So let’s do a real quick #tbt to two summers ago (ugh was it really that long ago, brb, gonna go cry my eyes out and maybe teleport there real quick…), when I was gallivanting through Ireland and just basking in the Irish-ness of it all.
I’d thought about hitchhiking (seemed like a cool way to meet people and have some unique experiences) but I was like ahhhhh I’m a solo female traveler and that. Is. SCARY.
So I didn’t, although I’d heard that Ireland was a great place to try it out, because people will still pick you up and are generally nice, etc.
[Killarney National Park in Ireland is a magical, beautiful place]
Anyways, I’d been there for a couple of weeks, and was currently making my way around the Wild Atlantic Way. I’d just come from Killarney, and was absolutely adoring Dingle because it’s absolutely perfect.
I came back from the Slea Head Drive (but I’d recommend biking it!), and started talking to a couple of the girls in my room at our hostel. We decided to go grab a drink and listen to some live music at a local pub and, as travelers do, were discussing our trips and where we’d been and where we were going, etc.
[One of the views from Slea Head Drive – is that not one of the prettiest things you’ve ever seen???]
One of the girls was from Scotland, and super young – I think 17 or 18 (let’s call her Emily), and was hitchhiking and camping around Ireland with her friend of the same age (who was unfortunately stuck at the hostel with food poisoning – let’s call her Georgia)! I was IMPRESSED, to say the least. Here I was, 23 years old, and I’d never done anything so brazen. The coolest thing I’d done at 18 was probably eating a tub of cream cheese over the span of 2 days (yes, I actually wrote this in my journal as an accomplishment…).
So of course I was curious and started asking a million and ten questions. Which ended with me asking if they could show me the ropes the next morning – I wanted to go to Doolin next, and they were going to Lahinch, so we were both hitchhiking to the same area.
[The harbor in Dingle, where my hitchhiking journey began (lol not actually IN the harbor, but you know, the actual town]
I’m still not sure if they just misunderstood me, or just felt bad for my sad lonely little self, but they asked me if I wanted to go with them – and of course I said HELL TO THE YES. This was the experience I’d been wanting! I pictured the 3 of us becoming best friends and meeting some other cool people and becoming best friends with them, too, and ending each day acting out some scene from Singin’ in the Rain.
And, that’s actually exactly what happened. For real. Except the Singin’ in the Rain part. But bear with me for a little bit while I get through the rest of this.
[One of the ladies I was hitching with – she cray. This was at the Cliffs of Moher]
Georgia seemed a little annoyed at first (although I don’t know if that had to do with the food poisoning) – I don’t think she thought that hitchhiking with 3 people would be feasible, and I started to feel like an annoying American asshole that was crashing their party.
But the hitchhiking gods were with us that day, and we got pretty damn lucky and didn’t have to wait more than 20 minutes for each ride (EXCEPT for bloody Kilkee, which I’ll get to in a second).
I think we ended up riding in 5 different vehicles altogether. All the drivers were pretty friendly (some overly so) – although one guy talked so fast we couldn’t understand a word he was saying. So I have no idea if he was friendly or not.
For one ride, Georgia and I had to sit in the back of a truck for an hour. And not a pick up truck, but it had a covered back, like a semi-truck (although it wasn’t nearly as large). But it was pitch black, there were no seat belts, and I started wondering what in the world I’d gotten myself into. But luckily he dropped us off at the ferry without a hitch (heheh).
[At least Kilkee, where our luck took a nose dive, was pretty; also WHY ARE THERE PEOPLE IN THE WATER IT’S COLD AF EXPLAIN YOURSELF IRELAND]
After getting off the ferry, we were picked up by a very friendly and extremely talkative lady and her very quiet son. She drove us to Kilkee (past her original destination – so many of the drivers took us much further than they’d intended to go! I was so thankful for their kindness), where we had no idea what we were about to be in for.
Right as she dropped us off, I looked up. The sky was threatening. That wasn’t new for Ireland, though – it was often overcast, even in the July when I was there. I often experienced all 4 seasons in one day.
[Hitchhiking sadness in Kilkee]
We weren’t having any luck right outside of the ferry station, so Georgia suggested we walk towards the ‘burbs. She was the veteran hitcher of the 3 of us – Emily had never tried it before this trip, and of course, it was my first time! Georgia called the shots most of the time, as she and her boyfriend had done plenty of it in Scotland and various other European countries.
Of course, it started to rain on our walk over. And rain isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it’s definitely not the most fun thing when you have a heavy pack and no rain pants and aren’t sure where you’ll end up that night.
[Little did we know this would be the view from one of our camping spots]
Needless to say, our spirits were a little dampened (lol) but we tried to make the best of it by cracking jokes and singing stupid songs.
Once we got to spot that Georgia deemed hitch-worthy, she stood partially in the street, and stuck her thumb out. As we’d experienced earlier, people sometimes yelled at us or flipped us off, although most people just drove by and stared (a lot).
We were sad and wet and had been waiting for about 45 minutes – the longest, by far, that we had that day. We were starting to lose hope and talk of where to spend the night began circulating. I wasn’t sure what the heck I was going to – my plan was kind of just to go to a local hostel and spend the night there, as they hadn’t invited me to continue on with them and I felt bad asking after the whole glomming onto them and making them take me hitchhiking thing.
BUT THEN – FINALLY! SALVATION! Two American guys stopped, and although they didn’t have a ton of room in their car, picked us up!
[Here is a shitty picture of the ladiezzz and I at the cliffs]
We all decided to go to the Cliffs of Moher (although we ended up being cheap and didn’t want to pay the €6 to get in, so we went to Hag’s Head instead). Amidst the wind and intermittent rain, we had a fabulous time that ended in rainbows.
And as happens often on travel, we became pretty fast friends – turned out they were two brothers in their mid-/late-twenties and were also camping! Although they were using hammocks, while Emily and Georgia were using a tent.
[Here’s a pic of our awesome set up from when we were in Connemara – the two dudes each had their own hammock, and the three of us girls squeezed into that tent]
Because we all got along so well, Emily and Georgia ended up inviting me to squeeze into their 2-person tent, and we decided to camp together with the guys. I had no camping gear, so one of the guys offered to lend me an extra blanket.
We drove to Doolin after the cliffs, grabbed dinner, and then set out to find a suitable spot.
[The oh so ominous and teeth-chatteringly terrifying castle hotel]
Ireland is pretty chill about camping in random places, so we just drove for about 20 or so minutes outside of town. The main issue was needing to find a flat spot for the tent, and trees for the hammocks. We finally came upon a plot of land that looked like it was right out of a horror movie – the spot we chose was in the corner of a giant field, right across the street from a hotel that looked like a castle. It looked so spooky, like a creepy cardboard cutout, and there were only a couple of cars in the lot – so clearly it wasn’t open at the time.
[Ok now do you see why it’s at least semi terrifying?? THERE’S ONLY ONE CAR THERE! AND THE REST OF THE LOT IS EMPTY!!! AHHHHHH]
It sounds soooo silly now, but I was legit terrified. At one point we saw a light turn on in one of the rooms and almost had a collective heart attack. It was also hard to tell what the rest of the land was – was it owned by someone that had a scary dog that would come and attack us? Would someone with a flaming pitchfork or shotgun come yell at us and tell us to get the hell away from their property? Would the people whose cars were at the hotel turn out to be axe murderers and come assassinate us?????
Of course, nothing happened, and although it had rained during the night, we awoke to a bright, sunny morning. The castle no longer looked terrifying, and actually looked kind of cartoon-ish. I couldn’t believe I’d been so fearful the night before! And camping doesn’t usually terrify me – but the fact that it was JUST US on unknown land across the street from a creepy hotel – that shit is scary man!
[Canned beans taste better when they’re eaten in beautiful locations like this – it’s a proven scientific fact! Hanging out in Connemara after we climbed back down the mountain]
And even though the guys barely had any room in their car (with 5 of us in a small 4 door car and all of our stuff – it was a little cramped, to say the least), they invited us to travel with them. We all spent the next week or so together (save for one of the guys, who had to leave a couple days early to catch a flight to Denmark to visit his girlfriend), and drove along the Wild Atlantic Way, camped in Connemara and climbed a mountain, accidentally crashed a wake, stopped in Galway for a hot sec, sang stupid throwback-type songs out loud into the wind, camped in Wicklow, and then ended our journey in Dublin where we decided to stop being gross mountain people and get a hostel for a few nights to shower etc.
[LOOK AT HOW PICTURESQUE CONNEMARA NATIONAL PARK IS]
There was something I really enjoyed about hitchhiking – the fact that you are completely at the mercy of strangers’ kindness. There is something beautiful about that. And you are no longer completely in control of your own time – it all depends on who picks you up, and how many rides you’re able to get before sundown (as hitchhiking in the dark probably isn’t too safe, nor would it be too effective, I’d imagine).
[A stop on the Wild Atlantic Way]
This feels like such an awful cliche travel story where everything went right, but to be honest, it pretty much somehow magically did.
Okay and, not that I’m promoting it or anything (use your judgement y’all), but if you want to learn more about hitchhiking, I’ve heard that Hitchwiki is a good place to start!