As a journalist, sometimes you write articles you might not be very interested in, or have any personal connection to – and sometimes you get to write articles you are very personally connected to because they’re stemming from your own lived experience.

I absolutely loved going on a trip down memory lane to write this week’s main article for our Living Life section (Come Sail Away). My 20s were, at times, extremely stressful. I was broke, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life and I was coming to terms with “adulting” tasks, like repaying my student loans (thanks, Canada) or figuring out how to open a bank account in a foreign country. My 20s were also extremely special – I met my husband while living and teaching in South Korea, whom I have been with since 2008, and I got to see a lot of the world. Sometimes, a girl just gets lucky.

When travelling in my 20s, I was happy “roughing it”. Would I be as happy doing that now? I don’t know. However, the stories and experiences I have gained from years of backpacking, taking the cheapest forms of transport and staying in the dingiest of hostels are worth any discomfort I might have had at the time. One of my favourite stories involved a train ride from the small Indonesian town of Probolinggo to the larger city of Surabaya. Our ticket (in “ekonomi” class) cost about €0.35 and it was standing room only.

I was shocked to see we would be speeding down the train track in a car with no doors or windows; back to back with all of the other passengers (chickens included). But I boarded and said a little prayer to get us safely to our destination. We were the only non-Indonesians in this train car. As my (quite tall) husband boarded, he smacked his head – hard – against the door frame and swore loudly. The entire car stopped talking, stared at him, and then burst out laughing. That broke the ice.

The journey became extremely enjoyable as our car-mates chatted with us about their lives, invited us to their homes for dinner, shared fried tofu snacks with us and compared electronics (this was a time when iPods were the latest craze). I don’t think we would have had the same experience in the first class car.

Now, my student loans are paid off. I am living a bit more comfortably and two of my Canadian aunties are planning a visit in September; leaving the majority of the planning to me. Unlike my backpacking past, for this trip I am planning nicer hotel stays and country garden visits with a few pub lunches and shopping trips thrown in for good measure.

I find it funny when Canadians plan their first visit to Ireland. Coming from such a geographically massive place to a country a great deal smaller than most of their provinces, they think they can traipse from one end of the country to the other in a few short hours. I consistently have to play the bad guy; telling them they can go to west Cork or Mayo; The Giant’s Causeway or Dingle. I suggest routes and day trips which inevitably leave at least one person feeling disappointed.

First-time Canadian visitors don’t believe me when I tell them it is nearly impossible to see all of Ireland in one week. I think it messes with their sense of perception, because you can drive across the entire length of Canada in a week (thanks to the Trans-Canada Highway). Sure, you could see a lot of Ireland in a week, if you really rushed yourself – but why would you want to do that? If you see it all in one trip, you have very little to come back for! And if I’ve learned anything from my years of slow travel, it’s that the journey is as important as the destination.

Read more

Life is too short to eat sad, tasteless food - I want my kids to know that

Editorial: what do you do when your kids hate your cooking?