After my Irish cousin, Caroline, spent some time in college studying and working in Hawaii, she came to visit my family in New Jersey, bringing a few friends along. With her was Aoife O’Grady. Aoife and I got along quite well and even though we haven’t seen each other in years, I knew she’d be perfect for a Wanderer of the Week interview.
In the years since I met Aoife she has continued to travel all over the world to places I’ve been and ones I am dreaming of heading to. She inspires me to keep traveling, and I hope that one day we’ll get to explore a bit together.
Why do you travel?
I travel because I love it. I have a constant urge to see more countries and experience new traditions. This weekend coming I’m blessed to say that I’ll be visiting country number 40. I’m travelling to Lisbon, Portugal with my best friends from college. The memories and friends I have made to date are priceless. Travelling is an education that you can’t learn from any book and something I intend to do until I physically can’t anymore. Travel is life-changing.
I know it’s hard to narrow down, but what are your three favorite places in the world?
This is an incredibly hard question to answer because each country has had its own ‘awe factor’ so the only way I can answer this is to think about 3 different times my jaw literally hit the ground on experiencing a country.
No. 1 for me would have to be Namibia in Africa. I often tell people when trying to describe the country that it was like entering the Lion King. Between the animals, colours and endless landscape, it was breathtaking. Also you will never experience a sunset like an African sunset.
No. 2 is Mongolia. I knew nothing about this stunning country when under-taking the Trans Mongolian Express from China, through Mongolia into Russia. I was blown away by the beautiful countryside and equally beautiful people. I enjoyed sleeping in their traditional yurts.
No. 3 is slightly closer to home and that is Iceland. Experiencing the Northern lights, Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon added to this already spectacular country. I have never breathed in air as clean as the air in Iceland. I got to enjoy this holiday with a bunch of friends I met a few years prior in New Zealand so that was always going to be fun.
How do you make friends while traveling?
My favourite part of travelling has been the life-long friends I have made. It’s the easiest part of travelling because everyone is on the same wave-length and is out to make friends. All it takes is saying hello to the person sitting next to you and the rest is a natural progression. Some of my closest friends in life are the ones I met travelling. Straight away you have so much in common.
If you’ve ever spent a holiday abroad, which was it and how did you celebrate?
I have spent the last three Easter Sundays abroad. The first was spent riding an elephant bare-back through Sri-Lankan forests. I’d just like to add that it was an elephant orphanage where all elephants were treated like their children. None were taken advantage of. The second Easter Sunday was spent sitting in front of the Taj Mahal, a truly breath-taking experience, trying to re-create the famous Princess Diana pose. My latest Easter Sunday was spent hiking the Camino De Santiago, 120km from Sarria to Santiago. This was a very different experience that I wholly enjoyed, my knees on the other hand not so much.
What’s your worst travel experience?
I always seem to be faced with some minor issues on the majority of trips I take, normally stomach related. Very common for most people. Probably the worst experience was when I fainted out of the door of a bus and the ambulance had to be called. This one was completely self-inflicted. Between keeping up with my running training, drinking alcohol for 5 nights in a row and taking on zero water, dehydration was bound to kick in with a bang at some stage. I still laugh about that one. Oh and there was that time I got scabies in Hawaii and was asked to wait outside the hospital because I looked that horrific but that story is for another day.
Share your best travel tip.
Stay positive and constantly remind yourself of how blessed you are to be there in the first place. We all have those days where we come up against some tricky situations when travelling (normally sickness/tiredness related) where you would rather be sitting at home on your own couch. However, you need to think that in a very short space of time you will be back on that couch, bored, day-dreaming of the great holiday you just came back from. Enjoy every experience while you’re living it, it’s very short-lived…unfortunately!
What’s your favorite travel quote? Why?
No doubt this is a favourite of many but my favourite travel quote is “I haven’t been everywhere but it’s on my list.” People often say to me “Sure you must have seen everywhere at this stage?” That couldn’t be further from the truth. In actual fact the more I travel, the more I want to see. It’s a bug I’m never going to lose.
What’s your favorite book to take with you on the road or favorite book about travel?
I love reading positive thinking, mind management books when I’m travelling. There’s something extra special about reading these types of books when you’re away. It just re-enforces how lucky I am to be seeing more of the world. I’ll read anything positive that puts me in a good mood e.g. ‘The Secret’, ‘The Power’, ‘The Alchemist’ etc. The next one I’m saving for a trip is ‘Feel the Fear & Do It Anyway’ by Susan Jeffers.
If you could take one epic journey in the next year, what would it be and why?
I am particularly excited about my up and coming summer trip this year. My plan is to buy a one way ticket to Switzerland and inter-rail around a number of countries and basically come home when my money runs out. Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Austria and Slovenia are on the list but who knows. That’s what makes it so exciting. Pottering aimlessly around is one of my favourite things to do and such a privilege. All I can say is God Bless teacher’s holidays.
In your home country, what’s a destination that you think people should visit?
The four corners of Ireland have so much to offer. Rain or sunshine, Ireland, in my opinion is one of the most beautiful countries. Two personal favourites for me is my home county of Galway. The city is largely based around arts and culture with live music being played on every corner. It’s small, quaint and incredibly friendly. My second recommendation is anywhere in the south of Ireland. The scenery along the Ring of Kerry in particular is next to none. Ireland is a must see.