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Ireland Adventure Day 1 | The Cliffs of Moher

Virginia Gates

American Airlines International Photographer
The mountains are calling and I must go.
— John Muir

I am so excited to finally have the time to start editing through my trip to Ireland and share the amazing photos with all of you beautiful people who follow my blog. I was absolutely dumbfounded when I found out that I had been accepted into the House of Flynn's 2017 Ireland workshop with Savannah Kate Morgan. I threw my name in one night when an unexpected slot became available never thinking I would actually be chosen! I totally had a Harry Potter Triwizard Cup winning moment with my husband. I have admired Savannah's composite work for the past few years, just in awe of her fine art photographs. The opportunity to learn her Photoshop techniques and work with her one on one was a dream. And in Ireland?! And with a group of amazing female contemporaries who are out there chasing my same dreams?! I was so beside myself at the opportunity. I don't think I really let it set in that I was going until I reached the Philly airport waiting to board the plane to Shannon. Then, I finally took my first deep breath in months and was still and excited.

For the first time in over five years, I only had myself to look out for, feed, make happy. As a mother, opportunities to savor feeling like your own self are far and few between and so, so needed. This trip was an opportunity to put my past struggles of postpartum depression behind me, the sagas of breastfeeding behind me, and pour into my own cup, place my oxygen mask on first, feel what being just myself felt like again without the diaper bag, bags under my eyes, and three day old hair. The dusty bucket list that would surely never be completed came down off its lonely shelf where college Virginia set it while crashing into adulthood with a baby in her arms. "Go to Ireland." Check. Life happens in joyful bursts, long nights, and even longer days. This trip changed my life. There are no other words. It changed how I see the world and my place in it in the most fundamental ways, and I am so excited to share it all with you. 

There was a bit of a false start the day I was leaving. I said my tearful goodbyes to my babies as my sweet in-laws took over for me for the week. I had my bags all packed. I had my passport (my very first ever! Did I mention I've never left the US before? Did I also mention I have severe anxiety? No? Well, then, let's just say getting on the plane that was going to fly me over an entire ocean was a triumph in and of itself.) I went to ILM and waited. And waited. And even boarded the plane to wait some more. Until Philly cancelled the flight due to weather. So off I went back home to snuggle my babies again. "Mama was just kidding guys, no need to be alarmed. Yes, I'm really leaving." Getting to Philly was a huge relief! Unfortunately, the missed flight left me an entire day behind my group. 

Being a person with anxiety, I often have to grapple with irrational fears and logic my way out of them, or, as the case may be, jump in with both feet and shaking hands and hope for the best. More often than not, life has shown me taking the latter route pays off the greatest. Among all my fears about leaving my children, plane crashes, getting ill abroad, my biggest was getting there and not being able to contact my group. I pictured over and over again my cell phone not working. Being left with a useless phone in an unknown land or being Liam Neesoned Taken. So, when I finally arrived in Shannon I caught a cab with the sweetest older gentleman and got to texting. The landscape blurred an emerald green, there were copious amounts of sheep and cows secluded by rock fences, the day was dreary and chilled. Hell, there was even a stuffed leprechaun hanging from the dash. I HAD ARRIVED IN IRELAND! Where was my Guinness? Not one text went through. Okay, I'll Facebook message. My data plan wasn't working. I knew I from our itinerary that we would be at the Cliffs of Moher from 10-1. Unfortunately I was arriving around 11:20. Lunch was being brown bagged at the cafe at noon.


My cabbie asked casually, "Travelling alone, are ya? Your friends do know you're coming, right? I'm not sure I feel as though I can let ya off all by yourself." Now, normally, at this point alone, in a foreign land, I would start sweating, scrambling, spiralling. But the most beautiful thing happened, and it really set the tone for the rest of my trip. I didn't feel scared. I didn't feel alone. I felt capable. For the first time in quite some time, the intrusive chatter of my anxiety and depression relaying my pitfalls and my inabilities was quieted. I WAS IN IRELAND. I ACTUALLY DID IT! I felt home, in my own skin, again. So, I told the cabbie I would figure it out. The group was meeting at noon, I'd drop off my suitcase at the gift shop, and explore the Cliffs. And that is exactly what I did. 

Virginia Gates Photography Ireland
Cliffs of Moher Virginia Gates Photography

The Cliffs themselves were sheer magic. I felt like I could feel myself being grounded, invigorated, brought to life again. Maybe that's was a full night's sleep and no one yelling that they have to go to the bathroom will do to you. But I like to think there is an old magic there. Something that draws you like a magnet, forward and beyond. 

Cliffs of Moher Virginia Gates Photography
Cliffs of Moher Virginia Gates Photography
Cliffs of Moher Virginia Gates Photography

After I explored the Cliffs, I finally got some Wifi at the cafe and found my people. We ate, jumped a bus to Galway and I finally had my Guinness. 

The big joke on the trip was that I can finally say, like all my other friends who have bragged about going to Ireland, the Guinness over there DOES taste so much better!