The unexpectedly frosty morning that stopped everyone in their tracks a couple of months ago in Sligo was a gentle reminder that the winter is coming and is coming fast. And before I could even blink – December and the festive season that usually provides a welcome break from daily routines and responsibilities was upon us and then gone again for another year.
As we were nearing the end of the year, it dawned on me that the thing we might be celebrating the most is the fact that 2021 is almost over. If you’re anything like us, December looked a little different and so did the holidays. Normally we’d be bouncing around between parties with family, friends and neighbours. As that didn’t happen, we used the holidays as a time to reset.
Generally, I love rounding up the year, and I love looking back at the last twelve months, too. That way I know what I did well, the areas I could improve on and how I can go about planning for the next chapter of my life. One of the things I like to do the most, no matter how good or bad the year has been, is look back and celebrate all my achievements no matter how big or small.
But this year, I debated whether I was going to write a recap blog post at all, considering all that has happened in 2021. Last year was an incredibly difficult year for so many people and I know going into 2022 we will still have struggles ahead.
What can I say that hasn’t already been said? So much has happened this year, or hasn’t happened as the case may be. This is the year that flew by and simultaneously dragged on for eternity. It all felt like one never-ending groundhog day of time spent at home cancelling trips, plans and people.
Our usual travel wish list was swapped for a goal sheet that listed investment in self-care, spending quality time with family, reading more and being outside more.
At the end of 2020, I didn’t set any New Year resolutions because thanks to the pandemic crises I learned not to plan too far ahead into the future, or expect the future to look a certain way. Instead, it taught me to live more in the present and be thankful for every day I get to be with my family and friends.
So I eventually decided to use this post as an opportunity to remember the good memories we made during such a strange and heartbreaking year and fill myself up with gratitude as we go into 2022 because despite all the craziness there were plenty of good times too.
Enjoying Many Amazing Staycations
So many emotions run through me as I flip through our travel photos from last year and look back on all the trips we have been on around Ireland and Sligo. Boy, did I feel lucky to call Ireland home last year as we mostly stayed within its borders?
Time and time again, I was reminded that Ireland is a beautiful place worth seeing and exploring. And last year made me appreciate how much there is to explore in our backyard and it showed me that even when travel fully opens back up again, I don’t need to take a 10-hour flight to arrive somewhere incredible.
We travelled together to explore Inishowen Peninsula and visited Glenveagh National Park. We took a boat to Clare Island to see the burial site of Gráinne O’Malley and roamed around Burren National Park in search of pink orchids. We visited many archaeological sites in Sligo and were blown away by the variety of tombs and cairns.
Celebrating Our Fourth Blogiversary
The last week of December marked four years since we started our blog and published our first post, how exciting is that?
Yes, it’s been four years of blogging, editing, learning, growing, pouring out words and proofreading. And, thanks to the eventful festive season, the special day almost slipped by without us realising the anniversary had crept up. Undoubtedly, the best part of joining the online writing community has been an opportunity to connect with people from all walks of life.
And that’s why, we didn’t want to let this year go by without saying a big, and warm Thank You to our readers! We are thankful for all of you and your posts, the messages you send us with your thoughts, encouragements, reviews, and your appreciation of the stories we write.
Travelling to Belfast and visiting Titanic Museum
In order to enjoy the ability to finally freely travel within Ireland, we set out on our very first overnight stay since the pandemic started.
Instead of flicking overseas, we made a decision to stay close to home and travel to Northern Ireland’s capital to witness the wonderful charm that Belfast possesses, and couldn’t be happier with everything we had a chance to see along the way.
We started with a short stop at Belfast Castle and Botanic Gardens followed by a visit to the Titanic Museum where we had a chance to experience the full history of the ship and all about how it was built. We also enjoyed the picturesque setting and cobbled streets of the Cathedral Quarter and walking around St Georges Market.
Ericeira Starting Big School For the First Time
The school uniform was bought, the lunch box was packed with healthy treats, and the pencils were sharpened. Now all there was to do is for our baby to start Big School for the first time.
I was feeling emotional because the first day of school – from the moment Ericeira put on the uniform and a backpack with adjustable straps and joined thousands of other children who also started their first-level education, turned out to be exciting and a little daunting.
Exiting because Ericeira was starting a new chapter in her life, learning a variety of new and exciting things, making friends and starting friendships that would last a lifetime.
A little daunting because, well, letting go of Ericeiras hand at the school gate and watching her walk away all while I was trying to hold back the tears, made me realise that she belonged to the world, to herself and in a way it marked the end of her total reliance on us.
I know that the bittersweet moment is all part of the journey through parenthood and I also know that it was her time to shine and find out more about herself.
Celebrating my 40th Birthday
It felt good to be turning the big 4-0. I am right where I want to be. I tend to be more open to new ideas, and more open-minded in general – probably because I have gathered experience of life under my middle-aged-spread challenged belts!
As I get older, I find myself gravitating towards the finer, simple things—like a beautifully baked loaf of sourdough or picnic in a park with matching table cloths, adorable wicker baskets, cheese from my local farmers market and enough green tea to satisfy a small army.
As I didn’t have the time or the money to send myself on an international soiree (let alone pay for the child care and keep an eye on travel restrictions, yikes) to mark the special occasion, I still wanted to make a lasting memory given that this is an important birthday. After all, it’s a decade of increased confidence and wisdom where all of the hard work and initial decisions of youth seem to hit their stride.
And thus, in the spur of the moment, I gathered my family and wisket them on a memorable trip to Edinburgh.
Travelling to Edinburgh
With the persistent threat of coronavirus and ever-changing travel restrictions, we avoided overseas travel and stuck to less-risky domestic vacations for the past two and half years. After all, we live in a shared world and therefore for all of us to be healthy and prosperous, we need to take care of each other and be mindful of our own personal health and that of others’ personal health.
While I was still reluctant to plan future trips, I knew that boarding a plane for a short, 40-minute plane ride to Edinburgh, would be a great way to mark my Birthday especially as I had just received my third vaccine and felt safe enough to be exposed to other people in a fairly tight aeroplane.
Being Shortlisted for the Ocean Hero Award
It was such an honour to receive an email from Clean Coast and find out that we’ve been shortlisted for an Ocean Hero Award 2021 under the Enjoy and Protect category along with many other volunteers from Ireland who takes their time to look after our beautiful coast.
When we moved from Dublin to Sligo in search of a better work/life balance, we were constantly exposed to the ocean that was drowning under the mountain of plastic and trash that humans have created.
We started by picking up as much litter as we could after our surf sessions, but seeing how much rubbish was still left, we made a conscious decision to carve out as much time as possible in order to do weekly beach cleanups.
We probably make a tiny dent trying to keep our beaches clean from the increasing trash, but we find comfort in taking small actions as sometimes small is all we are able to do to protect what we love. We may not be able to change the world, but if it stops one bird or fish from snacking on plastic pieces, then it still matters.
Happy New Year! I hope all your endeavours in 2022 are successful.
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Now, over to you!
What was your most memorable highlight of the year?
Let us know in the comments below.