Insider’s Guide: Dublin

My dear friend Gigi kindly featured me on her blog, The Global Organizerhere. I am posting my featured post below, but I highly recommend checking it out on her blog – because the format is much better (and there are more photos!).

FROM CHELSEA

I’m Chelsea; my passport says I’m American but my heart will tell you I’m Irish. I grew up in Florida, but have known my entire life that I’m meant to live in Ireland. I moved to Ireland in September 2010 (Cork for 6 months, then Dublin) and I genuinely fall more in love with Dublin every single day. It is by far my favourite place in the world and even though my favourite hobby is travelling, I am always happy to come back to Dublin. Dublin has everything: the sea, mountains, beautiful parks and is a city that can either feel like a bustling capital city or a tranquil town, depending on where you are. I even like the Irish weather, which is especially funny coming from someone who is from Florida.

EAT

When people think of Ireland, they usually don’t think of food. Or if they do, they think of meat and potatoes and maybe Lucky Charms. This is changing hugely! When I first moved here in 2010, the foodie scene was non-existent. I am now convinced Dublin has one of the most amazing foodie scenes in the world: I actually think it’s even better than London’s, though I’m a bit biased. We have some incredible restaurants here and you can have top-notch cuisine from just about everywhere around the world. Dublin really knows how to do brunch! P.S. Lucky Charms do not exist here. Well, they do… you can buy a box for 10 euro from one specialityshop! I’d say Ireland produces the best beef, butter, milk and strawberries in the world.

  • Bunsen– Nothing compares to Irish beef. You must try a Bunsen burger: melt-in-your-mouth delicious! Bunsen has a cult following and luckily, there are four locations.
  • Full Irish breakfast – Surprise, potatoes are not generally part of a full Irish! A full Irish usually consists of eggs (usually fried, but you can request otherwise), rashers (bacon), sausages, baked beans, black and white pudding, fried tomato and toast. Make sure you try some incredible Irish butter on your toast… even better, if you have an option of having brown bread / brown soda bread, choose that!!
  • Guinness at the Guinness Storehouse or most pubs (it’s debatable who has the best Guinness!) My vote would be for a pint at the Cobblestone because of the atmosphere – you can listen to live traditional Irish music if you’re there in the evening.
  • Brunch is a way of life in Dublin. I have many favourite brunch places – one of them is Two Pups Coffee, in a great old neighborhood called The Liberties. They have great coffee, unique food (avocado toast with peanut butter!! Trust me, it’s fantastic) and the staff is super friendly.
  • Modern Irish (Whitefriar Grill and The Winding Stair) – Irish pub food (L. Mulligan Grocer in Stoneybatter / O’Neills / The Hairy Lemon) –Fish & Chips (Beshoff Bros or Leo Burdock) – Neapolitan pizza (Cirillo’s) – Sushi (Musashi and Kokoro) – Indian (Pickle) – TexMex (Boojum) – Ice cream (Murphy’s or a 99 cone from Teddy’s in Dun Laoghaire) – Vegan (The Happy Pear and Cornucopia) – Salads (Sprout) – Lebanese (The Cedar Tree or Damascus Gate) – Vietnamese(Pho Ta and Aobaba) – Michelin Star (Chapter One) – Tapas (Las Tapas de Lola or PortHouse) – Pasta (DaMimmo and Rosa Madre) – Unique fine dining experience(Taste at Rustic – Peruvian and Japanese fusion) – Best Egg’s Benedict (Wuff) – Best scones (Emer’s Kitchen and Brother Hubbard) – Favourite newcomer(Nutbutter – healthy food) – Sandwich (Green Bench Café) – Amazing views (Sophie’s at The Dean) – Dessert (Nutella Cheesecake at either Taco Taco or San Lorenzo’s; though unfortunately, you cannot go only for dessert) – Donuts (Rolling Donut) – Coffee (Proper Order, Clement and Pekoe, Il Valentino, Butler’s)

PLAY

  • Cliff walk: Either Bray to Greystones and lunch at The Happy Pear if you feel like eating healthy or Howth cliff walk followed by fish and chips
  • Guinness Storehouse
  • On your way to Trinity College to see the Old Library and the Book of Kells, wander through St. Stephen’s Green park and then down Grafton Street, stopping to listen to various buskers.

STAY

This is something I can’t really comment on, seeing as I’ve only ever lived in Dublin. I’ve never been here as a tourist. However, I know if money were no object and I could stay anywhere in Dublin, I would choose either the Merrion or the Shelbourne. For someone on a major budget, I know the Generator hostel in Smithfield is great as far as hostels go.

The best areas in Dublin to stay in are: Dublin 2 (safest and nicest part of the city centre), Dublin 4 (just a bit outside the city centre and very posh), Dublin 6 (very local neighbourhood), Smithfield/Stoneybatter in Dublin 7, Dublin 8 if you want to be near the Guinness Storehouse and Phoenix Park. Stay away from Temple Bar in Dublin 2 if you want any peace and quiet.

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Ireland is the land of a hundred thousand welcomes (Céad Míle Fáilte) and is, in my humble opinion, the most magical place on earth.

“It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what that love is for; for some it’s the friendliness Irish people are famous for, or the beautiful landscapes or the incredible produce we are becoming renowned for. Or perhaps it’s something a little less tangible. Perhaps that love of Ireland is more an emotion, a moment, an elusive feeling that we know intimately well but might find hard to describe. It’s what makes us love this country no matter the weather, it’s how we feel landing in Dublin Airport after a stint away. It’s the taste of a proper strong cuppa, it’s the craic, the kindness and the bold humour. It’s the thought of holing up in a cosy pub with a creamy pint of Guinness and the deep conviction that when the sun shines there’s nowhere else you’d rather be. It’s the sight of the Phoenix Park in the autumn when the trees are molten amber and the deep, burgeoning pride when our county takes home the Sam Maguire cup.” ~Author Unknown

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FAVORITE TRAVEL HACK

  • Charles Schwab bank is my best discovery – they are my American bank of choice and I adore my Schwab debit card because they refund ALL ATM fees – local or international! Bonus: they have fabulous customer service.

Summer Road Trips

Part 2 of my “photo diary of the best summer of my life” … featuring four different road trips!

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Went on a road trip with my friend I to Wexford to meet his beautiful horse Rueben!

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Basically a horse whisperer

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Went to Wicklow with my friend G to attempt to find Lough Ouler – no such luck! We were convinced the lake dried up in the drought. Beautiful hike anyway

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Road trip with I and Mommy Z to Mayo and Achill Island

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Keem Beach, Achill

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Watermelon ice lollies and singing the Greatest Showman soundtrack as loud as possible

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Clew Bay, Mayo

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View of Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s holiest mountain

I hired a car and drove for the first time ever in Ireland (properly – I tried when I first arrived in 2010). I can’t believe it took me five years. I drove from Dublin to Dingle and then around the Dingle Peninsula, which was exhilarating… especially driving Conor Pass!!!

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Solo road trip to Dingle – Conor Pass

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Conor Pass

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Dingle town

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Boat trip to Great Blasket Island – view of Dingle

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Beach on Great Blasket Island

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Incredibly clear water

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Hanging out with about a hundred seals on the beach!

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Inquisitive sheep on the Great Blasket Island

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My hired car

My trip to the Great Blasket Island was truly incredible, but was not without its consequences. As you can see, I had the best weather imaginable, which I am still so grateful for. Unfortunately, after 7 hours on and off a small boat, I got reverse sea sickness and ‘wanted’ to go to a hospital in the middle of the night due to dehydration and how sick I was. I resisted, simply because the nearest hospital was a fair distance away. Regardless, I can’t recommend this magnificent island enough. I would have loved to stay overnight – I can’t think of a better, more remote place to escape the madness of this world! This is the company I booked for the boat trip and they truly were one of the best small companies I have ever dealt with.

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Dingle town

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Dún Chaoin

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The stunning Dún Chaoin

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Dingle town

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Views along the Slea Head drive

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Foxy John’s pub in Dingle – doubles as a hardware shop

Summer on/in the Sea

Ireland isn’t known for good summers or hot weather, but summer 2018 was an exception. Ireland experienced the longest stretch of heat (and sun) since 1976. After the extreme winter we had (blizzards in March!) – it was that much more enjoyable. I remember the joy of looking out the window every morning and seeing the sun and knowing that the sun would last and be consistent throughout the day (not needing to bring a jumper or a rain jacket – whaaaaaat?!).

I found out on the 30th of May that I had to leave Ireland on 1st September. This was completely devastating news for me, but I knew I had to make Summer 2018 the best of my life… and that is exactly what I did.

Part 1 of my “Photo diary of the best summer of my life” – sea swims, walks near the water and sea adventures

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Vico Baths – my most favourite swim spot

Prior to summer 2018, I swam in the sea in Ireland just once – in Galway in October 2016. However, I had never been swimming in Dublin and I was determined to not only do it, but to enjoy it. I loved cold water when I was a small child, but from pre-adolescence until the age of 29, I absolutely despised swimming in cold water. The sea in Ireland never gets warmer than about 56F/13C, so it isn’t exactly an easy feat for someone who hates being in cold water. I can officially say Summer 2018 is the summer that I became completely addicted to sea swimming in Ireland. It is invigorating, refreshing and makes you feel so alive.

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Me with my arms up

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Sunrise swim at 6am in Greystones – no sunrise that morning, but still a beautiful experience

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Sandycove

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SUPing in Dún Laoghaire

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Kayaking in the River Liffey

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When the sun shines in Ireland – EVERYONE is outside / Sandycove

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First time jumping off the Forty Foot

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Magical day facing our fears and soaking up the sun

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Howth cliff walk (after taking a cruise from Dún Laoghaire)

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My favourite view in the world – the Poolbeg Chimneys

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Great South Wall walk – Poolbeg Lighthouse

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Sandymount / the beginning of the Great South Wall walk

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Howth

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Sandymount beach sunset walk

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Sandymount Beach

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Kite Fest at North Bull Island

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Grand Canal Dock

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Bray to Greystones cliff walk

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Epic sunsets on the piers of Dún Laoghaire

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Brown grass in St. Stephen’s Green – something I have NEVER seen before! The downside to the heatwave – severe drought and water restrictions

Slán to my twenties

I turn 30 at the end of this month. Thirty. How is that possible? Even just typing this opening line, my heart is hammering in my chest at the thought of no longer being in my twenties. I know “age is just a number” and “you’re only as old as you feel”, but I’ll be dealing with my greatest life challenge just days after my birthday for the next year and, well, the timing is pretty bad.

I won’t get into the specifics of my challenge now, but it is common knowledge that everyone strives to get their act together and be settled in many aspects of life by the age of 30. I was on the right track: I secured my dream permanent job, live in my favourite city in the world, finally found an apartment that I love, am surrounded by an incredible group of friends and I feel settled in pretty much every aspect of my life. I finally feel like an (semi) adult, for the first time in my life. This is all being taken from me, five days after I turn 30. This is why I am having such a hard time entering a new decade, and such an important decade at that. I never dreamed I’d have to start over at the age of 30.

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Let’s turn to the positive: I will be celebrating my 30th with a very dear friend in Copenhagen. Why did I choose Copenhagen? 1) The majority of Europe is too hot for my liking at the end of August. The weather in Copenhagen should be (fingers crossed) perfect. 2) Copenhagen is where the Little Mermaid was born and I am a mermaid, so it is only logical! 3) I have always wanted to go to Copenhagen and didn’t want to celebrate my birthday in a place where there is an overwhelming amount of things to see and do. I think Copenhagen will be the perfect place to relax and just be for a few days.

My twenties have felt as fast as the blink of an eye, honestly. I remember turning 20 and 21 like it was yesterday. The twenties is a tumultuous learning decade for everyone, but I feel I handled my twenties very well. I graduated with my B.A. at the age of 21. I went (and moved) abroad for the first time at the age of 22 and immediately found my place – Ireland. What a year that was. I travelled around the world solo at the age of 25 and I think back on that trip with pure amazement every day of my life. I secured my dream job and graduated with my M.Ed at the age of 28. I’ve had so many beautiful adventures in my twenties and really hope I will continue living this way in my thirties, to an extent.

“We are born not all at once, but by bits.” – Mary Antin

“Uncertainty will always be a part of the taking charge process.” – Harold Geneen

“Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.” – Søren Kierkegaard

Reflecting on 2017

Overall, 2017 was a very good year. It consisted of some turbulent times for me, but overall very positive. A few life changes, too! This year definitely flew by faster than any other year for me. I visited 3 new countries (Spain, Czech Republic and Slovenia) and visited an area of Italy I’ve never been to before (Tuscany). I also returned to my favourite destination outside of Ireland (Napoli).

January – I rang in the New Year with my family in Florida, something I hadn’t done in a couple years. — I finally saw Tommy Tiernan live in Dublin.

February – I submitted the hard-bound copy of my dissertation. — I visited Barcelona over my mid-term break.

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March – I presented my research at the IGC’s annual conference. — Celebrated my life wife’s birthday in style (and in the sun!). — Our St. Paddy’s Day celebrations exceeded expectations! We celebrated at the Guinness Storehouse and expected to be annoyed by touristy events, but it was a blast!!

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April – My sister visited me – we had a few days in Dublin, then we went to Prague, Ljubljana and Bled. When we returned to Dublin, my parents joined us for my Master’s graduation.

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May – (and end of April) I joined my parents in Tuscany, Italy for a long weekend.

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June – I treated myself to a night in a luxury hotel since I couldn’t take a holiday this summer. I had 5 days off between the last day of school and the start of my summer job. — I had a 16 week blow dry done for the first time and my life was changed forever! — My Christmas gift from my life wife was a trip to London to see Adele, which turned out to be extra special since it was unexpectedly her last planned live show!

July – Saw Passenger in Iveagh Gardens thanks to A, who got me a ticket for my birthday. — Began living my best life on Mondays with my life wife – where we ditched work to do cliff walks while singing Queen followed by afternoon cocktails in the sun!

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August – August was a month full of change and mixed emotions. Celebrated my anniversary of moving in with my life wife on our actual move-in date. I moved into my very own studio apartment, which is a bit of a dream come true. I have no commute to work and live in one of the most beautiful areas of Dublin. However, moving out of my two bedroom apartment in my favourite area of Dublin (Smithfield) and no longer living with my life wife was the hardest adjustment I’ve had to make in my life thus far (I sobbed on moving day). — I found out I was able to return to the school I worked in last year – the most wonderful surprise! — Celebrated my 29th birthday with a beautiful brunch – a place we had never been before, but quickly became one of our top two favourite brunches in Dublin!

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September – Said “see you soon” to my life wife and saw her off to Los Angeles. I threw myself into work once she left to distract myself.

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October – Normally my favourite month of the year, but unfortunately was a very bad month for me for reasons I won’t go into right now. It was all good at the end of the month though – I went to Napoli on my mid-term break and all was right with the world again. I ate 4 pizzas in 3 days… more details to come!

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November – Finally visited the National Botanic Gardens for the first time. Saw the Grafton Street Christmas lights lit up on the first night with my friend N, while eating Terry’s Chocolate Orange McFlurries.

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December – Welcomed my life wife back to Dublin for a few days for her viva… what a beautiful reunion it was! We had the absolute best 5.5 days and did ate everything we set out to do eat. — I am getting ready to fly home to Florida for Christmas and feel very blessed that I get to do so. It hasn’t hit me yet though… I’ve been so busy and it’s also currently very mild in Dublin (today was 13C/55F), so it no longer feels very Christmassy (it did until this week!). I am so excited to be home and watch Christmas movies with my family. I haven’t been home since last Christmas.

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I am NOT ready for January and February in Ireland, but am pretty excited for 2018! For one, it’s an even number, which makes me feel a bit more calm for some reason. What’s on the horizon? So far the only plan I have is to join my life wife in France over my February mid-term break and to continue Sean Nós dancing. Who knows what’s next for me? I’ll begin a new decade next year, so I’ll try to plan something big! Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas… see you in the New Year!

Reflecting on 2016

As I write this, I have been awake for 33 hours straight and my head feels like it is swaying from exhaustion and jetlag, half of my heart is broken into a million pieces, while the other half is whole and my hands are so cold I can’t feel them. But I am still feeling so very blessed. 2016 was a year full of blessings for me, so I would like to take some time to reflect on my year.

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Flying over Florida

I feel like a lot of people feel that 2016 was a rough year, but I am not one of those people. 2016 was overwhelmingly positive and quite literally life-changing for me.

It didn’t start in a great way. I was in and out of agony from gallstones for 13 months and was scheduled to finally have my gallbladder removed on the 11th of January. I stupidly did not have private health insurance in Ireland (I do now – I learned my lesson!) and the public system is awful here. They cancelled my operation. Thankfully, a new team took me on and my surgeon fought for me and I finally had my gallbladder removed on the 24th of January. I never thought I’d be so excited to be taken in for an operation. Life without a gallbladder is glorious and I am so lucky I have not suffered any repercussions.

In April, I was very busy interviewing twelve guidance counsellors around Dublin for my Master’s dissertation. I thoroughly enjoyed this process and feel I learned an incredible amount from them.

In May, I surprised by sister by flying home for her college graduation. It was a very quick trip home, but so worth it. I will forever be grateful that I was there for this special day.

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I started Sean Nós dancing in July and in less than two weeks, I am moving up to the advanced class! After a 6-year hiatus from dancing, my soul needed it again. I missed tapping the most, so I figured I would try something similar (but also very different) and a style that would allow me to dance to beautiful traditional Irish music. Now I never want to stop!

I went to the Fleadh in Ennis. Enough said. (Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann is a traditional Irish music competition)

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I celebrated my 28th birthday in Oxford with my life wife – an unforgettable, perfect weekend!

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I visited my dear friend H in Galway for 24 hours and we went swimming in the sea – my first time swimming in the sea in Ireland!! The water was 14C/57F.

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For Thanksgiving, my favourite day of the year, my life wife and I celebrated with 21 friends in our apartment. This was our 3rd annual Friendsgiving that we’ve hosted together in Dublin and our hearts were warmed more than ever with the turnout and enjoyment that was had that evening. In 2016, Thanksgiving helped me realise that, more than ever, the support system I have here is truly incredible. (I still can’t believe we squashed 23 people in our sitting/dining room!)

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Two hours after I submitted my dissertation, I got a call for my very first “career” interview – at the best school in Ireland. I didn’t get the job, but the interview went well and was great practice for me. I got the second job I interviewed for and it’s the perfect job for me. I am so happy. I am so incredibly proud of myself for beginning my career in another country.

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I took this photo right before I went in for my interview – St. Stephen’s Green

I went to northern Germany for a long weekend with my dear friend H in mid-December. She is from the small town of Schönberg, where we stayed with her loving parents. They welcomed me and treated me like one of their own for the whole weekend and I had a wonderful, relaxing time. We explored 3 different Christmas markets together and this was my very first time in Germany.

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Weihnachtsmarkt Stockseehof

I recently found out that I passed my dissertation with no corrections… meaning I am officially finished with my Master’s degree! I was also invited to present my results at the annual conference for guidance counsellors in March.

I was able to spend Christmas at home with my family. After spending two Christmases away, it’s not something I ever want to do again. I am so grateful that I was able to fly home this year, especially since I just started my new job in mid-November (perks of working at a school!). I had the most beautiful time at home, though it went way too quickly. This was a family focused visit; I unfortunately did not have enough time to see any friends on this trip.

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Christmas in Florida – Shephards at Clearwater Beach

To elaborate on my opening paragraph: I returned to Dublin yesterday from Florida and it was a longer journey than it should have been. As always, I had to take a red-eye flight, which I despise because I cannot sleep on planes, EVER. Half of my heart is broken into a million pieces because I had to leave my family. All expats can relate to this – it never gets easier. Ever. In fact, I think it only gets harder every time. I rarely feel lonely when I’m alone, but currently do, big time. I miss my family desperately and especially miss the little moments with them. The other half of my heart is whole because I am back in my favourite place in the world. I never thought I’d say this, but I am really missing the Florida sunshine and beautiful weather because my hands are so cold I cannot feel them. How quickly I forgot how perpetually cold my bones are here thanks to the dampness!

2016 was a year full of blessings for me and I am really excited to see what 2017 brings. Definitely on the list: enjoying my last guaranteed year in Ireland, hopefully travelling somewhere with my sister, graduation in April (and my parents are coming!), long weekend in Italy with my parents and enjoying my last months living with my life wife/best friend. The rest is still unwritten.

Emerging Adult

I am no longer a student.

I cannot believe I just typed those words! I submitted my dissertation exactly one month ago today, on the 12th of September. I am only just now starting to feel some relief and am quite surprised it took this long. I was extremely busy immediately after submitting but as soon as I could, I spent four days in a row doing absolutely nothing. I literally spent each of those days lying in bed and staring at the ceiling and out the window… and it was absolutely glorious. It is exactly what I needed to reset myself mentally and physically because, as expected, the last two weeks of writing my dissertation were extremely intense.

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Exactly two and a half hours after submitting my dissertation, I got a phone call and received the news that I had my first guidance counselling job interview. My very first interview for a career-focused job… my very first interview for a job I actually wanted, not simply needed. I could not even believe the timing – I was on the most incredible high that day. The interview went well and I am very proud of myself, even though I did not get the job. I know there is something out there for me and I still have a very positive outlook on my job search. I’ve been spending my days applying for jobs, relaxing, spending time with friends and generally being excited about autumn’s arrival in Dublin. I’ve already enjoyed multiple pumpkin and butternut squash dishes with my lifewife/bestie and we started officially planning for Thanksgiving on the 1st of October.

Since I have finally had some much needed downtime, I have had a lot of time to think. I feel like I officially became an adult over the last month. It’s of course been a gradual process and much of it has been evidenced in my blog, but I feel it really happened sometime between the 12th of September and today, the 12th of October. I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be an adult, and, while I’ll never really grow up by choice, I’ve thought about these changes in myself and it’s fascinating to think about. On my 21st birthday, I tried various alcoholic drinks and hated everything I tried and remember thinking “I will never drink alcohol” (this obviously changed). The same goes for coffee. I remember, in my early and even mid-twenties, my dad telling me that I would enjoy coffee one day. I smile to myself thinking that one of his greatest joys in life is enjoying a coffee with some sort of pastry or sweet. This is now one of my greatest joys and consider myself to be a coffee connoisseur. I used to laugh at my dad and shake my head when he told me this. I am also officially tired of not knowing where I will (physically) be in one year’s time. I am ready to settle somewhere and have a place I can call my own. I want to be able to buy things without thinking about how I will transport it across the Atlantic Ocean if needs be. I am also very eager to begin my career and look forward to the day that I am hopefully settled in one job that I love. Another very adult thought as of late: I have realised I generally do not believe in soulmates (though there are exceptions). When it comes to romantic relationships, I don’t think there is only one person on this earth you are meant to be with. I think it depends on timing and where you are in a particular moment of time. And I have realised that friendship, companionship and compatibility is more important to me in a relationship than romance.

I am excited to see how I change and progress over the next couple months. I cannot believe how quickly October is flying by! Things to look forward to: lots of time with friends, new Gilmore Girls episodes (!), Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving (our 3rd annual and it means the world to us that our friends are as excited as we are!) and hopefully going home for Christmas.