With its beauty, hospitality and cultural heritage, it’s easy to see how Ireland can wrap you up in her magic. That was certainly the case for past Trafalgar guest Michelle. She explained in her Trafalgar Unlocked Awards entry why she and her best friend of 30 years chose Ireland as the destination to tour after the passing of her husband.
“This was meant to be a trip of a lifetime for us,” the South Australian local said in the entry. “My husband passed away before we could go, so my beautiful friend encouraged me.
“Two years later we got our passports and off we went to Ireland. What a lifesaving trip it was for me! We laughed and cried and met some lifelong friends from all parts of the world thanks to our Trafalgar trip. This magical place was so healing.”
Let’s find out more about Michelle’s life-changing trip, what it was like on the road with her best friend, and where she wants to travel to next.
In your Trafalgar Unlocked Awards entry, you mentioned that Ireland was meant to be a “trip-of-a-lifetime” for you and your husband. Why was Ireland the destination you both wanted to visit most?
We had talked about going overseas when we retired, but then were devastated to find out Wayne was unwell. After his first round of treatment things looked pretty positive, so we decided to sell our motorbikes and go on this trip. It would have been our first and last major trip.
We went to his three-month check-up only to be told that the cancer was back, and he would need more aggressive treatment to keep it at bay. We did everything we could over the next 18 months but unfortunately it wasn’t enough. It’s just passed the 10th anniversary since we lost him.
I have always had a love of Ireland and Scotland. I’m not sure why, but just felt drawn to go there. Wayne wanted to go to America and drive Route 66 so that was our plan – Ireland and America before we retired.
In the end you travelled with your best friend Sharon. What was that like being on the road in Ireland together?
It was amazing to travel with Sharon. I decided that I wanted to do the Ireland trip as a way of maybe healing, and even though Wayne couldn’t be there he would be with me in my heart.
Sharon said she wouldn’t let me go alone which I am grateful for, as it was a true experience. Sharon had been overseas a few times but I hadn’t been any further than the next state! I felt safe having her there.
MAKE IT HAPPEN: Best of Ireland
Tell us about a highlight or a favourite memory from the Best of Ireland trip?
I find it hard to pick a highlight because the whole trip was wonderful. Our tour guide, bus driver and the other people on the trip were all amazing. I am still in contact with two couples from that trip – one in Canada and one in Florida.
The black cab trip in Belfast was amazing, as was the tour of the Titanic Museum. The history and the stories behind the whole country is what I loved to hear about. The architecture of the buildings and the castles we visited, kissing the Blarney Stone (conquering my fear of heights to do that), and going into Trinity College and seeing the Book of Kells… I just loved all of it.
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Was this your first trip with Trafalgar?
This was the first trip with Trafalgar, and I am so happy your trips were recommended by our travel agent. I had made up my mind before we even landed back in Australia that I wanted to go back and see more of Ireland, and also visit Scotland. So I saved like mad and booked my next trip 12 months in advance.
I had decided to do the tour of Scotland and then spend two weeks back in Ireland. As I was taking off in the plane from Adelaide I had a slight panic attack, thinking to myself “what are you doing you are so out of your comfort zone doing this alone!!” But I just kept hearing Wayne in my head saying “come on you’ve got this” – he would always encourage me to be braver.
I spent two nights in London then caught the train to Edinburgh to start my Scotland tour, where I met a lifelong friend. She was travelling with some friends and they were all about 10 years older than me, so she now always calls me her little sister. She lives in Ohio and was also widowed.
MAKE IT HAPPEN: Best of Scotland
What types of activities do you like to do while travelling?
I am not an adrenaline junkie. I just loved the history. Australia is so young in comparison, so I enjoy the stories of past battles and what they had to go through in the famines and what they endured during their lives. It makes you realise how lucky we all are and how grateful we should be for this life. To walk into a castle and know that there were people there dating back centuries and the absolutely stunning architecture blew me away.
I also enjoyed the welcome dinners and visiting local farms, tasting their food and enjoying a mead or two in the quaint little pubs. I absolutely loved the people – everyone we met was so lovely, helpful and friendly.
You described Ireland as a “lifesaving trip” and said “this magical place is so healing”. Can you tell us why you found Ireland to be so nourishing for your soul?
I really struggled with the loss of my husband. He was truly my knight in shining armour. He helped me out of a previously abusive relationship when we were friends, and then a very deep love grew from there. He was my soul mate. We have three beautiful boys and were together for 30 years.
When he passed away I just felt empty and I didn’t want to go on. I just didn’t want to deal with life, and every single day I think of him and wonder what we would be doing now if he was here. We were meant to grow old together!
When Sharon and I went to Ireland it made me feel like I was ‘home’. It was such a strange feeling and I truly felt at peace. I took some of the cards I had from Wayne’s memorial and left one in each of the Bibles in the rooms that we stayed in because I felt at least he was sharing it too.
Tell me about the friends you met on tour. Are you still in touch?
We regularly email each other every couple of months and exchange photos, so have kept in touch with two couples and one single lady. We had joked at the end of our tour that it would be great to have a reunion somewhere closer for all of us, but that hasn’t occurred. Again life got in the way.
Do you have a favourite destination, country or Trafalgar trip? Can you tell me why you love this spot the most?
I have to say that Ireland and Scotland are so rich in history and I would love the chance to take in some more of the beautiful countryside. The only other place that I have looked at in your brochures is places like Tuscany or similar. I am not one for busy hustle and bustle of shopping. I prefer to experience things that the locals do, to immerse myself in their history.
MAKE IT HAPPEN: Rome & Tuscan Highlights
What destination do you dream of travelling to next? Where else is on your bucket list?
In my dreams I would love the chance to drive along Route 66 to fulfil the last part of my husband and my dream. Not sure if I would like to drive myself though!!
MAKE IT HAPPEN: Best of the Canyonlands
Anything else you’d like to add?
I would certainly recommend Trafalgar (and have done so to my friends). I could not fault Trafalgar either time I have travelled with you guys. You are an amazing organisation and I always felt safe with you. The tour had a variety of ages from young to elderly, which for someone new to overseas travel or solo travel was perfect.
Are you planning a big trip soon? Let us know where is next on your bucket list in the comments…