*This blog post is written in partnership with booking.com who sponsored my hotel stays in Dublin and Galway for my latest visit to Ireland.
“Is this your first time in Ireland?”
I smile at Martin, the friendly Doorman to the Temple Bar Inn, my hotel in Dublin for the start of my latest Irish adventure.
“No, it’s my 8th time.”
“EIGHT! Jaysus. You’re Irish then. No doubt, you’re Irish now. Welcome back.”
My smile expands as I hear the words that make my heart happy every time I return to the emerald isle “welcome back”.
Since my first visit to Ireland in 2011, when I decided I wanted to kick-start my travel career by moving across the ocean to live in Galway, I’ve been back on a yearly basis. Well, that’s not quite true. I missed getting back in 2016 so made up for it by visiting twice in 2017.
As someone who works as a travel writer and blogger and hungers to see as much as the world as possible, I’m constantly asked why I keep returning to Ireland. The easy answer? I love it and it keeps calling me back.
The truth is, Ireland feels like home to me almost as much as Canada does and while I absolutely love throwing myself into new cultures and destinations, there’s a lot to be said, especially for solo travellers, about being somewhere you know and are comfortable in.
I like to think I’m a confident traveller. At least, I appear to be one, but the truth is that I always panic a bit before I go somewhere new. My over-active imagination loves to cycle through possibilities of getting lost, missing flights, taking the wrong bus, getting into a tricky situation, and basically thinking of every other thing that could possibly go wrong (thanks brain!). And while I appreciate a challenge and love experiencing new cultures and places, the fact is that going somewhere new always means being more alert, more cautious, and more on-guard. Which, as any of my fellow women can relate to, is something that females already have to deal with on a regular basis. Sure, it’s fun and rewarding but it can be mentally exhausting.
Which brings me back to why I keep going back to Ireland.
Every time I land in Dublin airport; I can feel myself relax. There’s no panic about how to get to my accommodation, where to find the local bus, or worrying about haggling for a taxi which are some of the things I stress the most about when travelling. Instead, I just grab my bag and head outside. I know what city buses go to Dublin city centre, or where to catch the bigger buses that will take me across the country to Galway.
Another perk to being so familiar with Ireland means it’s easy for me to choose accommodation. As a solo female traveller, I’m constantly reading reviews and checking maps before I book a hotel. I’m by no means a diva when it comes to places to spend the night, but I do need things to be clean, safe, and central enough for me to explore by foot. Thanks to spending so much time in Ireland, I know the best neighbourhoods to stay in. Places that are safe and close to the main attractions. Like the Temple Bar Inn on Fleet Street in Dublin; Less than 5 minutes to Trinity College, 20 minutes to Stephen’s Green, and maybe 2 minutes to the famous Temple Bar itself. If I was new to Ireland I might be worried about staying in this famous nightlife district, but based on my experiences I know the Temple Bar is actually a great place to be and full of people and tourists, meaning I won’t stand out as an obvious target if I come back later after a night out.
The same goes for Galway, my old hometown in Ireland. It’s a small enough city and easy to get around, but I love that Forster Court Hotel is right beside the bus station that I use to get to and from the city, meaning I don’t have to worry about lugging my big suitcase through the mass of crowds that can regularly be found on Shop Street or Eyre Square. I know that it’s no more than a 15-minute walk from my favourite pubs and restaurants in the city and that there’s a small convenience shop a minute away, perfect for grabbing my favourite Irish snack; cheese and onion Taytos.
Insider tip: I use booking.com for hotels and accommodation when I travel. Because I use it so much I’m a ‘genius’ member which gives me 10% off most properties. Plus, booking.com is safe, reliable, and has a great selection of accommodation options in Ireland. Check them out here.
As mentioned above, being a return visitor means I also have my favourite places. I know what pubs have friendly staff who will strike up a conversation with me if I’m sitting alone at the bar. I know the restaurants with the fresh seafood, and where to find smaller more local spots away from the tourists. I have my favourite spots for tea or hot chocolate when I need to warm up, oh, and ice cream for all types of weather because it’s never too cold for delicious ice cream! Sure, having a favourite tea shop might seem silly, but we’ve all been places before where we crave something comforting and Ireland has plenty of that for me.
Another huge perk, especially for me, is that I’ve learned the public transit system and I know how to get around the country. For some, that might seem like a silly thing to get excited about but if you’ve been following my adventures for a while then you’ll understand why this is important to me. After all, I think I’m the queen of getting on the wrong bus/train and showing up at the wrong airport. Having a transit system that I can easily understand and navigate takes away a lot of stress.
Finally, one of the biggest parts of why I keep coming back is because of the people. I never realized how friendly and warm Canadians were until I left home. While I’ve made friends around the world, there are definitely some places where I feel significantly more welcome than others, and Ireland tops that list. The warm smiles and friendly ‘hellos’ I’m greeted with reminds me of being in Canada and, as a sarcastic jokester myself, I love the Irish sense of humour.
At the end of the day, it’s a comfort thing. Ireland allows me to relax and feel at ease while still being able to explore. It’s the perfect combination of feeling at home but also feeling like I am on an adventure. There’s always something new to see or find and I can fall back on my favourites.
Do I still want to see as much of the world as possible? Absolutely. But, I will also continue to see and explore more of Ireland. After all, they say home is where the heart is and Ireland absolutely holds a piece of my heart.
PS: Looking for Ireland planning trips? I have some Ireland content here on this blog, but I also run an Ireland-specific blog full of tips, itinerary suggestions, and guides. Check out Ireland Stole My Heart for help planning your next visit to Ireland.