There are weeks I feel like I can take on the world and weeks I feel like a zombie just going through the motions with no feeling.

Deleting Facebook helped me regroup, rethink my future and look at things in a more positive light. Deleting Facebook for 7 days in no way cured my depression, but it made me feel like there might be a light at the end of the tunnel.

I want to urge everyone to deactivate your Facebook occasionally, even if only for a day here and there. If you don’t want to deactivate you can always delete it off your phone for a while and just spend time with the people around you. Go out on a date with your spouse, go on a cell phone free vacation, go out and see a national or state park, enjoy the outdoors, and find some light in your life that doesn’t come from your cell phone or computer screen. Whatever your insecurities are, whatever triggers your depression or anxiety, taking a break from social media can help you refocus your attention on what matters. Of course, there is also a lot of GOOD that social media has brought and I’m not saying it’s all bad, but there is also definitely nothing wrong with taking a break a few times a year to ensure your sanity. Especially if you are being constantly triggered by everything around you.

If you do not feel safe, or are in a bad place and need help,
Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Click here to donate and help end the fight for life: AFSP.org 
Click here to better understand depression: Helpguide.org

Sunny With a Chance of Tornado?

In June, one of my best friends had her bachelorette party in Nashville, TN during CMA Fest. Being that the drive to Nashville from my home in Wisconsin is only about 9 hours I thought it would be fun to road trip down to meet everyone at the airport. Our families are close, and most of the mothers of the girls invited also joined us. My mom insisted on driving with me. Since she lives in south jersey, she wanted to spend some quality-time, so we took the road trip together.

The 9 hour drive down to Nashville I did entirely myself. I love my mom but she isn’t the best copilot. By the time we made it to Nashville I was exhausted from working all day and then getting in a car and leaving for Music City.

I like to travel solo or with my husband because I feel that traveling brings a lot of reflection and I like my mind to be quiet to take in whatever is around me. Being in a car or plane can be boring, but I also find it peaceful and gives me a chance to reset and relax. My mom likes to talk. A lot.

For the first 3 hours I am convinced that my mom didn’t stop talking. I made the mistake of stopping at a McDonalds on the way down somewhere in Illinois and introduced my mom to a sugar free vanilla latte. 1. I’m not sure how my mom thought that this drink was so ground breaking and different from every other skinny vanilla latte she ever bought from Starbucks. 2. My mom literally did not know how to order it and I’m not really sure what she thought it was.

Side note: this made her talk even more. even faster. and even louder.

Either way it kept me awake, so after 6 hours of music and my mom talking about I don’t even know what she started to fall asleep and I finally got some quiet time.

The rest of the weekend is basically a blur. I was severely sleep deprived and inebriated at other times. This was definitely not a Tour of Nashville which I have done some in the past and will definitely write another post about it. However, I saw the insides of a lot of bars. Broadway is full of bars owned by country music stars like Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton, John Rich, and more. There’s a Honky Tonk bar that is 3 (or 4?) stories tall where we watched 2 dudes rip their shirts off, fist fight and then get thrown out by security. There’s a mechanical bull, a million rooftop bars, and during CMA Fest there are also a million people.

BUT, I am going to talk about all that another time. For the sake of this post, I want to focus on the road trip back from Nashville to Wisconsin.

On the morning of our drive home it was raining, I was hungover from day drinking for 7 hours the day before, and we had a severe thunderstorm warning. This didn’t phase me. Thunderstorms and severe weather are common in the midwest. We got in our car at 6am and started driving because I was hell bent on getting back to Wisconsin by dinner. We of course had to stop at McDonalds on the way out of town for my mom’s 697th* sugar free vanilla latte of the weekend. (*information was grossly exaggerated).

About 6 miles in we got a severe weather warning followed by a tornado watch. We continued our drive and finally got out of Tennessee and into Kentucky where we ended up stopping at a gas station and KFC to use the bathroom and fill up our tank. “Good, Good Father” by Chris Tomlin came on the radio in the KFC bathroom as I was washing my hands and realized we were still in Kentucky in the Bible Belt. That place is a whole other world.

Exhausted, hungry but craving healthy food, and a little cranky we continued on. So naturally for the next 5 hours we argued about literally nothing in the car, because what else would you expect after a bachelorette 5 day weekend bender with your mom?

The following transpired very quickly and within 10 mins:

The skies opened up and it was a complete downpour. We started talking about how I wanted to be a storm chaser as a kid because I was always fascinated with tornados and I would write school reports on them constantly, but NJ has like 1 tornado per decade so it wasn’t really a good choice. I literally said, “it would be cool to see a tornado today”. Both our phones started to go off, it was a warning for severe thunderstorm which we could see (OBVIOUSLY  Weather Channel, are you even predicting or are you just telling me what is already happening?).

Somehow we started arguing about me wanting her to drive or about how I thought she couldn’t drive well because she can’t see very good, I don’t even know. I do remember getting really worked up and pissed off and we were yelling.

Our phone alarms went off again. I asked my mom to look and see what the warning was. She looked up at me and said “Tornado.” I had her read me the information on where it was because I literally could not see 5 feet in front of me the wind and rain was so awful. She mentioned the highway we were on and the mile markers. We were smack dab in the middle of it’s path. I didn’t want to stay there because there was not shelter and we were in the middle nowhere in southern Illinois surrounded by corn fields. I saw an overpass up ahead and pulled over underneath of it so we could at least see. This rain wrapped fucker of a tornado passed right by us as we sat confused and a little scared under an overpass wondering what we should do.

We called Brandon, my sister, and father almost immediately and none of them seemed to care very much except Brandon who likes storms and tornados as much as I do.

This experience left me with three very important pieces of advice for everyone who takes road trips.

  1. Pay attention to warnings on your phone or the radio when you are road tripping.
  2. Life is short, and one minute you are sipping a sugar free vanilla latte with your mom arguing loudly with each other, and the next your heart is pounding and you are yards away from a tornado.
  3. NEVER say the words “It would be cool to see a tornado today”

This whole experience got me thinking, sometimes my iPhone doesn’t work well without WiFi, what if I hadn’t pulled over because I didn’t know there was a tornado warning? What if I had been listening to my iPod instead of the radio AND my phone notifications didn’t come through? A million scenarios have played in my mind, but luckily everything worked out.

I think it just goes to show, you can never expect a normal anything, including a normal drive home.

The Cone Heard Around the World

IT STARTED OUT AS INNOCENT FUN.

In the fall of 2013 my dad convinced my mom to join us on a cross country road trip from New Jersey to Los Angeles in a C3 camper. I was stoked to be able to explore so much of the country that I have never seen. We were going to go to all of the big state parks in the north west like Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, the Redwood national forest, and more. I could not wait to get out and see everything I had read about in social studies classes all through elementary school.

My dreams were crushed when two days into our trip. I was staying with my sorority sister from Ohio State on my parent’s anniversary and I got a news alert that the government had shut down. I was devastated. Not only were we not allowed in the parks now, but what was the point of driving all this way for nothing? We had only made it to Ohio so far and we were at least a day or two out from South Dakota depending on where we would stop to sleep. My parents picked me up the next morning, I was hung over, wearing the same clothes as the night before, and I probably smelled.

I went into the camper bathroom and tried to puke but couldn’t so I put my head phones in, sat in the passenger seat next to my dad and giggled to myself as I listened to “Iowa Stubborn” from the Music Man while we drove across Iowa (Don’t worry you can click the link to see what song I am talking about so you can laugh too). As beautiful as fly over states are, there is a reason when you are trying to get from point A to point B you fly. Highways in flyover states are seriously a drag. Although the first hour and a half was pretty entertaining, that shit gets old quick and you can only make so many “corny” jokes.

THINGS STARTED TO GET WEIRD.

We stopped briefly at the Corn Palace just to say that we did it and then made our way to the Badlands National Park… even though it was closed. Here is where things got a bit interesting. My dad slowed down when we came up to the entrance and realized there was not a single person around. With the rangers all off work we decided to take our chances and my dad drove over the cones and into the park. We hadn’t come all this way for nothing.

We pulled off at a parking lot that was coned off and my dad and I started snapping a few pictures. I snapped a photo of myself giving a thumbs up next to the “this national park service is closed” sign and said it would be funny if my dad threw a cone and mom took a photograph. My dad started laughing and we took a few action shots of him throwing the cone until we got the perfect picture with the cone in the air above his head.

MY DAD THINKS HE IS A CELEBRITY.

My mom and I posted a photo on Facebook and I captioned it “‘This national park service is closed. Oh yeah? You and what government workers are going to stop me?'”. A family joke meant to be shared between us and friends would soon be plastered all over Facebook and we had no idea.

First, someone made a meme out of my caption and the photograph. Then, the meme was posted on twitter and Fox News was tagged in the photo. By the time we reached California someone from Fox News had tweeted it, put it on Facebook, and wrote a blog post about it. Over 100,000 likes and shares later, my mom’s phone had imploded from constant messages, likes, and shares. The entire time we were in Los Angeles my dad kept talking about ‘getting an agent’ and saying he was being ‘recognized’ everywhere to make my mom and I laugh.

I am not even joking with you when I say how serious it is that you pay attention to what you put on the internet because one embarrassing photograph could very well be EVERYWHERE within 24 hours. One thing most people don’t even consider when they think about people in the spot light, is that you receive a massive amount of hate mail. People who have never met you have serious personal opinions about you. If this should ever happen to you, the best thing to do is to not read any of it. The negativity seriously isn’t worth any of your time at all. Don’t waste your energy and give in to angry people sitting behind a computer.

If you think I was joking about any or all of this story I am not because here is a direct link to the twitchy site written by a Fox News journalist who shared everything on her Facebook page.

Halifax

Halifax, Escalators & Fog

 

Halifax

 

I’ve learned a lot of things while traveling with my parents. Conversely, I’ve also learned a lot of what NOT to do when traveling. One of my favorite stories regarding my parents is one starring my mother. My mother, Noelle, is a gorgeous dark haired woman who is ALWAYS put together. I don’t think she has ever left the house without a full face of makeup or a complete set of jewelry in her entire life. On the other hand, I frequently leave the house without even showering and still wearing the same clothes I wore to bed. I suspect the fact that my mom forced me to wear make up every day to school made me rebel as soon as I went to college.

Naturally, my mom packs three bags just for herself when we would go on long trips. I remember one instance particularly well. We were packing for a cruise to Canada  that would leave out of New York. Growing up in New Jersey, the drive up was not all that far and we had been to the city many, many times. Most of my trips with my parents consisted of going towards the equator, not away from it. My dad spent some time living in Florida as a teenager and I think the fact that he still considers that year, “the best year of his life” influenced every single one of our vacations to go south.

I was actually really surprised that we were going to Canada. I had never thought in a million years we would take a cruise into colder weather I didn’t even know those existed. We boarded the boat and like every other vacation we all argued. In hindsight, this was the worst vacation we ever took together, but there were still some highlights so I will showcase those first.

mist, fog, and more fog.

We arrived in the port in Halifax and were able to see what was a pretty close picture of what my grandfather would have seen 50 years prior stopping in the same port as he came to America from Italy. I imagined him peeking through a door for only a minute to look outside. It would be cold and snowing so he’d quickly shut the door and go back inside the ship.

I remember I stood on the deck and looked out at the large white building with hundreds of windows at the port. I tried to take in everything around me and I wondered if this was the same exact spot my grandfather stood and looked out at Halifax. There were tents set up with vendors and a museum with thousands of photos of ships that had pulled into the Canadian port.

My dad looked through mounted black and white photos looking for one that looked familiar. He stopped when he found a black and white photo of the exact ship in the Halifax port that my grandfather took to America. I was amazed that there was actually a photo of the ship, the M.S. Vulcania. It looked so incredibly old to me. I tried to picture my grandfather as a young boy with his sister trying to navigate the narrow halls. He was hopeful of the future and had no idea how successful he would be all because he made that step and left his home and everything he knew behind him.

It was really foggy for the remainder of our trip and of course it wouldn’t be a “Bruno family vacation” without a good old fashioned shake up. My sister spent 90% of the entire cruise crying in her bedroom over her boyfriend who she had just broken up with. My sister was hysterical for almost the entire trip. My mom was understanding and my dad was livid. Mainly because the amount of money that the cell phone bill was about to come out to with all the long distance phone calls was astronomical.

I can’t really blame him for being pissed off. So the majority of the time I spent wandering the ship in more or less darkness from all the fog. I remember texting and eating a lot because there was’t much to do. It was kind of cold so there was no way we could swim and I was only 17 years old so I couldn’t drink. That left very little to occupy my time.

that one time i disobeyed a security guard and almost got tazed.

My fondest memory from this trip came as a surprise to me. Like I said previously, my mom packs multiple suitcases when we go on vacation. One other thing you should know about her is that she also has a completely irrational fear of escalators. I’m not quite sure what it stems from because I never asked her, but for what ever reason it’s there. We were going down the escalator into customs my entire family in a single file line. First my dad with his bag, my sister with hers, me with mine, and in the back was my mom with 2 rolling suitcases and a bathroom bag. I didn’t realize until we got to the bottom of the escalator that my mom had not followed us.

I took a step back and saw her standing at the top rustling with her bags, crying, and panicking. She had no idea how to approach the escalator with all of the luggage. She was shuffling the bags around and then eventually I realized she needed help. There were two security guards, one that was at the top of the escalator and one that was at the bottom of a different escalator. You would assume that out of all the people standing in customs, SOMEONE would have helped her, but no. So, I looked at my dad and said “I’m going to help her.”

The security guard started yelling at me something about not being allowed to go back upstairs once you come down. Annoyed at the entire situation and the fact that they were yelling at me instead of just helping my mom so I didn’t have to help her myself pissed me off.

Anyone who knows me, knows I also have a short fuse. I assume it comes from my Italian family because I have zero patience when it comes to stupidity. If you are in a position to help someone, HELP THEM. So naturally 17 year old me yelled back at the female security guard who was yelling at me to “STOP OR I’LL TAZE YOU”.  I could feel the blood rush to my face and my ears started ringing.

“I AM GOING BACK UP THESE STAIRS TO HELP MY MOTHER. I WOULDN’T HAVE TO IF YOU WOULD HELP HER YOURSELF, BUT AS WE CAN SEE, YOU AREN’T DOING SHIT.” It just burst out and I couldn’t stop it.

I ran up the stairs and the security guard started to move towards me then, she looked over at my mom, then back at me, and stared in disbelief as I completely ignored her. Grabbing both of my mom’s rolling suitcases I ushered my mother onto the escalator behind me. She followed me down the escalator and we continued into customs. I don’t think she ever thanked me, but I also think she was too embarrassed to think straight at the moment so I understand. It was unspoken. I was pissed off for the rest of the trip home from New York, but I guess it could have been worse.

That security guard could have actually tazed me.

Somewhat Langered and Not Sorry.

In March of 2012 I was a junior in college and I was completely miserable. I kept myself busy by being an active member of my sorority and studying for organic chemistry (which despite my perseverance, I would not pass that semester). I had met Brandon, my husband, about 4 months prior playing beer pong in a college dorm room, but we still didn’t have a label and it had been 5 months of seeing each other. My roommates bailed on me for my midnight 21st birthday plans and I was devastated that I wouldn’t have any plans. I was going to be missing my entire 21st birthday because of the time change flying to Ireland with my study abroad class, so I really wanted to do something over night in Atlantic City. Luckily, my friends from home pulled off a great night despite all the set backs.

One thing I don’t recommend doing is getting on a 7 hour plane ride to Ireland hung over. I puked at least 7 times on what was arguably the worst plane ride of my life. Since my roommates bailed I had a few friends from home that promised to take me out. I got plastered and ended up face down in a plate of chicken tenders double fisting margaritas in a buffet in Atlantic City at 4am. We ended up stuck in the city because there was a storm and the road leaving the city to go home was underwater. Upon hearing this from my friend who was a bit frantic I yelled, “YOLO” and continued to chug my margaritas. Needless to say I felt like death for the 24 hours that followed. I tried to sleep on the plane but that was not working because I was puking every 45 minutes. I barely remember the airport in Dublin. The first vivid memory I remember having was on the bus to the first hotel. I looked out my window and saw a side street, the sun barely past the tops of the row homes, and I felt like I was in a movie because it looked so cliché Europe. I snapped a photo so I wouldn’t forget and posted it to my Instagram account with an embarrassingly terrible filter.

ireland side street

“My first memorable moment of Ireland”

I remembered in middle school my French teacher talked to us about elevators being a luxury in hotels, but I forgot about it until we got to our first hotel in Dublin right on the River Liffey. I hauled my two suitcases up to my room on the 3rd floor while I tried not to vomit. Our professor told us not to go to bed so we would get use to the time change but screw that. I slept for a good six hours until dinner and I was not sorry.

We ate in the hotel that night and the food was better than literally anything I’ve ever eaten in the United States. There aren’t words in the English language that could describe the mashed potatoes I ate. Perfect. God. Delicious. It might have been my hangover talking, but I would trade my arms in for a plate of those mashed potatoes right about now.

After dinner we went out. By “we” I mean about 6 of the girls. We all walked down O’Connell street and found the temple bar district. One thing I learned is to order rounds if you are with a large group because the bartenders are ridiculously overwhelmed. They get really pissed when you order 6 different ones drinks at once. Also, if you can stick to beer and shots, do that. Skip the cocktails. It’s customary to take turns buying the rounds rather than everyone paying separately. So if you’re with a group suck it up and take turns buying rounds, the bar tender will thank you.

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After 3 beers and however many slippery nipple shots we ended up in a McDonald’s where we were soon escorted out by police. My friend Megan was (as the Irish would say) langered and jumping and dancing on tables inside. The customers seemed to find it amusing, but the manager and the angry bald headed cop did not. So we finished drunk eating McDonald’s cross legged on the statue out front.

The next few days we walked around the college, saw a few monuments, saw an old prison Kilmainham Gaol (I write a little bit about that here!) which was terrifying and probably haunted by little kids from the famine, St. Patrick’s cathedral (if you haven’t been there, GO.) and went to the Guinness brewery (which is a must see! There is nothing like drinking a Guinness and looking out over all of Dublin!).

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Gravity Bar is located at the very top of the Guinness Brewery in Dublin and has 360 degree views of the city.

We went to Belfast next from what I remember.  We saw Bushmills distillery and drank 30 year old whiskey and bought a phone cases in a local “pound shop” which is the UK version of a dollar store. Coincidentally it was much nicer than any dollar store I’d ever been in. We also went to a really cool bar/night club there where the ground floor is a pub and the first floor is a night club. I had a beer spilled all over me and we got in a fight with some guy who kept calling us “dumb fat Americans” so he got a few drinks thrown in his face. Around 11pm the lights turned on and we watched as a skinny pale guy ran through the crowd butt naked with 3 policemen struggling to run after him. He was ultimately tackled to the ground. #OnlyInIreland

 

We ended up in Derry next which was really cool too. Another thing I learned is that as a tourist just call it Derry. Do not call it Free Derry or London Derry because then you are picking a side in a heated argument you don’t want to be a part of. Most of our teaching moments came here. If you aren’t familiar with Ireland and it’s recent history, Derry is the site of the Battle of the Bogside between the Catholics and Great Britain. This was one of the very first conflicts during “the troubles”. We received a tour starting at the church where the Catholics descended on their march  and then ended  down to where the blood bath took place and then into a museum which contained artifacts from the battle as well as letters from the British army to the families of those killed. The buildings along this path are painted with controversial and political murals by Bobby Sands who led our tour. The tour was amazing and extremely well done.

 

On our way back to Dublin we stopped at Giant’s Causeway which is made up of beautiful cliffs and strangely shaped rocks surrounded by legend. There are a few different versions of the story, but the one I was taught says that a giant named Finn McCool was angry at another giant in Scotland  Benandonner. Finn decided to take huge chunks of the cliffs and throw them into the water so he could cross and teach him a lesson. Benandonner turns out to be much bigger than Finn and so Finn retreats. When benandonner shows up to challenge him Finn’s wife disguises him as their child and Benandonner leaves assuming that because the child is so large, Finn must be gigantic. The rocks are what was left over of the crossing from centuries ago. In reality, the rocks were probably formed from volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, but locals continue to tell the stories and believe the myths. This was, by far, the most amazing part of my travels. There is just something about millions of years old natural rock formations that get me every single time.

We shortly thereafter returned to Dublin and we packed for our journey home the next morning. I was devastated and did not want to leave. We had so much fun with our tour guide, I can’t remember his name for the life of me, but he was fantastic. One of my favorite moments includes him taking a coffin off the wall, jumping inside, pretending to be dead, and reenacting an Irish Funeral in the middle of a restaurant in Dublin. I had fallen in love with the city of Dublin, the people, and the history of Ireland. I knew that I had to return.

Fast forward 8 years later and here I am. Planning a return visit with my Husband Brandon, my parents, and my in-laws for Brandon’s 30th Birthday. I am so overjoyed that I will get the chance to share this country with the people I love. We have a lot of really fun things planned and will even get to explore a little bit of my husband’s ancestry.

If you have had any experience with Galway, Hook Head, or the Cliffs of Moher, OR if you know any really good places to eat in Dublin comment below! We would love to try them.

Check out my gallery of all of my Ireland photographs below. I apologize for the poor quality. It was 2012 and the iPhone camera wasn’t the greatest.